V. UP THE RIVER OF TAPIRS
On the ride home we saw a buck of the small species of bush deer, not half the size of the kind I had already shot. It was only a patch of red in the bush, a good distance off, but I was lucky enough to hit it. In spite of its small size it was a full-grown male, of a species we had not yet obtained. The antlers had recently been shed, and the new antler growth had just begun. A great jabiru stork let us ride by him a hundred and fifty yards off without thinking it worth while to take flight. This day we saw many of the beautiful violet orchids; and in the swamps were multitudes of flowers, red, yellow, lilac, of which I did not know the names.
I alluded above to the queer custom these people in the interior of Brazil have of gelding their hunting-dogs. This absurd habit is doubtless the chief reason why there are so few hounds worth their salt in the more serious kinds of hunting, where the quarry is the jaguar or big peccary. Thus far we had seen but one dog as good as the ordinary cougar hound or bear hound in such packs as those with which I had hunted in the Rockies and in the cane-brakes of the lower Mississippi. It can hardly be otherwise when every dog that shows himself worth anything is promptly put out of the category of breeders - the theory apparently being that the dog will then last longer. All the breeding is from worthless dogs, and no dog of proved worth leaves descendants.
The country along this river is a fine natural cattle country, and some day it will surely see a great development. It was opened to development by Colonel Rondon only five or six years ago. Already an occasional cattle ranch is to be found along the banks. When railroads are built into these interior portions of Matto Grosso the whole region will grow and thrive amazingly - and so will the railroads. The growth will not be merely material. An immense amount will be done in education; using the word education in its broadest and most accurate sense, as applying to both mind and spirit, to both the child and the man. Colonel Rondon is not merely an explorer. He has been and is now a leader in the movement for the vital betterment of his people, the people of Matto Grosso. The poorer people of the back country everywhere suffer because of the harsh and improper laws of debt. In practice these laws have resulted in establishing a system of peonage, such as has grown up here and there in our own nation. A radical change is needed in this matter; and the colonel is fighting for the change. In school matters the colonel has precisely the ideas of our wisest and most advanced men and women in the United States. Cherrie - who is not only an exceedingly efficient naturalist and explorer in the tropics, but is also a thoroughly good citizen at home - is the chairman of the school board of the town of Newfane, in Vermont. He and the colonel, and Kermit and I, talked over school matters at length, and were in hearty accord as to the vital educational needs of both Brazil and the United States: the need of combining industrial with purely mental training, and the need of having the wide-spread popular education, which is and must be supported and paid for by the government, made a purely governmental and absolutely nonsectarian function, administered by the state alone, without interference with, nor furtherance of, the beliefs of any reputable church. The colonel is also head of the Indian service of Brazil, being what corresponds roughly with our commissioner of Indian affairs. Here also he is taking the exact view that is taken in the United States by the staunchest and wisest friends of the Indians. The Indians must be treated with intelligent and sympathetic understanding, no less than with justice and firmness; and until they become citizens, absorbed into the general body politic, they must be the wards of the nation, and not of any private association, lay or clerical, no matter how well-meaning.
The Sepotuba River was scientifically explored and mapped for the first time by Colonel Rondon in 1908, as head of the Brazilian Telegraphic Commission. This was during the second year of his exploration and opening of the unknown northwestern wilderness of Matto Grosso. Most of this wilderness had never previously been trodden by the foot of a civilized man. Not only were careful maps made and much other scientific work accomplished, but posts were established and telegraph-lines constructed. When Colonel Rondon began the work he was a major. He was given two promotions, to lieutenant- colonel and colonel, while absent in the wilderness. His longest and most important exploring trip, and the one fraught with most danger and hardship, was begun by him in 1909, on May 3rd, the anniversary of the discovery of Brazil. He left Tapirapoan on that day, and he reached the Madeira River on Christmas, December 25, of the same year, having descended the Gy-Parana. The mouth of this river had long been known, but its upper course for half its length was absolutely unknown when Rondon descended it. Among those who took part under him in this piece of exploration were the present Captain Amilcar and Lieutenant Lyra; and two better or more efficient men for such wilderness work it would be impossible to find. They acted as his two chief assistants on our trip. In 1909 the party exhausted all their food, including even the salt, by August. For the last four months they lived exclusively on the game they killed, on fruits, and on wild honey. Their equipage was what the men could carry on their backs. By the time the party reached the Madeira they were worn out by fatigue, exposure, and semi- starvation, and their enfeebled bodies were racked by fever.