CHAPTER IX

HYDROPHOBIA - FUNERAL CEREMONIES - AT A PADDI HARVEST - ANOTHER TUBA-FISHING EXPEDITION - THE CHARM OF PRIMITIVE MAN - INTERESTING CEREMONIES - ON HEAD-HUNTING GROUND

Hydrophobia was raging at Long Pelaban, and during my stay one man and seven children were bitten. For religious reasons the Dayaks do not like to kill dogs, so in cases like this the canines that are ill are caught, their legs are tied together, and they are thrown into the water to die without being killed. Over forty were disposed of in this way. I saw one of the hydrophobia victims standing in the water as if alive, a little of the back showing above the surface.

The sounding of a gong one day signified the death of a woman. A party immediately went out to procure a suitable tree from which to make the coffin. Throughout the night we could hear without intermission the sounds produced by those who hollowed out the log and smoothed the exterior. Next day I was present at the obsequies of the dead woman. On the large gallery men were sitting in two long rows facing each other, smoking their green-hued native tobacco in huge cigarettes, the wrappers of which are supplied by large leaves from two species of trees. A jar of native brandy stood between them, of which but little was consumed. More alcohol is made here from sugar-cane than from rice. The latter is the better and sweeter, the former being sour.

At the end of the gallery stood the large, newly made casket, which was open, the corpse covered with cloth resting inside. It was an oblong, heavy box supposed to represent a rhinoceros, though nothing positively indicated this except the large head of this animal at one end, which, though rudely made, was cut with considerable artistic skill. The family sat around the casket, one man smoking tobacco, the women wailing and occasionally lifting the cover to look at the face of the corpse. One babi (pig) that had belonged to the deceased had been killed and was served with rice. In the afternoon, having partaken of food, a number of men carried the heavy burden on their shoulders down to the river, preceded by two women belonging to the family. It was placed on two prahus, which were lashed together, and then taken down the river to be buried. After the death of a relative women mourners cut off about two centimetres from the end of the hair; the men cut an equal portion from the front.

Later in the afternoon the gong announced another death, that of a child. On this account some sixty Malays who were camped here, bound for the utan higher up the river, in search of rubber and damar, delayed their departure as did some Kenyahs who were on their way to Apo Kayan, and the people of the kampong did not go to their ladangs. The following day the sound of the gong was again heard, but this time it was occasioned by the fact that an adept had taken augurs from the flight of the red hawk, and to him it was given that illness would cease.

It was difficult to hold the busy Dayaks in the kampong. At this time, the beginning of May, their attention was absorbed in harvesting the paddi. Every day they started up the river to their ladangs a few miles distant, returning in the evening with their crops. I decided to visit these fields, taking my cameras with me. In years gone by the kampong people have gradually cleared the jungle from a large tract of country, but part of this clearing was still covered by logs that had not been burned. Over these hundreds and hundreds of fallen trees, down steep little galleys and up again, a path led to the present fields higher up in the hills, very easy walking for bare feet, but difficult when they are encased in leather shoes. For over an hour and a half we balanced along the prostrate trunks, into some of which steps had been cut, but, arduous as was the ascent, we naturally found the descent in the evening a more hazardous undertaking; yet all emerged from the ordeal with sound limbs.

We arrived a little before noon and found some of the natives busy preparing their midday meal in and around a cool shed on top of a hill from where an extensive view was obtained of the past and present fields of the country. Near by was a watch-tower raised on top of upright logs. At one side of it four bamboos of different sizes were hanging horizontally over each other, which produced different notes when struck, and probably had been placed there for the purpose of frightening birds away.

The Kenyahs "take turns" helping each other to harvest, and on this occasion they were assisting their chief. It was a scene of much animation, as if it were a festival, which in reality the harvesting is to them. The long row of men and women in their best garments, with picturesque sun-shades, cut the spikes one by one, as the custom is, with small knives held in the hollow of their hands. Assuredly the food which they received was tempting to hungry souls. The rice, after being cooked, was wrapped in banana leaves, one parcel for each, forty-four in all, and as many more containing dried fish which also had been boiled. The people kindly acceded to my request to have them photographed. They then packed the harvested paddi in big baskets, which they carried on their backs to the storehouse in the kampong the same afternoon. From planting time till the end of the harvest - four or five months - a man is deputed to remain in the kampong to whom fish is forbidden, but who may eat all the rice he wants, with some salt, and as recompense for his services receives a new prahu or clothing.