Chapter 9 of 25 -- Head Hunters of the Amazon
The explorers were doing great till a tapir smashed their canoe to bits. I'm not going to ask for a show of hands, but I'd bet all of us hate when that happens. You think being blindsided and sideswiped by a semi truck on the interstate is bad -- that's an accident -- tapirs and canoes is like cats and mice, if you make it 20 feet without an attack, you're lucky.
OK, I'm going to assert something, something true that you probably won't believe. My grandpa was born the same year the exploration began, 1897. And some years ago he turned me on to a few coordinates that his people passed on to him. Because the Up de Graff team actually lost their supply of bananas that day when the tapir hit the boat. Then later, with the coordinates and willpower, Grandpa failed to make it back in time to help. So they were hungry all those years. It took a later generation, me, to build on Grandpa's willpower, and with the added incentive of being able to see him getting his diapers changed, I was able to focus with such intensity on a stack of calendars, and, yes, achieve the impossible.
Up de Graff indeed stuck to the cover story; it's in his book: Page 104, "We gave thanks to Providence for endowing the bananas ... with a specific gravity of less than 1.00. We were able to rescue them after a short swim..." The word Providence is code, his admission that something extraordinary happened, not just pertaining to the buoyancy of fruit. For I myself came up out of the waves -- indistinct, not fully manifest -- with 40 cents worth of bananas, of inestimable value if it meant the team's survival. Can you see the distinction between me and the bananas? They're bright and sharp, I'm shadowy, only briefly there. That's all I'm claiming. In and out of the river before the piranha could threaten the family jewels. And later I was able to see baby Grandpa getting his diapers changed, real diapers, not disposable.
They finally came to the Napo River and it was a couple hours to meet up again with Andrade -- back to civilization -- and they were outfitted with new supplies. Food, pots, kettles, not bananas, which they had plenty of, guns, fishing supplies, and clothes. And they were off, lots of supplies, but also vampire bats and the usual pests. There was more trouble with tapirs. One tapir dived under the poop (p. 108), not something its family was happy about that night.
As far as problems, Up de Graff was attacked by the fever. He was shaking, then had an attack of sweating. It was so bad, week after week for months, that'd he feel the fever returning, and he could only briefly recover by shaking. Jack quipped that he'd missed his calling, "You'd have made your fortune shaking down Brazil nuts." (p. 111).
Month after month passed, a lot of it monotonous. With suffering. Sickness. Then the boat became detached from its moorings one night and started down the river without them. Jack dived in to save it, but they were both swept out of sight. When the morning light came, still no Jack. In the afternoon, though, Up de Graff heard singing -- and considered it a hallucination, much like the miraculous fetching of the bananas -- when Jack walked in! With no assistance from me.
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