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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, December 13, 1925, Image 94

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Explorer Is Sought by Head Hunters in Wilds of Eastern Ecuador
Finds Thrilling Adventures Among
f Shuara Indians m the Land of Tropical
.Brainstorms, Where Murder at Dawn
Means Luck —A Direful Prediction
Amid Scenes Where Poisoned Spears
and Darts Are Common Weapons.
Evidence of the Warlike Attitude of
Natives Enlivens Journey of Investiga
The writer of this article spent
more than a year among the
savage tribes of the Ecuador
. tingle. Upon his return to New
York City, he donated a collec
tion of various objects gathered
during his stay to the American
Museum of Natural History.
This collection included the fan
tastic bark dresses of the In
dians of the Jungle, their war
lances, Mow guns, poison darts,
and witch-doctor charms.
By CARE I.ESTER 111)1)1.E
THHE first time 1 saw a shrunken j
head —tlie kind Ecuador Indians!
turn out —X could hardly believe it j
was human. It was in the window of
rt big New York store, and there was
e crowd gaping at it. It was about
the size of an orange, black and shiny,
with strongly marked perfect little
Matures and long, coarse, black hair.
The look of the thing was repug
pant to me, and yet X was fascinated
by It. The placard underneath ex
plained that it was the work of the
Shuara Indians in Ecuador, but that
did not satisfy me. X wanted to
Jtnow by what amazing process it
Was made, and how it was preserved.
Seeing that grisly thing lit a fuse
In my mind. And, along with strange
Stories about divine nectar drugs,
dream beds, crystal charms of In
dian witch-doctors, I was lured on
ward. These were the direct causes
of my finding myself, months later,
Jn Ambato, Ecuador.
I was there as an explorer about
to make the jump into the jungles
Os the upper Amazon. I had de
termined to get to the bottom of
this head hunting and head-reducing
*nd mysterious fortune-telling busi
ness which the 30.000 Indians of that
dark region practice.
Tile day before T was to leave Am
t>ato a veteran American traveler—
an old friend of mine—insisted on my
going for a long walk with him. When
We were outside the town, swinging
along a narrow road, he let loose.
"Fool" was the mildest of the names
ho called me.
"Do you realize,” he said, "that
you'll he the first white man most of
those Indians have ever laid eyes on
■—one of thh few whites that have :
ever been donkey enough to risk it?
Brown heads with long black hair are
familiar to those devils. But think
what they’d do to get hold of a white'
head! You’ll be a curiosity for once
In jour life.
"If you go In. some Indian will come
to me a year or so from now to get
a thousand dollars out of me for a
Tare white head —nothing like it been
seen before. And, my friend, that
head will be your head. Don’t go into
the Oriente of Ecuador. It’s sheer
In spite of the well meant advice,
I started off the next morning for
this very same Oriente, variously
Discovery of a New Writer of Poetry
Among Workers at a Washington Hotel
AWEI.L known latter-day poet
is lunching admirably, whole
somely, in the big cheerful
dining room at Wardman
Park Hotel. He looks literary
lonesome, aloof, as he alternately nib
bles daintily at his food, then reads
a. bit from the volume near his plate.
A uniformed negro bus boy, stag
gering tinder a piled-high service
waiter, timidly but purposely joggles
the poetical one’s arm. The Creative
Genu is looks up. slightly annoyed, to
see the bus hoy place several sheets
of typed paper beside the volume.
The negro bus boy. with a word of
muttered apology, and evidently bad
ly frightened, disappears into what
ever cubbyhole or butlery bus boys
The poetical looking man. who is
no other than Nicholas Vachel Lind
say. author of "Gen. Booth Enters
Heaven” and other, many other,
poems, begins skeptically, hurriedly
to scan the typed pages. Then he
rereads them, slowly, meticulously,
metrically, and, if truth must be told,
in bewilderment.
He calls the head waiter and re
quests instant production of the bus
boy, who, when he as promptly ar
rives, looks at the poet as a cat might
look at a king.
The king demands, ‘‘Who wrote this
Thr dining room's uniformed helper
replies, in very evident embarrass
ment and terror, “I did, sir!"
Then the poet looks at the negro
this boy. Very little conversation
passes, but the poet does, from the
dining room, carrying with him
the typewritten manuscript. That
night, at his recital at Wardman
Park, before an intelligent, admiring
and smart audience, Vachel Lindsay
Included in his reading three of the
poems written and handed him by
Langston Hughes, 23-year-old near-
Waiter at Wardman Bark Hotel.
If you’ve ever heard or seen Vachel
Undray read his own stuff, with
Wealth of gesture, much tramping up
and down, voice dropped to pianissimo
bare, blared to fortissimo there, you'll
know how he read and what he did
with Langston Hughes’ "Weary
Blues” —a poem, by the way, recently
awarded first prize of SBO In a poetry
contest instituted for negro poets.
How does it begin? Those two first
lines! "Droning a drowsy syncopated
tnne, rocking buck and forth to a
mellow croon— —” But as the intro
ductions to a serial story command,
"Now go on with the story":
JDramnir a. drowsy itvncopalt-d tune,
iiuakinr back and forth to a mellow croon.
I 5-earii a n**ro play.
tJowu Oil Lenox avenue the other ilirht
Bv the nale dull pallor of an old izae llrlit
Me did a lazy sway. . -
He did a lazy sway
6„ the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each Ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
Swavinar to aJid fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad ragey tune like a musical
Sweet Blue*! ,
Cottiine from a black man e eoul.
O fbiUcs *
In a deep song voice with a melancholy
I heard thot Nearo sing, that old piano
"Ain’t 1 not nobody hi all this world.
Ain’t sot nobody but ma self.,
Je gw me to quit ma frowniu
And put ma troubles on the shelf.
Tnump. thump, went his loot on the floor.
He plaied a few chord* then sang tome
"I “Sot* the Weary Blue*
And I can t be eatieflad.
3ot the Weary Blue*
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo
called "Eand of the Head Hunters,"
■‘Band of the Phantom Hunters” and
"land of Women Man-Hunters.” The
region includes part of Ecuador and
part of Peru.
** * *
Vl/ITH a cavalcade of guides and
” muleteers. 1 traveled for two
weeks, pushing up into the Andean
heights and then dipping down into
the almost impenetrable jungles of the
Shuara Indians, finally reaching the
1 first real Shuara village, called Are
i picos. This included a nonedescrip.
j collection of about 1 j or 20 dwellings
i with dome shaped roofs, thatched with
j leaves.
| l.ong before making the plunge into
this district I’d picked up every scrap
of information I could get as to the
superstitions of the Indians, and knew
that my best chance of returning alive
was to pose as a white capitu, or
witch-doctor. So I’d brought along
simple remedies —iodine, calomel, mer
cury ointment and quinine, together
with a complete first aid kit.
Most important of all. for tins witch
business, I’d let my beard grow. The
Shuaras are beardless, and I’d heard
that any man who would go to them
with a "Beaver” could count on their
Besides my medicine and in>- heard
I'd brought along bundles full of
things to give away: beads, brightly
colored cotton cloth, hatchets, mirrors,
gunpowder and needles. I had rifles,
too, but not for use on those Indians,
if I could possibly help it. I realized
that once I had killed a Shuara my
life would not be worth much in a
land of poisoned spears and silent
poisoned darts where revenge is a
cult. I planned to coax, not to shoot,
my way through.
As we drew near Arepicos, the
"leading citizens” came out to look us
over, and to give us the Indian close
up. Solemnly I presented each with
a little gunpowder and a j'ard or
two of cloth, paid off the guides who
had brought me across the mountains
and arranged for carriers and new
guides familiar with the jungle.
Tiien I learned, through my in
terpreter. that I had been invited to
spend a few days in one of the houses.
This interpreter—Juanga, by name—
through whom I got that message, was
to be my mainstay on that trip.
That evening my host made a place
for me beside the family fire, on the
clay floor, by shooing away some of
the dogs and chickens, tame monkeys
and tame parrots. There we spent
several hours in telling stories and
in drinking the potent chlcha, served
b>’ his prettiest wife.
Before I went to bed that night,
Juanga—ever present with sugges
tions—drew me aside. "The senor will
have take notice,” he said, “that to
this house are two wings. One of
these contain the men, and the other
contain the harems. Between these
two quarters there is a dividing line
I jv JSf
TB Sf HMmK i
|9 n| |jjj
Copyright by Underwood & Underwood.
And I wish that I had died."
And far Into the night he crooned that tunc.
The etars went out and so did the moon.
The sinter stopped playimr and went to hed
While the Weary liluos echoed through his
He slept like u rock or a man that's dead.
“Blues, sweet blues —coming from
a black man’s soul.” Poetry? Mr.
Lindsay says it is. Carl Van Vechten.
musical, dramatic and poetry critic,
agrees with Lindsay. "With his ebony
hands on the Ivory keys”—yes, that’s
poetry, real poetry, declare John
Farrar, Witter Bynner, James Wel
don Johnson and Clement Wood, the
Judges who selected “Weary Blues”
as the prize-winning poem.
In a. published article lajst Septem
ber, Van Vechten devotes a column
of spuce to three of Langston Hughes'
poems. The first is "Cabaret,” taken
from Crisis, a negro magazine. You
who have whirled the red night into
spectral gray morning, dancing to
Jazz strains played by colored Jazz
men, perhaps can answer, "Does a
jazz band ever sob?” The six, sax,
sex lines follow:
Joes a jazz band ever sob?
They cay a jazz band a «ay:
Yet. as the vulgar dancer* whirled.
And the niaht wore away.
One said she heard the jazz band cob—
When the little dawn was gras.
Langston Hughes is 23 years old, but
Into that short period has crowded
more adventure, travel, color, excite
ment and observation than most of
for visitors, invisible but sacred. The
head hunters are very jealous. My
last client, he had Ills head chopped
off. He step over the invisible line.”
I thanked him warmly and told him
that, since the line was invisible. I'd
better not pet out of bed at all. He
agreed with me.
When I first got settled in my new
sleeping quarters I smelled smoke
and thought the place was on fire,
There was a small fire, but it proved
to be tiie last thing in Indian luxury,
10, and behold, a foot-warmer! The
bed itself was four feet long and
three feet wide, made of bamboo poles,
while at its foot was a horizontal bar
serving as a foot support. In every
well appointed native house the foot
warmer is kept burning every night,
underneath the horizontal foot rest.
These fire feet-bakers are supposed to
take the edge off the night chill and
to be an essential part of my bed—
** * *
wishing to be unappreciative,
I stretched m>self out on the bam
boo and put my feet over the slow
fire. I soon discovered that the fire,
though doubtless kept low enough not
to burn the tough feet of an Indian,
was hot enough to broil a pair of
white feet. After 15 minutes I gave
it up and was just climbing out of
"bed” to look for more restful sleep
ing quarters, when, thank heavens,
I remembered the “Invisible line.”
I jumped immediately back to bed
and gazed at the sleeping warriors
and the dimly lighted distant harems
and just about where the “invisible
line" was drawn. I was not going
to risk a poisoned lance In my ribs,
so I rolled into a ball on the frail
structure and made the best of a bad
night for the rest of the torture.
I stayed three days at Areplcos,
making preparations for my trip fur
us will accomplish in long and varied
lives. He was bom in Joplin, Mo.,
February 1, 1902; was taken from
there when about a year old by his
parents, living subsequently in Kan
sas, Colorado, Illinois and Ohio. His
high school work was In Cleveland,
Ohio, where he graduated in 1920, not
only us editor of his class magazine,
but also class poet, and this, too, in
a school of mixed races. Class poetry
was the first verse he ever attempted.
Finishing high Langston
Hughes for a year and a half taught
English at Toluca, in the south of
Mexico. Then on to New Y'ork, where
he worked for a year on a. farm. Then
to sea, making one long trip to Africa,
visiting up and down the west coast.
Then Europe, with seven months In
Paris us a waiter in a Montmartre
case. Italy. Back to America, work
ing his way home as a sailor, and
now employed at Wardman Park as
bus boy in an effort to obtain money
to start himself in college.
In appearance Hughes is little dif
ferent from any other youth of his
color and age. Ills manners and Eng
lish are good, he is quiet, earnest,
rather gentle and diffident. No t is he
fooled with regard to the years of
pieparatlon and study ahead of him.
He acknowledges that he has no work
ing Idea of verse-building, and says
that the poetry just "comes along aa
fast as I cen write It down.”
ther into the interior. I became bet
ter acquainted with my host through
my ingratiating Juanga. As a mark
of his friendship, he took me into
his Holy of Holies: the .room where
he kept his collection of heads. Here,
for the tirst time, I handled the
trophies of war.
There were 11 of them, their cheeks
tinted with red, their long, coarse
hair flowing free. The Indian word
for them is tsantsas. When I touched
them they felt like hard leather. The
lips were sew'n up with red cord, in
order, my host explained, "to keep
the spirits submissive.”
Afterward, when I myself was the
owner of several heads, bought from
the Indians. I had a chance to prove
how durable the tsantsas are. I threw
one against a wall, stood on it and
even pounded it with a rock, with
out breaking it or marring it in any
My Shuara host explained that lie
had acquired these trophies by wiping
out the males of an entire family—
his enemies by blood-feud. He laid
a finger on one of his tiny human
remnants, his eyes gleaming. "This
one,” he said, "was once on the shoul
ders of a mighty man, who had the
wickedness to steal one of my wives,
lie and his brothers and his sons,
we made their heads small."
Which is what the Shuara warrior
gets when lie flirts too much with
other head-hunters' wives. This set
tled me once and for all. During the
remainder of the trip. I never so much
as glanced at an Indian maiden with
but one exception—which comes later.
I now begun a trip which took me
from one group of families to an
other, always working further into
the interior. I found, to my surprise,
that the deej>er into the Jungle 1 went,
the better grew the conditions of the
"I usually pro over It two of three
times,” he adds. “takinK out extra
words here and there. When I saw
the offer of a prize for a poem, I
worked for days trying to write a
masterpiece. When finished, I didn't
like it very well and decided to send
my 'Weary Blues’ along with the
'masterpiece. ’ As it turned out.
'Weary Blues,' which had Just spun
itself along and went almost entirely
uncorrected, won first prize.
"From what I can earn," he adds,
"I want to go to college—probably to
Lincoln College, Pennsylvania, a col
lege for negroes.”
Mexico! Africa! Italy! From Holland
to Harlem! And with reference to
Harlem, there's Langston Hughes'
scolding poem, directed at “Midnight
nan,” a denizen of Leroy’s jazz palace
In Harlem:
Stmt nml Wiggle.
Shameless gal.
Wouldn't no good fellow
Be your pal!
Hear dat music . .
Jungle night.
Hear dat music .
And the moon wm white
Sing jou l - Blues song.
You want lovin’
And you don’t mean mayhe.
Strut and wisgle.
Shameless Nan.
Wouldn't no good fellow
Be your man V
Hughes Is one who conspicuously
ignores racial bitterness. In this par
ticular he follows the footsteps of
Paul Laurence Dunbar, who, with
racial sob deep In soul and throat,
sang a sad song of nativity, of cruel
circumstance, perhaps, but never one
tinged with shade of antipathy, un
eongeniallty or hostility.
Van Vechten, writer of sophisticated
novels, sponsor of negro music, poetry,
spirituels, declares that the work of
Langston Hughes "Is informed with a
sensitivity and a nostalgia, racial in
origin, for beauty, color and warmth.
His subjects are extraordinarily di
versified. His cabaret verses dance to
the rhythm of negro jazz.”
Hughes’ "morning the hurt of the
black man.” is perhaps best expressed
In his tremendously thoughtful free
verse arrangement, “I am a Negro,”
which Is appended:
I am a Nagro;
Black as the night is black.
Black like the depths of my friea.
I ve been a slave:
Caesar told me to keep hi loorstops
1 brushed the boots of Washington.
I ve been a worker:
Under my hand the pyramids arose.
X made mortar tor the Wooiworth Build
i v. in *
I ve been a singer:
All the way from Afriea to Georgia
1 carried my sorrow songs.
I made ragtime.
1 ve been a victim;
The Belgians cut off my hands in the
They lynch me now in Texas.
I am a Negro:
Black a* the night is black.
Black like tha depths of my Africa.
In conclusion it Is but fair to the
young negro poet to show that when
he writes of “joy,” he feels it, pulses
It, sings it In away that you must
sing it, too. What Is there about the
following eight lines, with their con
stant repetition, that makes you bub
ble with laughter and keep saying,
over and over again. "Such company!
Such company?”
I went to look for Joy.
Slim, dancing Joy,
Gay. laughing Joy—
And I found her
Driving tne butcher's carl »
In the arms of tha butcher's boy!
Such company, such company.
i A* keepa this young nymph. Joy:
Indians. In spite of the evidence of
the heads I'd seen, I was beginning
to think of the Shuaras as a mild,
childlike people, not addicted to blood
shed, when something happened that
made me change my mind.
My guides and I had spent the
night at the hut of a half-breed trader.
At dawn, when we were just about
ready for a get-away, 1 noticed with
a feeling of horror that one of the
guides was dipping the tip of his lance
into the gourd of poison that ulw-ays
hung, within easy reach, over his
shoulder. The half-breed trader was
standing nearby, and 1 remember that
my brain asked a lightning question:
“Which Is lie going to kill, the trader
or me?"
When I looked back at the guide,
he was staring at the top of a nearby
ehonta palm, but his fingers that held
the spear were taut. I was unarmed,
a carrier had my rifle, and there was
not time to jump for it. before the
guide whirled around.
** * *
yen'll a quickness I was unable to
follow', he plunged the lance into
the half-breed’s chest, piercing the
heart! Then, without a sound, he van
ished into the jungle that was all
about us.
"Catch him!” I yelled out, leaped
for my rifle and was on the point
of sending a bullet through the jungle
at the place where the branches had
barely stopped swaying. Then I felt
the steel grip of Juanga on my wrist,
and he poured out a stream of Span
"Put down the rifle. The Indians
think your customs are crazy; like
wise, you think their customs are
crazy. Each seems strange to the
other. Hut It is a matter of custom
with the head-hunters, that they en
joy killing some one at the break
of day. It bring good luck for the
rest of the trip."
Useless to argue, against centuries
of tradition! 1 followed the long line
down the trail. From that time on,
I always kept to the rear, for safety's
sake. Several hours later the mur
derous guide, whom I thought crazy
and lost in the jungle, quietly Joined
the column again. His face was serene
and elated. He had the air of pro
claiming: "Look at me! I've brought
luqk to your trip."
The blood lust which had seized my
guide is characteristic of these Shu
ara warriors. It is a trait that has
often been a puzzle to travelers In
the regions of the upper Amazon, and
sometimes cost them their heads. This
sudden mania seems to have nothing
to do with hate, revenge or warfare.
It is the kind of tropical brainstorm
which takes the form of an insane
desire to kill.
I had gone to the Oriente for the
express purpose of seeing human
heads reduced, and it was beginning
to look as if I would go back to
civilization—if I could get back—with
this wish unsatisfled.
In the end I saw the whole process
by sheer accident. My guides and I
stumbled Into the encampment of a
war party. There were 80 of them.
They had just had a great victory
and w'ere half crazy wdth excitement,
yelling and dancing. On a long
banana leaf lay a collection of severed
enemy heads.
Soon I saw the method by which
these W'ere reduced and preserved. A
sort of master of ceremonies first dealt
each head a vertical blow at the back
with a machete. From then on the
details of preparing the trophy are
grewsome in the extreme.
At length a wooden object, about
the size of a small orange, but an ex
act reproduction of the original head,
was then produced, and over tills the
tsantsa was fitted. The victor s fel
low warriors and his faithful wives
danced around him. The men yelled
and grunted and the wives sang weird,
barbaric songs. This uncanny music,
I learned, was supposed to render
harmless the spirit of the slain enemy.
When the tsantsa was hone-dry, a
potent liquid was rubbed into the
skin to harden and preserve it. And
here is the mystery. This liquid is
amber-colored, a concoction made of
a number of herbs, but exactly what
they are is a Shuara secret.
Finally the wooden form was re
moved, the slit in the back of the
head was sewed with fiber from the
chamblra palm, and the trophy was
complete, an object of triumph and
superstitious veneration. Eventually
it would figure in a great victory
feast if the warrior who owned it
managed to escape the spears of his
victim's kinfolk.
After I had watched this unusual
process for some time, I sat down,
took out a pad and pencil to make
a few notes, and put on my glasses.
That was a mistake, as a young war
rior gave me a look, halted In his
dance, and let out a bellow that sent
a chill up my spine. If I never knew
what fear was before, I knew it then.
For I realized in a flash what was
lit this warrior’s mind. He wanted
a tsantsa with glasses on its noße.
He gave another yell, pointed, and
everybody wanted a tsantsa with
glasses on Its nose.
At this critical juncture, while I
was attempting my best to appear un
shaken, Juanga, my faithful guide,
sauntered up, with a feigned indif
ference. He carried a fine rifle and
a sword machete. Holding up his
hand, he smiled in a superior way.
“The two little windows,” he said,
"do not grow on the nose like a tooth
with a root. They do not hold on
tight, like hair.”
He stopped, then took the glasses
off my face, and placed them on the
nose of the young warrior. Astonish
ment was expressed In a wave of
guttural exclamations. When this had
subsided, the young fellow decided
then and there that he'd keep the
glasses. Whereupon .Tuanga was
quick to explain that they brought
luck only to their rightful owner. Then
they were given back to me in a
hurry. <
** * *
PREPARATIONS for a great vie
tory feast, or head-reducing liesta,
are so thorough that they take six
months, a year or two years. Guests
come by hundreds and spend a week.
About 10 days later, I heard of
such a feast and turned up at the
fiesta house, uninvited. Warriors, old
und young, sat about the fires, mag
nificent in bright feathers and paint.
Their wives, dressed with heads and
gleaming seeds, served quantities of
roast monkey meat and boiled yucca.
The fiesta drums beat their fantastic
On entering the house of this head
reducing fiesta I was surprised to
see. facing me a painted and tattoed
Indian, lam e poised above his head,
grunting like an Infuriated wild dog.
at the same time jumping forwards
and then backwards as if on the
climax of a severe convulsion. Glanc
ing around lor any possible avenues
of escape, my eyes fell upon a long
ehonta lance, thrust into the ground
at the immediate left to the entrance
of the doorway.
My heart sank. Hanging near the
middle of the lance dangled a dried
shrunken Indian head with long black
hair. I took all this in at a glance,
like a drowning man who reviews the
incidents of a lifetime on his last
trip down.
Then I waited, too surprised to
move, and with not enough control of
the Shuara language even to talk.
I waited—years it seemed —for my
lance man to throw his weapon
through me. But he kept on dancing,
grunting, running forwards and back
wards, until I felt that whatever he
was up to, he surely was taking his
own savage time to do it.
In the meantime my Shuara guide
arrived with my pack carriers. He
shoved me aside, then he started at
Is There a Jinx of the Navy?
(Continued from Third Page.l
pieces in the air with the loss of her
captain, Comdr. Zachary Lansdowne,
and 13 of her crew, the ship herself
being totally destroyed.
** * *
t*¥K we are pessimistically inclined.”
A says Secretary Wilbur, “we can
look at the shattered hulk of the Shen
andoah and deprecate the decadence
of the United States Navy, but if we
go into the clouds and see the gallant
commander of that ship, unperturbed
and undismayed, giving his order in a
quiet conservations! tone for the man
agement of his ship in the storm
which he encountered; if we see the
men and officers under him perform
ing their duties unhesitatingly and
without evidence of fear: if. after the
tearing away of the control cabin, we
note the remainder of the crew han
dling the broken parts of the ship and
bringing them safely to earth; if, in
stead of dwelling upon the loss of life,
deplorable and heart-breaking as it is,
we recognize the worth of the men
who fought with the elements, we see
occasion not only for congratulation
that the men of the Navy are operat
ing the Navy with the same courage
and skill and determination that they
have always operated it, but also we
will note that the expectations of
those who designed the ship, with its
18 independent gas cells, were Justified
in their belief that these separate cells
or balloons would. In event of disaster,
provide a relatively safe means of
escape. The greatest loss of life in
the Shenandoah accident was due to
the breaking away of the control car.”
It may .well be added that the real
cause of the disaster appears to have
been the lack of adequate and fre
quent weather reports, which are nec
essary and must be provided, ail ex
perts agree, if we desire to develop
air navigation to its ultimate destiny
with safety over the continental area,
of the United States.
While the Navy was mourning the
loss of lives in the Shenandoah acci
dent, on September 7 the destroyer
Noa suffered an explosion in her
ljoller room, killing four of her crew.
These men, trapped within narrow lim
its, without chance of escape, were in
stantaneously surrounded by a cloud
of super-heated steam.
Before the Navy could recover from
these two terrible disasters word came
on September 25 that the steamship
City of Rome, off Block Island, had
rammed the submarine S-51 and that
the submarine had gone to the bottom,
carrying to their death 34 members of
her crew.
Pitiful as disasters of this kind are,
they are typical of the hazards of the
sea, for under the most propitious cir
cumstances a seafaring life is danger
ous. The safeguards which are the
development of centuries and which
have been thrown around the mariner
and his floating home by governments
and shipping operators intent on re
ducing maritime losses, while contrib
uting to the safety of ocean naviga
tion, cannot remove certain definite
hazards always and forever present.
The latest visitation of the jinx
was on October 25 at Baltimore, where
during a tornado which swept over
the eastern part of the country 17
seaplanes broke from their moorings
and were dashed against a sea wall,
totally destroying six of the planes,
seriously damaging five and slightly
damaging six more. No lives were
Not Including the Shenandoah disas
ter and the sweeping smashup of the
my lance-jumper, gun poised above
his head—-muzzle to the rear, grunt
ing, dancing, running forwards, then
backwards, Just like a wild bull. This
duel of grunts lasted more than half
an hour—after tvfiich .ny guide took
a strong and deep drink of ehlcba,
saying that he had not seen his
friend (my lance threatener) for more
than two years, and that he had
greeted him for me.
He explained that I did not know
this formal “hello” and furthermore
did not speak the Khuara language
enough to understand such a grunted
“hello." Still, to this date I have
never been able to go through one
of these formal savage greetings. My
guides have always had to come to
my assistance in any greeting that I
took part In.
Nor was milady of the jungle lack
ing In interest at this head-reducing
fiesta. The women, who busied them
selves serving chlcha. meats or fruits
to their husband-warriors, were deco
rated with triangular black figures on
each cheek with a few black or red
dots In each triangle. Over the nose
and across the chin and even on the
teeth a checkerboard of very small
black squares had been designed as
part of the formal drees of the host
'’'his artlstio ornamental design was
unusually attractive and fascinating
on the teeth because the white showed
through like small strips of bright
pearl. The warriors, however, had
painted their teeth completely black
"to keep them from decaying.” as
they explained to tne. And surprising
as It may seem, these savages had a
concoction that actually kept the
teeth preserved, although jet black.
Around their necks the women wore
adornments of some 10 or 15 strings
of beads made from the many-colored
seeds which grow In the Oriente
These strings were wrapped snugly
around the neck and held by rainbow
colored gems. Around their wrists
and upper parts of their arms one
could see bracelets and broad hands
made from the thorns or long pieces
of brown bark or red cotton strings
which they made from the cotton
grown on their own plantations.
* * *
J-IERE I was actually in the fiesta
house on the evening before the
mysterious victory feast was to start.
I was to see the drinking of the magi
cal solutions of the divine nectar
drugs; I was to see their uncanny re
ligious views expressed with all the
sacred rites and with all the gala of
the tsantsa ceremonies.
These were only a few of the fea
tures that were flitting through my
brain, not to mention the surprises
that were in store for me during the
next four days of the actual cere
monies when I myself was forced to
take actual part in the weird rites
which made a human head into a
magic tsantsa, the strange curio sold
to tourists.
\\ ith a desire to obtain pictures,
samples of hair and measurements
of these Indians, one of their strangest
superstitions in regard to the powers
of a so-called dream drug, or divine
nectar as they call it, was presented
to me in a startling manner. I de
sired profiles, close-ups. and even a
hit of hair from each in order to use
for comparison.
The work of photographing and
measuring was progressing nicely, hut
the wrong wrinkle In the whole af
fair came just as T was attempting
to cut off a lock of jet hiack hair
from one of the Indian maidens. I
feared trouble, but the Indian warriors
seemed interested in their new gifts,
and I imagined the trick could be
pulled before it was noticed by these
jealous members of the, male sex.
The hair was more on the order of
horse hair than that of a human be
ing. It was coarse and stiff. This
caused me much trouble. In fact, it
delayed my intentions so long that
trouble really started.
I cannot recall just how it all hap
pened, but suddenly there arose a
howl among the warriors as if a
tiger had dropped out of one of the
nearby chonta palms into their very
midst. As they related afterwards,
there had been revived in their minds
planes at Baltimore, naval aviation
so far this year reports 159 aircraft
crashes, in which 34 men were killed.
Those seriously injured and those sus
taining minor injuries are not listed.
It cannot be denied that the fore
going list of accidents and fatali
ties is appalling, and it would not be
unusual if the general public should
ask: “What is the matter with the
Xavy? Why all these accidents? Is
the Xavy shot to pieces?" As a mat
ter of fact, such misgivings are natu
ral, but they are not justified even
with this list of exhibits before us.
Certain it is that our naval authorities
must give extraordinary attention to
the safety factors in the operation of
ships and aircraft, but the very fact
that we do have these accidents indi
cates that the Xavy is increasing
its activities in time of peace as a
preparation for time . f war. The
Xavy that never has any accidents is
the one which is dismantled and laid
up on the beach and the one in which
aircraft are never flown.
Admiral E. W. Eberle. chief of
naval operations, in commenting on
naval accidents during the last three
years, says:
"For our Xavy to be prepared to
fulfill Its duty In war it must carry
out a great variety of drills, exercises,
target practices and war games in
peace time. There is no way in which
these can be made realistic and valu
able without introducing the element
of risk. Destroyers m*st run at high
speed at night among columns of bat
tleships, neither showing any lights.
Submarines must make quick dives at
the sounding of the klaxon by the
captain, when each man must per
form his duty rapidly and exactly,
without the supervision of any officer,
and when any single mistake may re
sult in the loss of the ship. Air
planes must be shot otf battleships
by catapults and land on the deck
of a carrier.
"In addition to these special exer
cises, the ordinary operation of cer
tain types, destroyers, submarines and
aircraft is dangerous. When such a
large number of ships is in constant
operation accidents cannot be avoided.
The only way to stop them would be
to cease operating. Our accidents are
due in some cases to the fault of our
own personnel, in others to the fault
of personnel outside the naval service
and still others to unusual circum
stances over which no one has any
In justice to our Xavy, especially
in those cases where new elements are
being fitted into the organization—
elements which increase the hazards
of operation—the officers and men
must be given the benefit of the doubt.
Take aircraft crashes, for example.
Here the risk is greatly augmented by
training beginners, by experimenting
with new and untried types of air
craft, by mechanical devices for
launching and landing planes on ship
board and by unknown weather haz
ards. Even so, despite an increase
In operation each year, the number
of hours and miles flown per fatality
and crash Is running up to new and
encouragingly impressive figures.
Then there are the submarines, in
creasing in number, in size and in op
eration stunts each year. Submerged,
these vessels are like whales without
eyes or ears, and when they are
operated in a manner to simulate
battle conditions there is very great
risk of collision and of me hanical
Again, the amount of explosives
an ancient superstition, in connection
with various phases ht witchcraft
arid sorcery, which had been prac
ticed by their forefathers and which
was somehow connected with a
woman's lock of hair.
The superstition was to the effect
that, under the influence of this di
vine nectar drug, the spirits had told
a witch-doctor of their tribe that one
could impose witchcraft on a woman
or, as they call it, "pray her to
death," if the sorcerer was able to
steal a lock of hair from the victim's
The head-reducing fiesta lasted four
whole days. Mountains of food were
eaten and there was a perfect org\
of drunkenness on chlcha and toha
co juice and teas made from mysteri
ou.s herbs and drugs. The tsantsa
ceremonies were, for the most par’
ritualistic dances. If properly pet
formed, they were supposed to "lay
the spirit of the victim and to prevail’
it from inflicting witchcraft on tic
** $ *
T WAS lucky in not having to sleep
in the fiesta house after all thi
made orgy was over. N'o lesser pei
sonage than the brother of the slayer
himself, painted from head to foot in
weird designs, offered to lead me to
his brother's fortified house, for one
peaceful night. It was surely well
he led me.' As he got near the place,
lie pointed out a perfectly innocent
looking spot, coveted with vines, and
said: "Death trap"’
' "Why death trap'.'” I wanted to
know. “Are the vines poisonous?’
I hey were not poisonous, but worse
They were practically rooted in tl.e
air. Fite slayer had ting a gre, -
pit, and in tlie bottom of it ho.:
stuck poisoned spear heads, then
points upward. Over this trap vine
had been trained. When they were
closely matted, earth had been spree
over them, end tropical grass seed
sprinkled on this.
It ail looked so natural I wanted
to examine the diabolical thing mop
closely, and tried to. My guide
clutched my arm—l had almost slippy
into a second pit.
“Why two?” I gasped.
"My brother’s enemies fall into nui
her one,’’ he explained. “Their friend
they come to rescue and fall into
number two. If they are not dr-no
from the poisoned spears, mv l>ro*he
kill all."
That night I had no fear <■>
"brother's enemies.”
A year after going into the i-our
try of head hunters 1 found mvse'
on a windy ridge of the Andes, taking
a last look at the distant sea of green
that was the jungle land of the:
When I reached civilized Ecuadoi
I was approached by various cage
individuals in the larger cities I passe i
through. Their question was alway:-
the same. What were the chano s
of getting the little heads from th
| There ere men who cater to the
I most grewsome of all tourist craze
—a craze which had led to a seer*-:
traffic. It is said that tourists in
Ecuador have paid as high as SSOO .-•
piece for these reduced heads within
the last year. Even “fake” human
heads, shrunken by bunglers tgnoram
of the preserving process, have been
made and sold. Uuyers of such
“curios” have paid big prices, only
to have their trophies decay in a
few weeks. Only the Shuara Indians
know the mysterious preserving soiu
Ecuador has passed a law which
makes it a crime to sell or even buy
shrunken human heads. Tourists are
not allowed to take them through,
the customs. But the prices paid
by rich tourists have brought a new
kind of bootlegger, nr “head legger
on the South American scene.
I had my last glimpse of Ecuador
as I sailed out of the harbor of Guaya
quil. With me. on the same vessel,
was the American friend who had
tried to persuade me not to start on
my adventure. I had never confessed
to him my innermost conviction that
it was only by the finest of split hairs
that I came out of the Oriente—not
a reduced head.
(Cotiyright. 1925.1
I handled, the deadly character of these
j latter-day explosives and the very
! great speed of modern big-gun firing
in battle practice, particularly when
the whole broadsides are being fired
at one time, with a consequent rush
and hurry in al! the ship's magazines
and powder handling rooms, make for
danger, and except for the most ex
perienced and skillful management
accidents during target practice would
be frequent and terrible.
Granting all these difficulties, allow
ing for errors due to the personal
equation, giving due weight to the
natural hazards of the treacherous
ocean, when this list of accidents in
the Xavy since the World War is
scanned does it seem unreasonable
ro mix a little superstition with our
thoughts and search around for the
jinx or Jonah or whatever it is that
sailors call plain hard luck?
i Copyriirht. 192">.)
“Dry Ice.”
GCIEXCE has perfected a new way
to keep Ice cream frozen in its
original state for hours at a time
without the use of ice, according to
Popular Science Monthly. It is now
possible to send a pint of ice cream
from Xew York City to Chicago by
air mail, and w-hen the package is
opened the ice cream will be found
frozen hard, just as it came from
the freezer many hours before!
The wonderful material that makes
this remarkable feat possible is called
"dry ice." It cannot melt. It is per
fectlv dry to the touch, and yet It is
so cold that it will make a thermome
ter go down to 110 degrees below
You have noticed the small hubbies
that form and rise to the surface in a
soda-pop bottle when you pry-off the
cap. This new ice is made out of the
same gas that forms those bubbles. In
other words, it is carbon dioxide gas
cooled down and compressed until It
finally forms a solid, frozen mass
Solidified carbon dioxide has been
produced on a laboratory scale several
times, but this is the first application
of this queer freezing agent to the
preservation of ice cream. Its use is
the result of a long search by a Xew
York lee cream manufacturer for a
method of packing his product in
small packages so that customers can
take it home an.l keep it in perfect
condition for hours afterward.
Although the temperature of dry ice
is colder than the North Pole In Win
ter time, it may be handled with the
bare hands, provided the skin of the
fingers is not allowed to touch the
solid lumps for more than a second o;
two at a time. In the ice cream plant,
lumps of dry ice are sent to the pack
ing room, where a workman places a
cylindrical piece In a large carton,
which also holds a smaller container
filled with ice cream.
The outside container, as well as the
one that holds the Ice cream, is made
of paraffined cardboard and is itself a
fair heat insulator, so that the
warmth from the outside air pene
trates slowly. Instead of heating and
melting the ice cream, the air warms
the surface of the block of frozen car
bon dioxide and gradually converts
the latter back into a gas again.
The gas then passes away through
a small hole In the outer containei.
and when it is all evaporated no trace
remains to show that there ever was
anything in the larger container ex
cent the package of ice cream.

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