Jungle Stories

Uncle Cam

I've spent almost the entire morning searching through my old copy of Uncle Cam!, by James and Marti Hefley, because I wanted to find the reference to Herb and Grace Fuqua.  I didn't find the reference, but I found the following story about Yarinacocha, the Amazonian linguistic center where I grew up.
Betty {Greene} landed smoothly on the local air strip -- the main street of the town.  Joe Hocking pushed a wheelbarrow through the crowd for their luggage and took them to his house where his wife waited with refreshments.  
After greeting them, Joe handed Cam a rumpled note scrawled in crude Spanish by an Indian chief.
Dear Mr. Hocking: We have made a school house.  We want to follow your commandments.  Come and teach us.  I will not go anyplace until you answer me.  We await you.   Come.
"I have too much to do here. I can't help him, but maybe your people can. And in his own language,"  Joe explained.
"That's why we're in Peru. We'll help him.  Now let's go see that base site."
They struck out along a trail that led through timbered lowland and past Indian huts.  "Shipibo Indians," Joe said.  "They're all around here.  You could build a road along here from Pucallpa."
After about five miles they reached the high bank above Lake Yarina and looked out at the half-moon of water around an island. A long straight stretch of lake could handle float planes, and there was space to build a landing strip.
They tramped along the lakeshore, disturbing four-and five-foot iguana lizards that slithered off into the high weeds. Monkeys chattered in the trees above them. "Gators are in the lake," Joe casually said,  "But they won't harm you, and there's an occasional boa."
Cam was impressed. "This may be what we need, though I would prefer not to be this close to civilization for the sake of the Indians whom our folks will be bringing in for language study. How many acres could we get here, Joe?"
"Well, there are several parcels. You could buy ten or fifteen acres on the lakefront now and later get more adjoining as the need arose."
"Good! Then we'd have enough room for individual homes, a clinic, a sawmill, a printing plant, a radio tower, and hangars at the air strip."
"You really like to plan big," Joe commented.
"Let's claim this land for God, and the Indians," Cam responded. 
They knelt under a giant ceiba tree.  "Lord, you know we don't have the money to buy this place," Cam prayed. "But You can provide it. We ask You to sanctify this land, that it might be set aside for Your glory."

Yarinacocha, 1953

One of my favorite stories about Cameron Townsend, from the book by James and Marti Hefley:
The Piros gave Cam the name "Yawuro," meaning "stork." One evening an old Piro, José Domingo, told Esther Matteson a story.
"One day I stood near the house of Yawuro, your chief. I watched him receive the governor.  He took him into the house, seated him in the best chair, and gave him a drink of lemonade. Then he sat down and talked with him. Yawuro was not in a hurry. He had all the time the governor wanted.
A few days later, I asked to visit Yawuro. He came outside the house to meet me. He took me in and seated me in the best chair and brought me lemonade. Then he sat down and we talked together. He was not in a hurry. He had all the time I wanted.
Yawuro, your chief, is a great man. He is my friend."

Jungle Rain

 My family first arrived in Peru when I was one and a half, and except for the time when my parents went to Jungle Camp in Mexico, and two short furloughs, I spent the next 17 years there.  So my time at college was filled with longing for home.
 I remember standing outside Nazareth Hall at Northwestern College,  watching the rain fall hard on the awning.  The phrase "liquid tinsel" came into my mind.  I had to write a poem for Dr. Black's poetry class, and I decided to write it about the rain I knew best.
 It isn't a great poem, but I still like it because it reminds me of my 21-year-old self and my fresh memories of the jungle.  My poems are like cheeses.  I write them, place them on a shelf for about a year, and when I unwrap them, I cautiously nibble them.  A few are good.  Many are rotten.  This one still tastes of home.

Jungle Rain
by Laura Daggett (Murphy)

You don't hole up in Jungle Rain. You try
To match the celebration cooling brings.
A swim at storm-time cures the lightening-shy
And swollen gutters beg you to jump in.
Try noticing the rain for once, the way
The liquid tinsel melts into your skin
And running rivulets exult to flay 
The roof. Rejoice in rain's dispute with tin.
Hibiscus drink their fill of juicy prisms
While pregnant crystals cling to fresh-washed leaves.
Wet shoots straight and slender, singing schisms
Between new-now and musty-used-to-be.
The strong spill shines the slate, world-rinses,
Whips green and glossy clean into your senses.