Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tipu: The Master Bowman

Peter Capstick, professional hunter, writer and one of the most artistically sarcastic men to ever grace the written word, left behind a wealth of entertaining information and stories behind in his books. After much work as a cropper, elephant hunter and other risky business ventures, was roped into writing magazine articles for Saga and sampling the hunting of various safari camps abroad. These ventures regularly brought him into contact with isolated places, people and beasts.

One very noteworthy trip brought him to the Xingu jungle of Brazil where he was introduced to the finest bowman he had ever seen, Tipu of the Tapirape Indians. His guide, Count Andre Rakowitsch, a most colorful character whom I will discuss more of later, brought him along on a puttering boat and told Peter the story of the Tapirape.

According to the Count, who had spent many years in the deep jungle, the Tapirape were once residents of the deep interior, hunting for food with bows and arrows. But in a cataclysmic turn of events two tribes, the Caiyepo and Tchukurami banded together and ambushed the Tapirape at night, resulting in a bloody and almost absolute massacre. Out of thousands, less than a hundred managed to escape, hiding and sneaking their way downriver. Now in an unfamiliar environment they had little idea how to deal with the river and fish for their food. They had no skills to deal with such obstacles. But fortuitously for them a cadre of Portuguese nuns heard of their plight and found them, and somehow managed to teach them the basics of boating and fishing. Once they got a handle on these queer tasks things got better for their natural instincts took over.

Unlike other tribes of the region which used nets and traps, the Tapirape used the bow exclusively. The Count himself said that they were among the best bowmen he had ever seen. Peter, much interested, was only too delighted to get a glimpse of these fishermen at work. He was then introduced to Tipu, a youth of indeterminate age, but when asked if the weird white man might see him fish he only smiled.

They set out in a tiny dugout canoe with gunwales less than an inch high. These light craft were very handy, but extremely easy to upset. Although the water in which they were paddling was very shallow, more of a swamp than a river, it was filled with piranhas. Don't let the elites trick you into thinking that these tiny fish are only occasional killers. All too often people fall and are half-flayed by piranhas even when close to shore, their internal organs dangling from their shredded abdomens. Yet Tipu balanced upon this frail craft, bracing his feet on each gunwale with a six foot long bow, taller than he was! And he did this with no more concern than you and I cross a stoplight, even with the risk of being splattered by a semi-truck.

Peter watched with interest as he drew back one of his four foot long arrows, one of a quartet only, and let fly at a seemingly empty stretch of water ahead. It slammed into the water, and a moment later began zig-zagging downstream! Paddling alongside it Tipu grabbed the arrow and yanked a peacock bass from the water, still impaled on the arrow. The boyuant arrow and shallow water made retrieving the arrows and their pray exceptionally easy to retrieve, especially since these were quite difficult to make. Our dear spectator was dumbfounded! Although he had much experience in fishing, everywhere from North America, South America and Africa, considering himself a superb eye for fish, he hadn't the slightest idea that the fish was there fifteen yards away!

Not only did Tipu spot it, but hit it directly behind the head in just one shot as easily as if it were a bulls eye. All day Tipu nailed one fish after another at all distances, either directly in the head or in the gills, missing but only once. And he did so all while balancing on a most precarious craft in moving water with very inconsistent equipment. Was it any wonder that our dear writer was so dumbfounded?

Although I haven't heard of the Tapirape archery skill elsewhere, we have at least one grand account of their masterful archery prowess and young Tipu, who blew away a man who was by no means ignorant of weapons and skill.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reaction to Failure

In the course of life, we will inevitably face failures, some more grievous than others. Failure at a game is but a small and flighty disappointment. Others are more serious and have more lasting consequences. These potential failures loom over many of us like a cloud ready to burst. But it is how we react to these failures that truly show what kind of people we are.

Although I have long known this, I didn't think about it when I recently faced a particularly painful failure. I was in line for a new job. One that would pay well and actually help me get some things I need in life. A bit more clothing, some repairs, more food, maybe even some more comforts like movies and books. It was yesterday when my spirits were high that I learned I had been denied the position that I wanted.

And this was right before I was about to go into my current job for the closing shift. This bad news set a bad tone for the rest of the night. While I didn't take my disappointment out on my co-workers or customers, I was still in a quiet, dour mood. And yet when I broke the news to my friends there, I found myself not lamenting not getting shoes without holes or not being able to repair my bike, but saddened that I wouldn't actually be able to do something for someone else. The day I was anticipating my new job start was also coincidentally the birthday of two of my sisters, twins.

The week before I had spoken with the wee girls on the phone, and hearing their excited voices as they chattered to me voicing ideas of what they wanted for their birthday I couldn't help but feel overwhelming love for them. I wanted to make them happy. I wanted to make all of my friends and family happy. I wanted to use my new potential wealth to help others. But with the job denial, I wasn't able to do that.

It was at that time of sadness that I realized that I was sad about what mattered most to me: Bringing joy to those I care about. Granted, these were items that wouldn't save their lives or stave off hunger, but they were things I knew would make them happy, and their happiness meant more to me than my own physical well being.

As the day wore on my mood softened and I reconciled myself to the job hunt once more, even as I plodded about footsore and hungry. But I steadily grew more hopeful that I would find another job. Something better, with less stress and better pay.

How we react in defeat reveals our true nature. And while I wish I had reacted better myself, I could have reacted far worse. And somehow I find that what I cared about the most at the cost of the job oddly comforting. I will get back on the trail once again and hopefully with help move up in the world.

And today some of my patience and optimism was rewarded. A pair of close friends heard of my plight, and actually volunteered to help mail these gifts to my little sisters. That act of selflessness took most of the sting out of my loss, and warmed my heart. It only reinforces my belief that some of the biggest impacts in life can be made with the smallest of heartfelt gestures and good deeds.

So even when things get bad, try to look for the good. And when you see someone suffering, a simple act of genuine kindness might turn them around. Never underestimate the power of caring.