My Epitaph

If you don't question everything, you will know nothing and believe anything!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Temporary friends that really know how to howl.

Chapter 7



Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places he had had the opportunity to visit, and, again, the advantages of traveling by small ship interested in flora and fauna was the best way to explore this lost world.  One of the stops was a wildlife preserve that nursed orphaned animals until they could be released back into the wild.  It was here that he had found a friendship that was very short-lived.  He had gone ashore and was standing by a picnic table when an eight-week old howler monkey came running up to him.  As he stood there, the little orphaned monkey climbed up his body, finally sitting on his shoulder and wrapping its tail around his neck.  It began to do as monkeys do and started to search through his hair for any insects which to groom (to no avail).  With a captured heart (he had to give up a three-year old black labrador mix before embarking the Nantucket which broke his heart) he extended his arm from his side.  The little howler monkey walked out to his forearm and wrapped its tail around his forearm and hung from his arm.  

Setting down his new friend he approached a cage around the corner that contained a handful of spider monkeys that were soon to be released back into the wild.  He met three of his shipmates at this cage and they were all petting the monkeys.  All one had to do was to stick their finger inside the fence and the monkeys would pet themselves much like a cat.  At first there were enough monkeys for all four of them, but when he walked to the other end of the cage, every monkey in the cage followed him leaving his shipmates with gaping jaws and empty fingers where a monkey had just been. Sticking ten digits inside the fence he was now petting all of the spider monkeys while looking at his shipmates who stood in disbelief.
Before long, he went to hike on the nature trail leaving all his primate friends where he had last seen them.  While on this short hike through the rain forests of Costa Rica he was able to observe many different species.  Hearing a rustling in the trees above him, he looked up and witnessed a horde of Capuchin (white faced) monkeys scurrying away from him.  As most were reaching their new safe zone, the protectors of the group stopped to entertain him.  Although some believe these Capuchin monkeys to be the most intelligent of monkeys, he has to wonder if this truly is the case.  How smart is an animal that shits into its hand and throws its feces at someone not posing a threat?  He had stopped to watch the monkey flee across the tops of the lower canopy trees and observed the tell-tale signs of this bizarre defense.  Had the monkeys had stronger arms and better aim it would have been a better defense, but he just stood and laughed.
Continuing on his hike, he caught up with passengers and the naturalists who were observing spider monkeys at the top of the canopy.  He borrowed a pair of binoculars to join in the observation and listened to learn about these highly acrobatic primates.  A little further and he was able to see a couple of lizards and was completely relieved when he got back to the base camp without encountering two species he did not want to encounter.  He was wearing his leather boots for this hike as the protection one needs to not be bitten by the dreaded Fir de Lance.  Extremely venomous, the Fir de Lance is a ground dwelling snake that cannot attack much higher than a few inches off the ground so leather boots are a defense against any possible attack by this viper.  However, the snake he really did not want to encounter was the bushmaster.  The largest snake in the western hemisphere and deadly, the bushmaster has the ability to strike far off the ground.  He was fortunate to not face these species, because he had never met a snake that was more afraid of him than he was of it!
Completing the hike returned him to the buildings, and knowing it was about time to return to the ship and the next meal to be served he went to say goodbye to the caged spider monkeys.  Upon this goodbye he started around the building to head to the tender to return him to his home and heard a scampering on the ground.  He looked down and saw the same orphaned howler monkey running after him.  Once more it ran up his body and seated itself on his shoulder.  Wishing he could bring his friend aboard the Yorktown and have a new pet he smiled, but he knew it could never be.  Not only would the officers not want him to have a pet such as this, but, after all, it was a howler monkey which is an accurate name if you have ever heard one.  A howler monkey might make a good pet, but you had better either be deaf or at least have a good set of earplugs!  His first hike in the jungle at the other stop in Costa Rica had brought him within earshot of howler monkeys.  Knowing it is a small primate does not help the first time you hear them howl in the wild; you still look over your shoulder to make sure that it is not a lion or other predator tracking you.  This would make it impossible to keep as a pet, especially in the confines of crew quarters below the water line.
After saying his goodbyes to all these primates he return to the ship to sail through the Panama Canal for his last time and cross over to the Caribbean islands, again.  This year he was only to stay in the Caribbean for about one month before taking a vacation.  This coming vacation was to also include a school to learn how to teach English as a foreign language, because he was really dreaming big in his life.  He was planning on making it to all seven continents in fourteen months once he crossed the pond again to be on the start-up crew for the M.S. Clipper Adventurer.
However, sometimes dreams are just that: dreams, and the grandest of plans sometimes never come to fruition.  But, it was off the Yorktown and back to the San Francisco Bay area where he was to return.  This time it was for two months and not two weeks like his vacation from the Yorktown when she went into drydock the previous October.


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