Monday, July 28, 2008
Jackie's Jungle Memories
I am sharing a few of the stories my oldest daughter has written about growing up in the jungle. Jackie is now a married woman with two children. She and her husband are serving as missionaries in Paraguay and we will be joining them in less than two weeks. As my schedule is very full with the final preparations of packing up for the move, I have less time to write so am stealing her stories!
In my family there is always something in any given conversation that will spark a memory. Many memories, memories of trees, mud huts, rivers, monkeys, illness, rainbows and Indians. Pretty soon you’ll here the infamous words, “Remember when…?” followed by a story. “Remember when Mom got stuck in the outhouse for three hours and we didn’t think to look for her till lunchtime?” “Remember when Jewel started drifting off down river on the washboard and Mom had doggie paddle out to get her?” “Remember when the fridge lit on fire and Dad bounced around in front of it before he went to turn off the gas?” Memory after memory will come pouring out of our mouths and hearts, before long it’s late at night (or early in the morning) and we all trudge off to bed with weary bodies but busy minds. Even more memories are still bouncing around in our heads as we lay down to sleep. Many times as I’ve laid down to rest I feel as if I could still hear them. I can still hear the drums, the toads, the birds, the motors, the dogs, the crickets, the children. The sounds of the Amazon still echo in my head. Why, I ask myself, should they stay in my head? Why not spill them onto paper? These memories are too adventurous, too exciting, too funny, to precious to be just memories. They should be stories, told to many people, for all to enjoy. So here goes, the stories of the Vernoy Family living in a small Ye’Kuana Indian village in the Venezuelan rainforest.
The baby of the family, Jayde Louise, better known by her Indian nickname Tudiacama or Tudiaca, loves animals. No, she LOVES, adores, reveres, and relates to animals. Life for Tudiaca would not be worth living without animals. That is why when my mother decided to raise chickens Tudiaca was ecstatic. The day the chickens arrived, the way everything else arrived by MAF plane of course, was a day she awaited anxiously. We could here the plane buzzing in the distance. As soon as you could hear the plane that was the signal to make the slippery muddy trip down the trail to the river. We used our toes as grappling hooks to ease (or should I say, slip with style) down to the wobbly canoe that awaited in the glistening river. Going to the airstrip was a treat. Mom really loved it because it meant all the kids would be gone for at least two hours and the house would be hers!! Down into the canoe we went, Dad, Josh, me, Jewel and Jayde, along with what seemed to be about 200 giggling Ye’Kuana children. There were also the things we were to send out like a bag of mail full of letters to Grandma, an empty gas bombona, and maybe a Tupperware of brownies we made for the “uncle” flying the plane.
Off we were to the airstrip to pick up the chickens. The canoe ride is always fun, especially if there is a motor on the end of it. We would sit on the edge and dangle our feet over the sides while we skimmed along over the great Chajura. This of course was only allowed because Mom wasn’t there! Once we arrived the unloading of the canoe was the same as the loading, just backwards of course. It always gave us white folks great pleasure when an Indian slipped on the muddy banks for we finally had a chance to laugh at them for a change. We would run up to the airstrip hoping to get there before the plane landed so that we could wave at it as it landed. The plane would arrive, we chat with the pilot, get the bag mail and clutch to our bodies as if it were gold, or better yet a package from Grandma in Florida! That the day the chickens came to us. Poor things, they should have run for their lives. Jayde loved them from the first time she laid eyes on them. They were promptly named, Rosie, Pepper, Annie, Louisa, etc. One of the Indian men carried it down to the canoe and we huddled around them on the trip back. Jayde was of course telling us the whole time, “That one is shy, this one over here likes me a lot, but the black one looks scared!” and things of the sort. We believed her, for if anyone could understand a chicken it would be Jayde.
The canoe bumped back into our port and we rushed up to the house excitedly yelling things out for Mom to hear. “Mom, the chickens are here! One is named Rosie!” “Aunt Tracy sent out zuchinni bread!” “The mail is here!” Plane days were always a thrill.
The chickens were taken out to the chicken coop where Jayde showed them their new house and took them for a tour of the area.
The chickens lasted for several weeks. Long enough for Jayde to fall madly in love with each and every one. Every morning after breakfast and before school, she would rush out with her bucket of chicken food and feed her lovely pets. “Here Rosie you can have some extra for sharing, Louisa don’t peck at Pepper it isn’t nice!” You get the picture. Those were the Glory Days for the chickens.
One dark night, when there was no moon a visitor came to “visit” the chickens. This visitor was a vampire bat. Now the chickens were small egg laying chickens (although only one laid eggs and she only laid one a day, it was a week before we could all have one egg apiece for breakfast) and the vampire bats of the amazon are quite vicious. While we all laid asleep in our hammocks the chickens (bless their hearts) were, well, attacked. We did not hear anything and had no idea what had happened.
The next morning, as usual, after breakfast but before school, Mom sent Jayde out with her bucket of food to feed the chickens. Jayde skipped off to the coop, bucket swinging on one arm and blonde curls bouncing off her neck. She was quite…devastated to see what she saw. All her dear little friends laying on the ground shriveled up (the bat had sucked out their blood) and the heads laying on the ground next to their bodies. With a blood curtling scream Jayde threw her bucket on the ground and ran as fast her chubby toddler legs could carry her. Throwing herself into my mother’s arms we all gathered around to try and decipher her sobs. Upon further examination of the ‘crime scene’ Dad told us all what had happened. Poor little Jayde not knowing what a bat was asked, “what would do such a thing?” My brother answered, as any decent brother would, “Whatever it was it’s coming after YOU!”
This may seem as a very sad story, but trust me, it’s hilarious.