‘In the jungle the miser is king.’ Cook’s translation of Lobo’s little epigram kept circling round my brain.
The Capybara hunt had simply been an assessment of our frugality.
We had failed.
A complete restructuring of habits was in order. The incident with the boots had only been a taste of Lobo’s OCD.
I understood military precision. I understood the psychological and physical necessity of ritual of tidiness. I understood the fastidious caution of the seasoned outdoorsman. But I did not understand Lobo.
What I had mistaken for reticence and a stiff upper lip was actually just energy conservation. The guy was a human sonar. Taking in every little thing and every little thing beyond the smallest thing ad infinitum. When we’d go into town for meetings and supplies he was as gregarious as anyone. He liked to sing and could play a little guitar. The instrument dwarfed comically by his cyclopean hands.
Despite speaking excellent English he opted to communicate in Portuguese more often than not. Even to us. I figure he was trying to get us used to the language. Or that he was just being an ass. It was always difficult to tell.
‘In the jungle the miser is king.’
I found the thought a touch odd. The jungle is a place of extreme abundance. Fertile and fecund beyond belief. Rain, game, and fuel was for all intents and purposes boundless. Yet we were supposed to exhibit: ‘extreme parsimony’?
It took a while for an obvious fact to dawn on me. Every calorie expended in the jungle was a huge withdrawal. Food might be everywhere and even if you are a skilled hunter you still must hunt. Rain may be everywhere but you must catch it. River water must be purified. All things that take time and energy. Time and energy that here beneath the canopy would tax an Olympian.
As such the utmost must be done to promote efficiency. Even minor setbacks like a scrape that went a little too deep could quickly escalate far beyond control. Infection, death, etc.
You had to move quick, you had to move light, and you had to move tidy. There was little room for error if any. Even in as propitious a season as we had chosen to embark. The lack of flash floods was not the lack of snakes, bacteria, or mercurial natives.
Everything must be conserved because everything took a fortune to replace.
I understood this after a few exercises. After really letting the fatigue of even the most mundane tasks seep in. But still…
“Yeah, but aren’t we gonna have 24/7 comm lines and air support?”
All I got in response was a condescending grin.
Part I – Kentucky Door
1.1 (Intro) The Sketch of Sam Monroe
1.2 The Cajun Prayer
Part II – The Wizard’s Nod
Help a Hipster