Tribal, The Prequel Ch5

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

 Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life
Dreamstime Stock Photo

Under the shaded canopy, I skipped along on the twisted roots of towering trees. Giant roots, like arthritic fingers, intertwined to hold the forest to the steep bank of boulders, clay, and eons of leaf litter decomposed into a rich and nourishing soil. In time a tree lost the battle and became part of the bewildering litter of rootballs, mossy trunks, and the ideal shelter for creatures in the jumble of limbs. The forest was wide awake, and the sounds of nature were a cacophony of creatures having incessant discussions among their kin.

My focus had drifted. Such a breach in military operations is usually fatal. I reasoned that this trek across the jungle floor was a low risk from hostile persons and more risky traveling across rugged terrain to avoid observation and interception. Moving down the switchbacks of the mountain descent, I’d seen no one nor heard anything suspicious. The forest chatter was a sure hint that everything was peaceful, and my mind drifted away even as my feet moved from root to boulder to log and back to roots.

My early life seems a blessing when I look back on how I went from a child of unquenchable curiosity to slogging through a mountain jungle pretending to be a botanist looking for commercial sustainable crops. A real botanist would out me in thirty seconds. I was unsure how to mask that glaring defect in my cover story. I was no stranger to the world’s flora and fauna. Still, I lacked the vast library of terms to describe all I saw, unlike my two grandfathers, who both had a total recall and named every green thing growing and every animal seen in my Florida habitat. They knew the entire lifecycle of every living thing and went to great pains to teach me. Memory and focus was never my strong trait. I blame all the squirrels that ran across my ever-scanning eyes and flighty attention span.

My paternal grandfather had acquired a nice estate in the center of Tallahassee, Florida, in 1915 and enlarged the grounds and house in 1920 after a break to go off and shoot cannons in the First World War. Grandfather built an English Garden on the estate that was the envy of the Southern aristocracy. He hosted many distinguished visitors and threw elaborate parties in sections of the property surrounded by high Rhododendrons, bamboo, and azaleas in pink, red, and white. He had a maze on one side filled with flowers, Dogwood, and various species of flowering myrtle, wisteria, and yellow jasmine. We had a gardener, and his wife was head of household affairs. They lived on the property in a one-roomed apartment built on the back of the separate garage. I was left to grow up there wandering the grounds, climbing the trees, and studying various strategies to watch the birds surreptitiously. 

I had my secret garden that held my attention all the days of my young life. No children my age were in this old neighborhood of Florida’s elite, and I spent my early years with elderly cats, dogs, and my adopted garden. My grandmother was rigorously opposed to any ruffian skills I developed and poured all her life energy into teaching me the art of culture, literature, and gentlemanly manners. I often wonder if my failure to achieve the lofty goals she set for me was the heartbreak that killed her. You would never know she felt disappointment, only the resolute will of a woman born in the last years of the 1800s. Whenever I challenged her, she reminded me that she had a strong right arm, and many a naughty boy’s raucous rumps fell prey to her good aim with a switch. Later, we would share some brownies she made, and I would tell her how much I loved her.

Just down the street, a few blocks from the old Tallahassee Capitol building, my maternal grandfather lived with my multitalented grandmother. He was a famous naturalist with considerable experience in Florida’s natural history and unique environment. He maintained his connections to the Florida Department of Natural History and Florida State University until his death in 2019 at age 103. He was active up until the quiet end. He was the one that took me into the wild country and primitive beaches of Florida and spent his days teaching me to respect and nurture my environment. I would never depart from this path these two gentlemen placed me on and spent their years teaching me things no one could learn in a public school. I had the best start a child could ever hope for.

The rushing water of the mountain stream became louder, and the underbrush and diversity of plants became infinitely more varied. I knew I was in an unspoiled garden of Eden for the southeast. My heart lifted, and my energy soared as I began picking my way through the jumble of boulders to the water that would be my salvation from the heat and humidity. I could already feel the frothy coldness of the water on my skin.

31 responses to “Tribal, The Prequel Ch5”

  1. “ I knew I was in an unspoiled garden of Eden …”. Dan, it’s thrilling to read and follow you through these past memories of pure courage and the quest for truth and wisdom. Few have the spirited initiative for this endeavor but I know that you will follow your heart where it leads you and that you can rely on you’re instincts of what will serve you and others best in this precarious life where there is so much to be revealed but one must have the intelligence and foresight to make it work. You’ve written this with a extraordinary power and influence that permeates the mind and soul of your reader. Thank you for sharing and please continue to take us with you, you’ve perhaps no idea the influence you have over your reader that makes them reach deep into their psyche and imagine that they too can follow their dreams and the adventures that await them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring comment Rene. You capture exactly what I hope to achieve. If in some way, I give my reader the open door to their own dreams and they can strive to achieve all of their potential, I have achieved my greatest calling. If I can take someone with me and show them through this story the grand beauty of our world then I have accomplished much in my effort. Thank you so much for being there for the journey and helping me find an audience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s nothing I love more than an adventure and no one is a better guide than you. You awaken the explorer in us and I look forward to what waits ahead.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There is always a seat reserved for you in the cockpit and more adventure than days on the calendar. I suppose this means anytime is a good time for the next trip across the oceans to lands and people so different it can seem other worldly.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Such a big wide wonderful world, it’s hard to imagine the immensity of it all. There’s never enough time to explore it all so I will settle for a few exotic and unexplored destinations. ✈️

            Liked by 1 person

            1. So true, Rene. There have been many little nooks I’ve traveled to and wished I never had to leave, but there are precious jewels of nature and humankind densely sprinkled across the globe. To see just a few is enough wonderment to last a life time.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I can surely agree with that.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. 🏝👒😎⛵️. New adventure coming up soon.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully worded. A kind story about nature, a boy who was well loved and the unending love shared by generations of God’s amazing earth. 🦋❤️🦋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Joni for such a wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure. Have a blessed week. 🦋❤️

        Liked by 1 person

        1. And you as well ☺️

          Liked by 1 person

  3. AH!
    I enjoy your writing and am happy to see you writing a new tale.
    This will continue?
    Beautifully written. I also need salvation from the heat and humidity. I too hear and smell the water!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Resa! Thank you for stopping by my little booth of mob mischief and mystery. I’m trying something different now. I decided to weave my autobiography into one of my most memorable stories of tribal contact and what I learned about life from them. It’s sort of a raw, unedited conversation as I make contact and then work with local people to assess the dangers to them and their tribal lands while pretending to survey for economic investment. This kept the host government happy. Of course, there were many twists and turns I wasn’t privy to. I suppose my expression of wanting to jump in the mountain stream and dog paddle around was timely for most of us trying to make it through this summer. 😊💦

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    1. Thank very much for reading and commenting.

      Like

  4. You specialize in describing scene and setting like no other, and I can feel those roots under my feet as I bound through that natural forest habitat with you. Between the memories conjured of your grandparents and their teachings, I’m confident you could have held your own in that environment had you encountered a “real botanist” to boondoggle with your superficial faux knowledge of the habitat. After all, you were in the military–the don’t really expect you to know too much. But the question remains–which commercial crops would you have recommended if you ran into this real botanist? I hope you hade an answer ready–sounds like the perfect tropical setting for cannabis. But not back then…not back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What I found out later is the locals grew coffee, tea, and rubber along with some pepper and nuts. Rubber is what was going commercially at the time but the coffee and tea was mostly consumed in the local geographic area. Thanks to me and a few dozen other folks, the Central Highlands are now global exporters. Their coffee production is second to Brazil and you know how much coffee those Brazilians produce. I’ll cover the details later in the story. It’s what I learned outside my expectations that the story ultimately focuses on. And as memorabilia, I still have two Vietnamese coffee makers, en genius little cups that fit on top of a coffee cup with a filter bottom. You pour the fresh grinds in, screw a top filter on the grinds to compress them. Then add a tablespoon of hot water, wait 30 seconds the fill the cup and put the top on. The coffee drips slowly into the cup making you wait and then the magic happens. I still have them and they still work nicely.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Coffee and Cannabis grow in similar environments. And your coffee makers sound like they make perfect espressos! Love it!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I can’t fathom how wonderful it must be to sit down to a Vietnamese espresso and a big ole blunt of jungle raised cannabis. Surely that would help one to achieve a wide eyed nirvana.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. If I’m not mistaken, you get the three Cs in that environment: Coffee, Cannabis, and the infamous Coca leaf which turns into a lovely paste which seems to deliver infinite sums of money when distilled, dried, and shipped to American Yuppies as a white powder…

            Liked by 1 person

            1. The three C’s have now been joined by an F for farm grown organic non GMO Fentanyl. With C3F you can own several countries and their transport infrastructure. The business is immune to fluctuations in the economy. Geez, I coulda been a Kingpin.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. That’s over-the-top powerful stuff. Kingpin, indeed.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. It’s a very sad side effect of human nature on capitalism.

                  Liked by 1 person

      2. And if you actually helped turn them into a Global Exporter, you may take a bow. You have fulfilled your purpose. Or at least you have fulfilled a higher purpose! You deserve free coffee for life. (Send some my way in lieu of donations. LOL!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. LOL! There were a lot of people involved at the geopolitical level way above my pay grade. Ultimately, it all seemed on the up and up with thoughts of benefitting the local population by raising their standard of living at the time. Alas, I was naive and thought everyone loved nature and indigenous people like I did. I’m older and wiser now. The Central Highlands are productive and making people’s lives better every morning with that first rich brew of the day. And who can’t love miles and miles of rubber trees.

          Liked by 1 person

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