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The Rubber Gatherers 268

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THE RUBBER GATHERERS 268. A journey to the sail twelve days to the southeastward New York, and our steamer runs into the port of Para, a city near the equator in Brazil, the largest country in South America.

In the town of Para everybody is talking about rubber,—talking just as men talk about copper at Butte, Montana, and about fish at Gloucester, Massachusetts. Most of the money that comes to Para is from the sale of rubber. Big, round, black balls of it, each ball bigger than a man's head, are piled up in the warehouses waiting to be taken back to New York on our ship. Many barrels and boxes and bales of goods are taken off our vessel, as are also bundles of barbed fencing wire to be used on the cattle ranches on the island of Marajo near by. This island is one hundred fifty miles wide and lies between two mouths of the Amazon, the largest river in the world.

Some rivers, like the Mississippi and the Amazon, have several mouths. Others, like the Columbia in Oregon and the Plata in Argentina, have only one mouth.

269. The greatest river in the After leaving much freight at Para, our steamer starts upstream. It takes us a whole day and a night to get out into the real Amazon, the river that brings to the ocean more water than any other river in the world. We sail all day on the Amazon without seeing a man or a house or a field. The muddy water flows past us, carrying floating trees that have fallen into the stream. Often we are so far from the shore that it is hard to see it plainly. Whenever we do come near it, we see a very dense green forest that comes down to the water's edge. The leaves form such a thick mass that we never get even a glimpse into the forest itself. Sometimes we see strange birds flying about. The only sign of human life that we see during the first five days of our journey is a sheet iron warehouse on the river bank. It is there to store rubber. There is a little village of grass huts about it.

On the sixth day, when we have gone farther up the river than St. Louis is from New Orleans, we stop at the city of Ma naos. It is a little city, no bigger than many of the towns in the Central States or New England that we did not mention, when we studied these, because there are so many cities in those states. But here, in

the tropic forest, Manaos is the only city on two thousand miles of Amazon shores. It is in a swamp, too (see Sec.

188), and all the houses are built on piles to keep them out of the water when, in the rainy season, the river rises.

In this region there are seasons when it rains every and other seasons when it does not rain at all for weeks.

In the streets of Manaos are trolley cars that were built in St. Louis and brought down in sections. Nearly everybody in Manaos goes trolley riding in the evening. You must either do that or sit by an electric fan, if you expect to keep cool in such a hot, muggy place. The map (Fig. 279) shows why it is so hot; we are close to the equator, where it is always mid summer. And the rainfall map (Fig. 293) shows that the whole Amazon valley has a great deal of rain, so that it is damp and sultry.

At Manaos, as at Para, the people talk of rubber, rubber, rubber. Piles and piles of it are stacked up in the freight sheds.

More freight is taken off our steamer and left for the use of the people of Manaos.

Then for six days more we sail up the river, on and on, through the dark forest. There seems to be no end either to the river or to the forest. We are now farther from the Atlantic Ocean than Canada is from the Gulf of Mexico. We have sailed into another country, Peru, and we find there the little town of Iquitos.

270. The rubber gatherers.— Here several dark-skinned Portuguese rubber dealers, passengers on our boat, go ashore.

We go with one of them to see what he will do. First he has the many boxes of goods for his warehouse taken off of the ship. look about the streets we see Indians wearing straw hats, cotton shirts, and blue overalls; they are idling about the streets. The rubber merchant makes a contract with two of them to get him some rubber. He gives them six long knives that look like butcher knives and are called machetes, some clothes, a small tent, some mosquito netting, and some flour, corn meal, dried beef, dry beans, and canned salmon. These things the Indians will need on their jour ney up the river to get rubber.

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