MEN OF THE TREES
MEN OF THE TREES
IN THE MAHOGANY FORESTS
OF KENYA AND NIGERIA
RICHARD ST. BARBE BAKER
Lai .eAwl'* C'iurriaitr jL Fmro.
i-, Ker). Cr,/'[ ) ad l,-. Svti.,r,, Proti.,' c Nitri.
V .:14, '. ln ,.d.,'lt,. .y
Vf'ith pfolj/graih by
LINCOLN MAC VEAGH
THE DIAL PRESS
NEW YORK MCMXXXI
LONGMANS. GREEN I CO TORONTO
COPYRIGHT, 1931, BY DLL PRESS, INC.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY THE VAIL-BALLOU PRESS, INC., BINGHAMTON, N. Y.
WILLIAM LANCASTER JENKINS
Folr mlL Ani riLinW Consul-General
Brihihl Ea t Africa
In memory of miny h.ippy days camping
in the I-Highlands of Kenya, and in grateful
recognition of his friendly encourage-
men t at time when it was most needed
'I 5r TER
1. HoW TI-IE SIHAR% i-L\PPENED
II. Tir. DANCE OF THE TRILrL .
III. RIDING THE BULL . .
IV. JOSIAH . . . .
V. FOREST FOLK . .
VI. THE MAN HUNTERS . . .
VII. KATOOTERO AND HIS HONEYBIRD
VIII. HOW THE COCK BECAME KING OF THE BIRDS
IX. FLOGGING A SHADOW . . .
X. THE BUNDI SPEAKS . . .
XI. THE GATEWAY TO KENYA . . .
XII. THE LURE OF COFFEE . . .
XIII. MWININYAGA, THE GREAT WHITE SPIRIT
XIV. THE SECRET OF THE KIAMA . . .
XV. TT-E STORY OF MUNYAI . . .
XVI. DANCING ON THE EQUATOR . . .
XVII. F REr MAGIC .
XVIII. ADVENTURES IN THE MAHOGANY FORESTS
XIX. GRW-INc GOLD. . . .
XX. TiiE FE.sr OF THE TREES . . .
XXI. MORE AFRICAN FRIENDS OF THE FOREST
XXII. TRErKING [N THE TROPICS . . .
XXIII. A LESSON FROM THE ELEPHANTS
XXIV. IN THIE ADERDARES . . .
XXV. SOIE FOREST SECRETS . .
XXVI. TREE HERITAGE . . . .
XXViI. WAH.AT \'ILL THE WHITE MAN Do NEXT?
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The First Dance of the Men of the Trees
Forest Burning by Nomadic Farmers .
Chuka Girls .
The First Nursery at Kikuyu .
Katootero and Carriers, with One of My Leopards .
The Home of the Hunter .
Pay Day. . . .
Trekking Along the Edge of the Forest . .
Some Camp Visitors .
Little Friends of the Forest Scouts . . .
African Walnut Tree .
A Yam Farm .
Fashioning a Dug-out Canoe . .
IlMany W.illin; Hands .
.Mloh,;inv, RIat Drifting to the Sea . . .
A Young Teak Plantation .
The Sacred Tree of Benin .
Thi Fore'rer's Hut at Sapoba .
Belo and His Wies . .
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Calling the Sacred Crocodile
In the Bamboo Forests of Keny) .
A Baby Warrior in a Forest Squatter's Camp
Canoe Travel in Africa .
The Men of the Trees Challenge Shield
African Boy with Ivory Bangles
Lumbwa Girls, in the Highlands of Kenya
Climbing for Cocoanuts
My Boy Momudu S.i; in Hi; Prayers
Cotton Spinning .. .
A Forest Mother Poses for the First Time
Okwen Tree in the Mahogany Forests
W\E were walking along the border of the Plain of
Esdraelon, where Elijah girded up his loins and fled be-
fore the finger of Jezebel, where the Crusader knights
fought the hosts of Saladin. Around us were the ghosts
of a hundred ancient armies-but we were not thinking
of them because before our very eyes, more history was
in the making. A few hundred yards away we could hear
the tramp of a conquering army. Up the famous old road
to Jerusalem marched Tommy Atkins and his pals:-
Yeomen from the counties of England, Scots from the
Highlands, Gurkhas from Nepal, giant Sikhs from the
Punjab, Jodphur Lancers from Rajputana, and swart
Pathans from \Vaziristan. Behind them came the
Bikanir Camel Corps, and the swaggering horsemen of
the Australian Tenth Light Horse. They were marching
up the same road that had resounded to the armies of the
Pharaohs, the Babylonians, the Canaanites, the Philis-
tines, the Israelites, the Legions of Rome, and Napo-
For weeks I had been with Allenby's army on its con-
quering sweep across the Holy Land. But what caught
my eye and held my attention on the Plain of Esdraelon
was something strangely removed from this pageant of
modern war. Men were planting trees, the loafers and
laborers of Arab villages industriously working under
the direction of British non-coms. They dug little holes
and into each they pressed the roots of a tiny tree. They
were planting the quick growing Australian gum tree,
the eucalyptus. And why? That was exceedingly inter-
Beside me strode Lord Allenby, tall and powerful,
mustached, grizzled, figure of a soldier, figure of a cav-
alryman, figure of a British general. Allenby was much
given to taking long walks among the scenes of the Holy
Land. Often, if you were with him on one of these ram-
bles, he would talk of birds. He was an enthusiastic
student of bird life, and even during the heat of cam-
paign he spent a little time nearly every day and would
snatch a few minutes from his war maps and staff con-
ferences to slip off to study the migratory birds that
linger in the Holy Land as they wing their way North
The conqueror of the Turks had a Yorkshire sergeant
who was his companion and co-worker in ornithology.
In the hours when the commander-in-chief might be oc-
cupied with the anxieties of the plans of forced marches
and strategic moves in the region between Dan and
Beersheba, the sergeant from the north of England
would be stationed at some waterhole. And if some rare
species arrived he would report to the commander-in-
chief who would come down and watch the bird for a
while before returning to his work of planning the over-
throw of the Ottoman Empire.
But when I was walking along the edge of the Plain of
Esdraelon with Lord Allenby that day, he did not speak
of birds. He spoke of trees. He told me that this country,
which was now so bare and waterless had once blossomed
like the richest valley in Spain, indeed had once been the
Biblical land of milk and honey instead of brown and
parched and baked as we saw it.
"Why?" I asked.
To which Allenby replied:
"Trees!" meaning-the absence of trees.
Man is ever wasteful of the rich green life of the forest.
He destroys the trees with a prodigal hand. Then often
Nature takes her vengeance. Man destroys the trees to
make farm land for himself. Then, after a while that
farm land lapses into desert. For the trees hold the soil
and the soil holds the moisture of the land. When man
destroys the leafy woods the rain washes the soil away
and the bare, stony expanse remains. In Palestine the
hand of man long ago swept away the forests. Century
after century passed. Army after army swept over this
ancient corridor. The rains came in their season, and each
year the floods ran more quickly from the bare surface of
the hills and slopes, with the result that today when the
dry season comes the land is swiftly converted into blis-
rering desert .
Lord Allenby explained this to me in a few brief
words, and then told me that if the land were to be re-
stored to its ancient fertile state it must be done by refor-
estation. Trees must be planted so that forests will grow
up again and hold the humus and make soft earth which
will catch the rains and hold them and freshen the whole
country with the influence of deep, rich woodlands. It
was characteristic of the giant Allenby that he had
turned from idea to quick practice and, as a flash of
whim and poesy, had initiated a campaign of tree plant-
ing along with the rigors of war.
This is a recollection that during the years that had
elapsed, had passed back into the dimness of memory. It
was brought to clear reminiscence by a man and a book,
by Captain Richard St. Barbe Baker and his present
work, "Men of the Trees." In his person and in his turn
of mind Captain Baker reminds me of dozens of similar
British officers whom I have met in many parts of the
world, a soldier devoted to some scholarly and scientific
idealism. He is in all respects the blue eyed, ruddy faced,
red mustached, British soldier type. The Britisher most
often displays the characteristic British reserve in all
matters, including his pet enthusiasm. Captain Baker,
though, cannot hold himself to the often somewhat
wooden British restraint, where the subject of trees is
concerned. In his love for forestry he wears his heart on
his sleeve. His manner becomes animated. His eyes
widen. He speaks with a rushing enthusiasm-the won-
der of trees-the necessity of forest conservation and
reforestation-how fair fields will turn into desert if
they keep destroying the trees-how arid wastes will
bloom with the greenness of life and the colors of the
flowers, if they will reforest. You feel the passion and the
earnestness of the man who has given his life to a great
devotion. You sense the singular turn of poetry and ex-
ultation in the man who is in love with trees.
I always feel, in the case of a man and his book, that
all I need to tell you is a word or two about the man. As
for this book, it is thrilling, full of strange lore, strange
lands, and the primitive peoples of the tropic forests.
But it is for you yourself to read.
MEN OF THE TREES
HOW THE SAHARA HAPPENED
WHO are The Men of the Trees? They are not as some
might suppose Sons of Tarzan or those little pigmy men
who swing themselves from bough to bough in the call
trees of the forest, but they are a band of African War-
riors who have pledged themselves before N'gai-the
High God-to save their forests from destruction and
plant trees everywhere.
The life and prosperity of the tribes of Equatorial
Africa are inseparable bound up with the splendid for-
ests which are the ancient heritage of their people. Lofty
and dense, these forests have for countless centuries af-
forded shelter, food and fuel to the wandering inhabit-
ants of these vast tracts of country. It is difficult for city
dwellers in Western civilization to realize the tremen-
dous influence of the primeval forests of Africa upon the
lives of those peoples, who, from time immemorial, have
dwelt beneath their shade. The very soul of the forest
has entered into their folk songs and legends, and deep
within their primal hearts is a feeling of awe and devo-
tion for its vast solitudes and everchanging tropical
Everybody knows that trees, apart from their direct
economic value, exert a beneficial influence affecting cli-
MEN OF THE TREES
mate, agriculture, and even the very existence of man.
This can be more clearly demonstrated in Africa where
vast areas are drying up and are becoming depopulated
as the direct result of forest destruction. Recent scien-
ti6c research has shown that the Sahara has nor always
been desert. Remains of trees have been found on the
banks of vanished rivers and on the shores of dried-up
lakes. At the time of Mohammed it is estimated that
about a million Arabs invaded parts that are now desert.
They cur the forests to make their farms, moving on to
repeat the same process of destruction as soon as they had
reaped their crops. They brought with them vast herds
of goats. It is probable that each Arab possessed about a
hundred goats. Now a hundred million goats following
in the train of a million nomadic farmers would not al-
low of much tree-growth, for the goat is the bte noir of
To the north of the Gold Coast, in a territory under
the French sphere of influence, vast areas are drying up
and becoming depopulated as the direct result of forest
destruction. In certain tribes the chiefs have forbidden
marriage and their women refuse to bear children, be-
cause they see the end of the forest in sight and they will
not raise sons and daughters to starvation. They have
been trapped in a wedge of the forest with desert right
and left of them and desiccation travelling fast in their
wake, while the shifting sand buries their poor crops,
driving them into the point of the wedge for their pres-
HOW THE SAHARA HAPPENED
This graphically shows what may be the result of neg-
lecting to form forest barriers when primitive methods
of shifting agriculture are in vogue. In the wake of a
destroyed forest large sand% wastes rapidly spread, and
the planting of trees is the only effective remedy for
holding up the shifting sands, and restoring the fertility
of the land.
When, as a forest officer, I went into the Highlands of
East Africa I came across a tribe of Bantu origin, who
had earned for themselves the name of "Forest Destroy-
ers" because of their shifting methods of agriculture.
Their chief occupation was farming, but of an ex-
tremely elementary sort. Theirs is a sy stem still common
throughout tropical Africa, namely the clearing of a
small patch of forest by marched and fire, followed by a
short period of cropping, and then its abandonment in
order to continue the process elsewhere.
These African people were childlike, simple and im-
petuous. Their immediate concern was to make farms.
Little did they dream of the value of the timber that they
were destroying. These primitive agriculturists had no
knowledge of the use of fertilizers, natural or artificial.
All they and their forefathers knew, was that, if they
wanted a plot of fresh soil capable of producing a crop
of food, they would find it in the heart of the virgin for-
est. Naturally, therefore, whenever the seasons came
round for sowing fresh grain and planting their sweet
potatoes, they would go into the thick forest, cut down
and burn the trees, even the priceless pencil cedar and
MEN OF THE TREES
olive; and after harvesting two crops, would abandon
their spoilt land to move deeper and deeper into the for-
est, leaving always behind them a trail of destruction.
Hence the tribesmen earned for themselves the name of
This devastation of the countryside may seem like
wanton destruction, yet the tribesmen did not act in any
spirit of mischief. They were merely ignorant of the
consequences of their recklessness. They did not realize
that, by destroying the forests at this rapid pace, they
would one day leave themselves without fuel to cook
their food or building material for their huts and grana-
ries. Some of the chiefs and elders of the tribe may have
felt vaguely uneasy about it, but the younger men were
quite unconcerned, caring little whether their women-
folk had to go two hours or two days' journey to fetch
fuel, so long as they got their meals.
When I arrived in their country, I pitched my tent on
a hill known as NMuguga, which means, a treeless place,
an apt description, for it commanded a view of a coun-
tryside once lovely with sub-tropical woodlands, now
bleak and bare save for the scattered hamlets and a few
distant Katinga, or sacred groves.
It was here, on the hill of Muguga that I held my
Barazas, or meetings of Chiefs and Elders, and endeav-
oured to impress upon them the urgent importance of
tree planting. Day after day, these Heads of the Tribe
journeyed to my camp to hear what I had to say; and
HOW THE SAHARA HAPPENED
night after night they went away fully determined that
something must be done to remedy things, but not
knowing how to begin. Their spirit was willing, but, said
they, "We are old men and the work that you would have
us do would require an army of Morans."
The Morans, or young warriors, for their part, lived
their happy-go-lucky lives, not worrying themselves at
all as to what became of their forests. If one talked to
them of the importance of tree-planting, they would re-
ply: "That is Shauri ya Mlungu," God's business. It did
not occur to them that if all Mungu's seed trees were re-
moved, Mlungu could scarcely be asked or expected to
replace a great forest. One could not punish them, for
they were too many; and how could one punish wrong-
doers totally unconscious of their crime? "Sufficient
unto the day" was their motto. It did not strike these
young men that the destruction of the forests had any-
thing to do with the decreasing rainfall, although their
fathers told them that in the old days, when their land
was covered with high forest, there was rain in plenty,
and that what few crops they grew in those days were
better than they were nowadays. Whenever there was
talk about this tree-planting, everybody agreed that it
was a very good thing, but the problem was to persuade
them to plant trees without payment or compulsion.
I had given long talks in many meetings with the na-
tives, but apparently the seed had not rooted and no ac-
tion had resulted, yet I would not lose hope for I felt
MEN OF THE TREES
there must be a way to do this work, and that I must find
it. Something had to be done, and done quickly to stem
the tide of destruction.
I went about my ordinary routine work, as assistant
conservator of forests, and after some days the inspira-
tion came. I had been watching ceremonial dances and
had learnt that in these parts of Africa there was a dif-
ferent dance for ever\' season of the year. There was a
special dance when the beans were planted and another
when the corn was reaped. When they were going out for
a lion hunt these tribesmen worked up their courage by
a special dance before sallying forth to slay their enemy.
Even when there was nothing particular to do, again
they would dance. Suddenly the idea came to me-why
not a ceremonial tree-planting dance? Everywhere these
young African warriors were pouring a vast amount of
life and energy into their warlike skirmishes, forest
burnings and dancing. I was convinced that such an im-
pulsive body of stalwarc young fighters could be in-
fluenced for good instead of being left to continue in old
habits of destructiveness through sheer ignorance of bet-
ter uses for their energy. I had thought of applying the
principles of Boy Scout movement, but, when on a visit
to Nairobi, I ventured to discuss the matter which brother
officers, the idea of putting "natives" upon their honour
was condemned as wildly impracticable and quite im-
possible. I was considered a visionary and but for the en-
couragement received from the American Consul Gen-
eral, a Roman Catholic priest from the Italian Mission, a
HOW THE SAHARA HAPPENED
medical missionary, and a British settler, I might not
As it was the height of the dancing season it came to
me that here might be the opportunity for introducing
this tree-planting dance, and in so doing reach the young
blood of the tribe, for all the young men were pission-
acely fond of dancing.
First of all I sent for the senior captains of the various
N'gomas, or dancers, and when they came to my camp
I said to them, "It is true, is it not, that you have a dance
when the beans are planted, and anothlir when the corn
is reaped? \'hy not a dance of the trees?" "N'goma. ya
liti?"-dance of the trees-said they. "Trees are Shauri
ya !lungu"-God's business.-"\Whv so?" I said. "If you
cut down all God's seed trees, how can you expect Him
to make young ones grow? If you kill all the women in
the land, you won't get children. Don't you see, it is the
same with the trees?" Their surprise showed me that they
had not considered the matter in this light and slowly it
seemed to dawn upon them what I was driving at. "Lis-
ten," I said, "in three weeks' time you shall have a great
dance at my camp." This new dance, I expounded, was
to be the Dance of the Trees, and I promised a prize of a
fatted ox for the best turned out Moran, and, as their
women could not possibly be left out on this auspicious
occasion, a necklace of their favourite beads for the most
beautiful damsel. The winning Moran was to be chosen
by myself, assisted by a Committee of Chiefs, and the
damsel was to be elected by the popular vote of a Com-
MEN OF THE TREES
mittee of Morans presided over by my prize-winner.
The captains of the dances excitedly expressed their
pleasure at this new idea and hastened to their various
towns and villages to spread the news.
THE DANCE OF THE TREES
AT length the day of the great dance arrived. It was one
of those perfectly fine days of glorious sun and crisp air
to which one becomes almost accustomed in the delec-
table highlands of Kenya. As I dressed, I felt that at least
the elements were with me, for the sun was already rising
over the distant mountains; and when the early mists
cleared, the snow-capped peak of Kenya caught the
morning sunlight, while her sister Kilimaniaro, a hun-
dred miles away, looked like a giant's breakfast table
spread with a snowy white cloth hanging over its square
top. It was hard to imagine that one was on the equator,
for in spite of the sun as I sat down to breakfast I was
heartily thankful for the roaring fire which Ramazini,
my Arab boy, had kindled beside me.
I noticed that Ramazini was burning Mutarakwa
chips. They made an aromatic fire, but it seemed a great
waste to be burning this wood which I had recently
found would make excellent pencils. Not many weeks
before I had been walking through the forest and came
across a fallen tree of this wood which some native
women had been cutting up for fire-wood or to make
slabs for the walls of their huts. I had picked up a chip
MEN OF THE TREES
and smelled it and at once recognized the scent as being
identical to that of the wood from which cedar pencils
were made. I bit it and it tasted just like the pencils one
had chewed at school when a small boy. I next whittled
it and found that it had the usual whittling quality re-
quired by the pencil makers. I next sent samples to the
School of Forestry at Cambridge where it was favour-
ably reported upon by the wood technologists, with the
result that a market was established for it. For it proved
to be juniperous procera. Pleasant as the scent was when
it burned I warned Ramazini in future to find other fuel,
explaining to him that mutarakwa was too valuable for
Early as it was, the excitement had begun, for soon
runners arrived to say that their tribesmen were ap-
proaching in thousands. Three hours later these eager
young warriors were massing in a great column between
two hills, about a mile from my camp, where they were
sorting themselves out and putting the finishing touches
to their elaborate make-up, so that they might be ready
for a big march past. This was to be a great day. It re-
called to them the happy days when, in this same hollow,
they prepared to sally forth to raid the camps of their
hereditary enemies the Masai. War for them had no ter-
rors. It possessed none of the horrors of modern "civ-
ilized" warfare. In the old days it had been little more
than a pastime and the older men had been comrades in
arms, so this indeed was a notable reunion. As was their
custom they had formed themselves into their respective
THE DANCE OF THE TREES
irika, or clans. The Akiruru and the Achewa were there,
the Adjul headed by the sons of old Chief N'duni, the
Agachiku and the Ambui, each clan with their separate
divisions and blood-ties. They came from widely sep-
arated villages, for although men joined the clan of their
fathers their habitation was not restricted to any par-
ticular geographical area.
All these were now falling into order, clan by clan and
becoming impatient to present themselves for the judg-
ing and the dance. Runners frequently arrived at my
camp and anxiously inquired from my forest guards
whether the white master was now ready to receive
them. The message was brought to me where I was enter-
taining my friend the American Consul General at
luncheon. I explained that they must wait a little while,
for they were much in advance of time. Finally, as
coffee was served I gave a signal to one of my forest
guards and the great throng started to advance. They
came on rank upon rank, carrying their spears and
shields. As each clan of warriors arrived in front of my
veranda they halted, faced about and proudly presented
themselves for inspection. The discipline was good, for
the captains of the dances had marshalled them in splen-
did order. On they came in a constant stream, prepared
as if for battle, yet on the spear points was the ball of
ostrich feathers to signify that they came in peace. With
great dignity they marched past the raised platform
which had been erected for the occasion and then, halted
by their captains, they formed orderly ranks to listen to
MEN OF THE TREES
the address awaiting them. For this occasion I had chosen
Chief Josiah to be my interpreter. He was one of the
younger chiefs and I had already received able assistance
from him at previous times, for he was a brilliant orator
and most popular with the people. Silence was called for,
as I mounted the dais, which had been previously con-
structed and in Ki-swahili I bid them welcome.
"Men and Warriors," I said, "I have asked you here
to dance, and it is my wish that you should enjoy your-
selves, but there is something I would first like to tell you,
something very important that you should know, for it
is the business of everybody. A reproach hangs over your
heads. The Masai are calling you "Forest Destroyers."
At the very mention of the name of their hereditary
enemy-the Masai-there was a great stir through the
ranks and three thousand spears flashed in the sunlight.
If I had said, "follow me, we will raid the Masai, we will
punish them," every warrior would have followed me
then and there. They were properly worked up to do
something. Nothing would have pleased them so well at
this moment as to have gone on a foraging raid. But they
were doomed to disappointment for I continued, "I
agree with the Masai-you are 'Forest Destroyers.' "
Josiah thought he had misunderstood me and asked me if
I really meant to say that. I replied that I did and he
literally interpreted. To my dying day I shall never for-
get the next few seconds that followed. The reaction of
my words was intense. At one moment these warriors
had been prepared to die with me-brothers in arms-
THE DANCE OF THE TREES
against their much hated foes, but now a sudden change
passed over their ranks. It seemed as though they had re-
leased the grip on their spears and then tightened it again.
I sensed bitter disappointment, estrangement and ani-
mosity, then, rapidly turning to hostility. But I repeated,
"I agree with the Masai, you are in truth 'Forest Destroy-
ers.' Too long have you cut down and burned the old
forests to make your farms, and as you have advanced
you have left a trail of ruin behind you. You have de-
stroyed the forests that were your heritage, the forests
that you should pass on to your sons. If you continue in
your present ways they will not even last your own life-
time. You must all know that this tree destruction can-
not go on for ever. Already your women have to go two
or three days' journey to fetch fuel with which to cook
your food. Soon there will be no more trees left."
A great silence had fallen upon the assembled throng.
As I paused for a moment one could only hear a gentle
breeze moving the leaves of the great solitary tree in the
centre of the arena. Instinctively I dropped my voice as
"Since the coming of the white man many of you have
learned how to build better huts and for better huts you
will want more wood. The white man has brought the
gari-ya-moshi, the steam engine and train, and you no
longer have to walk when you want to go to distant
towns to market your produce. But the gari-ya-moshi
needs fuel which is got from the forests. The white man
as you know is here to help you, and you have already
MEN OF THE TREES
benefited from his instruction. Now the white man
wants you also to help yourselves. He wants you to learn
to protect the trees. In the past you have been forest de-
stroyers, in the future you must become forest planters.
"Why is it that whenever you want a good farm you
go into the forest to find it? Listen well to my words, and
I will tell you. It is because trees improve the soil; the
leaves of the trees fall on the land and make it good. If
you wish to find good soil you must plant trees on your
old farms before you forsake them altogether, so that
when all the virgin forest is finished, you and your sons
will be able to return and find new forests which you
have planted and fresh soil in which to grow your crops.
"Listen well to my words, I am going to help you to
remove the reproach that hangs over you, for today I
am going to call for volunteers from amongst you, for
men who will promise before N'gai, the High God, to
plant trees each year and take care of trees everywhere.
Thus the reproach against your tribe will be removed.
No longer will men call you 'Forest Destroyers,' but
rather they will look to you to lead the way and show
other tribes how to plant trees and so perpetuate those
great forests whose well-being is bound up with your
Up to this moment the tension had been great and all
listened in breathless silence to Chief Josiah's brilliantly
eloquent interpretation. I had been talking quite quietly
while he had hurled out a marvellous flow of language,
containing all the little idioms used in their native
THE DANCE OF THE TREES
tongue. From the very outset this able young chief had
entered into the spirit of the occasion, and was putting
the full force of his oratory and personality into his task.
His last words seemed to raise a great weight from the
mind of the assembled throng and they relaxed as I
"As you all know, the spot upon which we stand to-
day is known as Aluguga. It is well named Muguga for
save a solitary tree, here and three, the whole country,
which was once beautiful with woodlands, now lies
broken and bare. I call on you then for volunteers, for
men who will join together and become Watu wa Miti,
Men of the Trees, and who instead of destroying the for-
ests will plant and protect trees everywhere."
I had finished speaking, but there was no applause.
The only verbal comment was a chorus of "Namwega"
coming from the old men, chiefs and elders. I leant back
upon the table in front of which I had been standing and
waited for a moment to see what the outcome would be.
The captains of N'gomas were in earnest conversation
with their clansmen, and little groups of friends were
discussing something in which they were deeply inter-
ested. In a few moments there was a general hum of con-
versation. Slowly, deliberately, these war-clad warriors
were making up their minds as to what to do. The cap-
tains drew together and again separated, returning to
their clansmen. A brief pause, and then the senior cap-
tains called for order. Conversation died down and the
first volunteers came forward.
MEN OF THE TREES
There was no lack of response, and the foremost were
from amongst the Akiruru, or Ethiga clan, whose asso-
ciation with the forest is hereditary. I had often talked
to them of their Katinga, or sacred groves, and one war-
rior had confided to me that not many moons before he
had been summoned to the death bed of his father to hear
the old man's parting instructions which had been
handed down to him in turn by his father. These instruc-
tions had been given under penalty of a curse devolving
upon all those who failed in their performance of the
duties contained in the warnings of a dying man. The
old man had said, "Guard well the trees that stand on
yonder Mirima (hill) for there N'gai communes with the
spirits of great men and trees."
It was not surprising therefore, that the Akiruru, the
clan bound by traditional duty to preserve the woodland
shrine where chiefs were buried, should be amongst the
first to respond when volunteers were called for to re-
move the reproach of the name "Forest Destroyers"
from their tribe.
That day five hundred warriors came forward. I no-
ticed that they did not all step forward with the same
degree of animation and I suspected that many of them
had been detailed for the task by their dance captains.
So, acting upon my intuition, I intervened. Looking
them over I exclaimed, "that's too many, all I shall re-
quire today is fifty. I am glad to see so many of you have
expressed your wish to become Men of the Trees, but as
there are so many of you, there is nothing left for me to
THE DANCE OF THE TREES
do but to pick fifty." And this I did with the assistance
of Josiah and other chiefs.
Splendid, stalwart, upstanding fellows all of them
were, many of them sons of Chiefs or Head men and all
of yeoman stock. These fifty stepped forward and hold-
ing their right hand toward the snowcapped mountains
of Kenya took a solemn oath before N'gai, the High God,
to plant trees and protect them everywhere. A badge of
office was there and then tied upon their left wrist to re-
mind them of their \ow-a small brass disc bearing an
emblem of the tree and the words "\Vatu wa Miti." The
badge was fastened with a kinyatta, a narrow leather
band, worked with green and white beads.
Before this simple ceremony was over every warrior
present was wishing that he had been one of the favoured
fifty. It was plain that a new rivalry had been started.
These fifty were men apart from the rest, as it were, a
privileged clan belonging to a new order.
RIDING THE BULL
HARD by the platform in a corral to my left was a fine
young bull which was to be my present for the best turned
out Moran, and all were by this time interested to know
the result of the competition. It was no easy task for me
even with the assistance of the chiefs to pick out the best
looking warrior. A double circle had been formed and we
first reviewed the front rank. Those that were in the run-
ning were motioned forward and gradually by a process
of elimination we reduced the competitors to ten. Now
the real difficulty of the task presented itself and it was
here that the chiefs came to my assistance. After long
and serious deliberation finally the winning warrior was
This Herculean Adonis, now quite unabashed, set him-
self the task of choosing the most beautiful damsel. \\ith
great expedition and little or no hesitation he selected
ten of the thousand competitors for the beauty contest.
It was of interest to notice their facial beauty was not by
any manner of means regarded as being the most im-
portant factor. As far as I could judge this Moran was
considering the tout cnsmcilNlc.
At this stage some of the old chiefs could not refrain
RIDING THE BULL
from rendering assistance. One even went so far as to
raise the goat skin skirt of one fair damsel to observe
more closely the line of her limbs.
Finally two were left and then ensued a heated discus-
sion as to the comparative merits of their respective
charms. One was coy and modestly demure-too shy for
words-and the other was full of prepossession, fully
conscious of her beauty. It was a problem which was
obviously too difficult for the warriors to decide. In
other words, as far as the girls were concerned, it was a
dead heat. It was here that my American friend came to
the rescue and promised a duplicate necklace of their
favourite beads for the second damsel. When this news
was broadcasted there was great excitement and all agreed
that this was a splendid idea. I later heard that they were
both betrothed on the following day.
All this time the young bull was becoming more and
more restive. The corral was only a temporary contriv-
ance and an extra butt was too much for it. Suddenly it
gave way, and the next moment the impatient steer was
running amok, driving the crowd in every direction.
Quick as lightning the Moran of the day sprinted in his
direction. Rodeo wasn't in it. With a terrific leap he
sprang on the neck of the beast, grasping its horns in his
hands and rode it to earth. That scene will always live in
my memory as one of the finest competitions between
man and beast that it has ever been my privilege to wit-
This was the signal for the great dance to begin. First
MEN OF THE TREES
of all the men lined up in opposite ranks and began a
rhythmic dance to song, without moving their positions.
As the lilt of the song became more lively and the tempo
increased each rank began to advance toward the other,
until they were within a pace. Spontaneously at this
point they reversed, going backward three paces, then
forward two, until they had returned to the starting
point. This was repeated many times and ended in a
grand finale, when from sheer exhaustion they had to
stop for a moment's rest. To me it seemed like a glorified
game of "Here we come gathering nuts in May," and
reminded me of my childhood days when we had picnic
parties on our holidays from school.
The women, for their part, had spontaneously im-
provised a new dance, all on their own; for in the day-
light it is not customary for the sexes to participate in
the same dance. As the afternoon wore on the song and
dance became livelier and at a given signall all began to
wend their way homewards. As the younger members
of the party dispersed in groups the older men and women
began dancing on their own account. It was evident
that the Dance of the Trees had caught on and all were
anxious to participate in it.
Two days later I was sitting in my office busy with the
ordinary routine work of a forester, issuing permits, for
felling trees, interviewing fuel contractors for the
Uganda Railway, signing on forest squatters to assist in
the work of reafforesting the cut-over areas, when one
of my forest guards reported to me that many Morans
RIDING THE BULL
wished to see me. There was already a queue of people
waiting to be interviewed, and I indicated that these new-
comers should wait until I was disengaged. My work in
the office kept me till lunch time and when I went in the
direction of my bungalow I found a number of Morans
lined up. Approaching them I demanded, "What do you
want?" One of their number stepped forward and point-
ing to his wrist said, "Bwona nataka saa," meaning
"Master, I want a watch." I abruptly retorted, "I don't
know what you are talking about." Turning to my forest
guard, I said "Drive these foolish men." He thereupon
dismissed them while I proceeded to lunch.
These young warriors returned to their respective vil-
lages and immediately went to their chiefs and said, "Why
was that Master kali with us?" "Why did he drive us?"
"What did you say?" replied their chiefs. "We only asked
him for a 'saa,' 1 said they. "Ah, that is not a 'saa,' that is
a badge, and you only get that badge when you promise
to be his men, and plant trees and protect the forests."
So back they came from their distant villages, many of
them having travelled sixty or seventy miles, and again
they presented themselves at my camp. Again I was busily
engaged in a heavy day's work in the office, but at lunch
time I went to them and said, "What do you want?"
One lad stepped out from the rest and replied, "Bwana,
we want a badge, because we want to be your men. We
want to protect the forests and plant trees everywhere."
"Splendid," I replied. "Next week you may present your-
MEN OF THE TREES
selves for the initiation ceremony," and indicated the
hour and da.y.
I must explain iliac a few days following the in-
auguration of the Dance of the Trees, two of the orig-
inal members of the \Vatu wa Miti had come to my camp
and informed me that they had lost their badges. I was
unable to decide whether this had been actually the case
or if it was merely a ruse to obtain two more for friends.
It was obvious that the organization must be safe-
guarded. I only wanted to enlist those who had the
ability to perform their promises and so I said, "This is a
serious matter. Suppose those badges have been picked up
by men who have not taken the promise. If that is the
case, something must be done to protect our brother-
hood." I immediately sent for Chief Josiah and consulted
with him as to the best move to take. \'e eventually de-
cided that it was necessary to immediately call a meeting
of the original members and give them a secret sign and a
pass-word. Gradually, there came into being a simple
initiation ceremony, which was intended to express the
spirit which characterized the movement.
I WILL now tell you of one of these impressively simple
and yet, to me, inspiring gatherings. Here is a clear space
in front of a solitary sacred tree upon whose great trunk
has been tied the colours of The Men of the Trees, a white
flag emblazoned with a green tree. In front of the tree in
a hollow square, stand the original members under the
leadership of the Forest Guides. Hard by the great tree,
and close to the colours, stands the Master of Ceremonies
who calls upon all members to prove their membership
by holding forth their left hands bearing the insignia of
office-the badge of The Men of the Trees. This same
movement is the recognized salute of greeting amongst
members. To make doubly certain that no outsiders are
present, the Forest Guides are asked, "Are all present true
members?" They make a rapid survey of the ranks and
after a short pause reply, "All present are true members."
The Master of Ceremonies then puts the direct ques-
tion, "Are the hearts of all men present Safi?" meaning
clean. Each Forest Guide replies for his own men, "Every
man's heart is Safi." Any member with an unfulfilled
obligation, tree-planting or otherwise, cannot be said to
have a Safi heart, and is not allowed to be present at such
MEN OF THE TREES
The recruits who desire initiation are then introduced
and warned of the consequences of lightly making prom-
ises which they may be unable to perform. After this
solemn warning it has often been found that candidates
will waver and fall out. Only those who continue in their
desire to become members are allowed to repeat the three-
"I promise before N'gai, the High God, to do at least
one good deed each day, to plant ten trees each year, and
to take care of trees everywhere."
Next the attention of the candidates is drawn to the
colours of The Men of the Trees. At this stage in the pro-
ceedings each candidate has a sponsor both in front and
behind him and the Master of Ceremonies proceeds,
in a clear voice. "They are green to remind you of your
obligation to plant trees and white because your heart
must be 'Safi.' Upon the word Safi, the sponsor in front
gives the candidate a sharp slap on the heart, sufficiently
hard to knock him back into the arms of his second
sponsor, who immediately pushes him forward, and upon
recovering the candidate's eyes open to view the emblem
of the green tree blazoned on the white background and
tied on the ceremonial tree.
All that now remains is to give the newly initiated
member the secret sign and password. The secret sign is a
particular handshake which symbolizes the threefold
promise. While the password, namely, Twahamwe, means
"pull together," or as is sometimes translated. "we are
all pulling together as one man." This word, Twa-
hamwe, is whispered into the right car during the shaking
of hands and thus implies unity of purpose.
The whole ceremony has a tremendous effect upon the
simple and impetuous heart of the African warrior, and
while it is true that at first he did not quite grasp the
significance of doing one good deed each day, he did ap-
pear to be genuinely troubled should he fail to fulfil this
part of his promise.
The idea of performing one unselfish act every day in
the service of others was entirely new to the thoughtless
pleasure loving warrior, and he did not quickly under-
stand the idea underlying this pledge. This was evidenced
when, some days after the first big initiation ceremony
had taken place, a number of the new initiates came to
my camp. I had been our all day in the saddle, riding
round forest reserves, and had just returned, and very
tired, was enjoying afternoon tea when Ramazini, my
head boy, came to announce that a number of Morans
were wanting to see me. Too weary to attend to further
business I dismissed the matter, as I thought, when I
told my boy "Kesho," meaning to-morrow. I was, there-
fore, somewhat surprised on going out into my com-
pound after tea to find thirty or forty of the Watu wa
Miti still waiting.
"\'hat do you want?" I demanded. "Were you not
told to come to-morrow? No more shauris 1 to-day."
One stalwart spoke up for the rest with winning frank-
ness. "Bwana, we have come to ask you to help us to
MEN OF THE TREES
" " ~ T ~ ~~m-- - - - - - -
think of a good deed. In two hours the sun will go down
and so far we have been unable to think of a good deed
to do. Please help us."
I was nonplussed. The sincerity and genuine belief of
those whom I had set on the way, demanded encourage-
ment; they were intent upon doing something very def-
inite there and then before sunset to help the cause for
which they had volunteered.
Some months previous to this I had been carrying out
extensive experiments with a view to discovering how
that most valuable species, Muturakwa, juniperous pro-
cera, could be germinated. It appeared that there were few
pure forests growing gregariously over any extensive
area. I had given considerable time and thought to the
solution of the problem of perpetuating this valuable
tree. For many years my department had endeavoured to
regenerate this species but so far their repeated efforts
had met with almost complete failure. \\When sown in
the nursery, not more than five percent of the seed had
germinated. After three months' research in the forests.
during which time I accumulated a vast amount of data,
I had noticed places where clusters of Muturakwa seed-
lings were springmig up thickly around the brown olive
trees. At times I would find an old olive tree from whose
roots had sprung a fine Muturakwa. Then it was I
noticed that pigeons were feeding on the fruit of the
Muturakwa and perching at night on the branches of the
olive trees. Probably the branches of the Muturakwa
were too rough for their little feet. It seemed that they
preferred the soft stem of the olive. After close investiga-
tion I discovered that the seeds that had passed through
the guts of the pigeon germinated. It became obvious to
me that this was nature's way of perpetuating this most
valuable species. I had already created a demand for this
wood which provided pencil cedar and this demand was
rapidly increasing. I was now confronted with the prob-
lem of providing sufficient supplies of this wood to meet
the growing call for it. I did not catch pigeons and keep
them in the nursery to feed them upon the fruit of the
Juniper, but I endeavoured to devise a process which
would subject the seed to similar conditions to those ac-
quired naturally. After the seeds were collected I soaked
them in hot water to which I had added a diluted solu-
tion of sulphuric acid. After some hours of treatment,
the seeds were partially dried and rubbed on zebra skins.
Again they were soaked and partially dried and this
process was repeated several times. When the seeds were
sown ninety-five percent germinated.
The most convenient place for my nursery was hard
by the platform of the railway station at Kikuyu, where
I could obtain an ample supply of water for the railway
hydrant. This was where the west bound trains stopped
to take on water, while the passengers generally availed
themselves of refreshments which were supplied at a tea
score on the station platform. My millions of young
Muturakwa delighted the Settlers, who had long sought
the secret of growing what they realized was the most
valuable tree in their country.
MEN OF THE TREES
Within six months of the time of sowing, these seed-
lings were ready to be planted out, but I had not the
funds available for completing this work. Every time the
up-country train stopped at Kikuyu there were interested
visitors to my nurseries and keen interest was shown in
the resultsof my experiment, but now I feared that owing
to shortage of labor and lack of departmental funds,
many of these valuable seedlings would be wasted unless
they were planted out before the end of the season. \When
these young warriors came to my camp wanting to fulfil
their tree-planting obligations, it occurred to me that
here was the answer and the solution of my problem, so
I suggested that those who really wanted to do something
to help might plant out fifty of these seedlings in a box.
It was the nursery practice to prick out the seedlings
in boxes and grow them on for two or three months and
as soon as suitable days for planting occurred, the young
trees were taken up to the planting site in the boxes, so
that their roots should not be disturbed or subjected to
drying winds. Gladly, then, did these young warriors
respond, and day after day, when they could not think
of anything better to do, they would turn up in the late
afternoon to carry out their self-imposed task.
The very simplicity of a good deed, just a simple serv-
ice rendered to someone else, was too much for the im-
mediate understanding of a warlike race who could more
easily have fathomed the "good" of destroying a man-
eating lion or performing some doughty deed like that of
St. George and the Dragon.
It did not, however, take The Men of the Trees very
long to learn what was really meant by a good deed.
One of them very soon distinguished himself by his brav-
ery during a fire, though he was a raw Shenzi, or bush-
man, on his first visit to Nairobi. This young lad, proudly
wearing the new uniform of the "\'atu wa liti," was in
the fore, rushing up cans of water when and where they
were most needed, and by his courage and example to
others prevented what might have been a very serious
disaster. The news of his bravery was blazoned through-
out the countryside as an example of what was meint by
a good deed, and ever since then many daring deeds have
been done in the endeavour to emulate this lad's action.
But perhaps more important still The Men of the Trees
are learning to perform little acts of kindness and to cul-
tivate the elementary principles of chivalry in the true
spirit of the movement.
But away on that hill of Muguga those young war-
riors stuck to their task of tree-planting. Some fetched
water and sprinkled the newly planted seedlings; others
erected shades to protect them from the sun; and in
this first nursery they raised over eighty thousand young
The time came for me to depart on leave of absence.
I spent the next three months carrying out further re-
search in the Cedar forests of the Mau Escarpment, en-
deavouring to find fresh supplies, while at the same time
studying more closely the natural methods of perpetuat-
ing these valuable forests. At the end of this time I re-
MFN OF THE TREES
turned to the old neighborhood of my camp and visited a
The first day, Clief Josiah came to me in great distress.
After the usual salutation and exchange of greetings, he
blurted out "Bwana, shamba va sanduka na harabika,"
meaning. "the farm of the boxes is broken." At first I
failed to understand him and then it dawned upon me
that he was referring to the nursery of The Men of the
Trees, where these lads had carried our their voluntary
tree-planting. "W"hat do you mean?" I asked. "I do not
understand." "Are you telling me that our nursery is
destroyed?" ".Kwale, Bwana-truly sir," he replied.
"Bwana, piga m'pra'-the masters hit the rubber." He
was ry ing to convey that a tennis court had been erected
on the site of our nursery. At first I was dumbfounded
at this news. I could not believe that any of my brother
officers in government service could have been respon-
sible for this foolish act, and I said, "Josiah, I cannot be-
lieve you." His simple response was, "Master come and
I immediately jumped on a pony and galloped up to
the site of the nursery and there I found a perfectly good
tennis court on the same ground where I had left a
flourishing nursery of eighty thousand young trees. Real-
izing what the consequence of this official blunder might
mean to the tribesmen I could have wept at the sight
which now presented itself. There was no sign of a young
tree in view. I sat down and waited for Josiah who ar-
rived on foot a little later.
"Josiah, cell me what happened," said I. He said, "Mas-
ter, when you went away this thing happened and at first
we were mystified. But when they realized that this had
been done by the orders of the big master of Nairobi, my
followers were furious, but what could they do? Said
they, 'This is Shauri ya Escali'-the business of govern-
ment, and as you had gone away, there was nobody to tell
their trouble to. And now they have gone 'for bush' and
they will not do another thing like this for love."
All this time I had been thinking hard what to say, and
how to meet this unexpected situation. I could not let
down a brother officer however short-sighted his action
may have been and immediately replied, "Josiah, don't be
foolish. Don't you see this is the right place for the tennis
court? I ought to have made it before I went away.
"It may have been all right for you to come here with
the Watu wa Miti, when I was here, but this new master
can't have you coming around every evening so near his
camp." It was hard for me to control myself in the face
of this bitter disappointment, for I acutely felt what it
must have been for those simple folk, who, out of the
goodness of their hearts, in response to my appeal had
come round evening by evening to expend their labour
of love in tree-planting. I was conscious that Josiah with
hatl natural intuition so strongly developed in the
primitive African, was reading me like a book and was
sharing with me the same intense regret and remorse.
Back of all this I felt a silent challenge coming from
this fine young chief, who had willingly devoted so much
MEN OF THE TREES
of his time and energy to furthering a movement which
he believed to be for the good of his people, whose well-
being was paramount to him.
I could not bear to remain here any longer, and leading
my pony, I walked with Josiah in the direction of his
country. After a few minutes silence I stopped and said:
"Josiah, you know that little stream that flows through
your land? Down below your camp, hard by the stream
is some fine black soil. That is a grand place for a nurs-
ery. Your lads know now how to collect the tree seeds
and prepare them so that they will grow. There is noth-
ing to prevent you from making a nursery on that land
and there you may plant as many trees as you desire."
I did not labour the point, but bid him farewell. Such
was his influence with his people that on his return to his
village he called his followers together and told them
that he had seen me and that everything was all right. I
had explained to him that the old nursery was the right
place for the tennis court, that the young trees had
obviously not been wasted, but had been planted out in
the government land and that now they might have their
own nursery in their own village and raise their own
seedlings where nobody would interfere with them.
Quickly a new nursery was prepared and instead of a
mere eighty thousand trees, over a million were raised by
their fresh endeavours.
Thiss was not the end of the story, for eight other chiefs,
fearing that I should love Josiah more than them, each
competed with him in tree-planting and as the result of
an apparent blunder it is estimated that over nine million
trees were raised by the Watu wa Miti that first year.
The Men of the Trees are organized throughout on a
simple plan. The organization in the tribe is known as
"the Forest"; the Forest is divided into "Districts" each
taking its name from the most important tree found
growing in that district; these again are divided into
"Branches"; each Branch being in command of a local
chief who holds the rank of "Forest Guide." Hence there
are the Forest, the Trees, and the Branches.
Although started in Kenya Colony the organization
is rapidly growing into a tree-planting brotherhood, and
the ideals of The Men of the Trees are penetrating into
some of the most remote places of the great silent Con-
tinent of Africa.
In Great Britain and in other countries of western
civilization youth finds relief in games and the like; but
games apart from tests of individual skill and prowess
are themselves the product of an advanced civilization
and do not readily provide a common meeting ground
for people to whom they are unfamiliar. In the first in-
stance at least, the appeal must be made to the imagina-
tion, and this was the appeal of The Men of the Trees
Again, the uneducated must be shown a definite ob-
ject before they can be expected to devote themselves to
any constructive purpose; and as I have previously ex-
plained, the duty of The Men of the Trees is to guard
and protect their woodlands and to ensure that when-
MEN OF THE TREES
'-~''--' -----'-- - - - '- "
ever a tree is cut down or destroyed a new one is planted
in its stead. This idea is sufficiently valuable in itself. But
beneath it lie the foundations of a much wider ideal em-
bodying the gradual uplifting of the public mind and
leading ultimately to the highest standards of citizen-
ship which are essential to the well-being of the world.
IN the fastness of a little-known forest in Equatorial
Africa dwell a shy and elusive folk; for ever on the alert,
they disappear into the heart of the forest should they
catch sight of a stranger. I had heard of them first from
the Arabs and had often wondered if it would be my
good fortune to make friends with them. But although
I marched for hundreds of miles conscious that I was
being secretly watched by these strange forest dwellers,
many weeks passed before I was fortunate enough to
come into contact with members of the tribe.
My work for the Forestry Department frequently took
me far off the beaten track and often for a month or two
at a time I had been entirely cut off from other white
men. Although I did not realize it at the time such ex-
periences were not without their advantages. The worst
timing I encountered in these forests were a particularly
vicious breed of mosquitoes and greedy blood-sucking
Tsetse flies, but my discovery of the forest dwellers proved
to be adequate compensation for the discomfort caused
by these pests.
One day I was walking in the dense bush when my at-
rention was arrested by a strange sound. I at once stopped
MEN OF THE TREES
and beckoned my followers to keep still. We looked
about us, yet there was nothing visible but the dense vege-
tation. There were no fresh game tracks, nor were there
signs of any human being having passed along the old
game track upon which I was walking.
Still looking in the direction from which the sound had
come I listened intently, but all was now quiet. It was
that time in the morning when the sun begins to make it-
self felt. The birds and animals that had been foraging
during the early morning, had already retired before the
heat of the day. My forest guard recruited on the coast
was never quite at ease in the bush; he was anxious to get
on and, vainly endeavouring to disguise his fear, re-
marked, "Si kitu Bwana-it's nothing."
It was evident that he wanted to get away from this
spot as quickly as possible. Only the night before, when
I was giving him his orders, informing him that I in-
tended to come in this direction, he had suddenly asked me
for a day off so that he might go and see his sick brother
forty miles away. He informed me that a messenger had
arrived that very evening urging him to return home;
and, as if to add emphasis to the urgency of the call, he
informed me that he had heard that there was another
messenger on the road bringing him the sad tidings of his
brother's decease. This was so obviously a made-up story
that I began to question him about his brother, and it was
not many minutes before he admitted that no messenger
had really arrived, that he had no brother in the village
named, and that his only reason for longing to get away
was that he was very much frightened at the idea of go-
ing into this particular bush. He then went on to tell me
of all the people who had gone into think bush and who had
never returned. He got so much excited and talked so fast
that I could with difficulty follow him. He was trying to
convince me of the truth of some fantastic story about a
fierce troop of baboons, who shot men down with
poisoned arrows. For a while I thought that the poor
fellow had taken leave of his senses, but I managed to
calm him down, and told him that whatever kind of
monkey-man or man-monkey was in that bush, I in-
tended to walk through it on the following day, and that
he would have to come with me.
Now that I was actually in the heart of the bush, I
was beginning to wish that I had let the fellow go and
see his imaginary brother. Again he repeated: "Si kitu
Bwana," to which I abruptly replied: "Makalele!"-shut
up. The next instant there was an unmistakable ripple
of laughter as from a tiny child. The sound came from
the dense bush, but could not have been twenty yards
away. I quickly cut my way through the undergrowth,
and came upon a small opening, where I saw an old man,
sitting in a crazy booth, while near by were two small
children, the elder not more than four years old. Upon
closer examination I found that the old man was unable
to move, for he appearedd to be suffering from a damaged
knee. He showed no signs of fear, and awkward though
his position was, he possessed an air of dignity rarely met
with amongst the natives in these parts.
MEN OF THE TREES
In a little while I found that I could converse with him
through one of my carriers and I learnt that he had been
lying there for two moons. I gathered also that his woman
had gone out to fetch food. Very soon she returned carry-
ing in one hand a large bow and dragging behind her a
young antelope which she had shot for the pot. Hanging
the result of the chase on a nearby tree she picked up her
water pot, and apparently without noticing me went off
to fetch water.
The sun was by now very hot and was beating down
on the little clearing. I ordered my carriers to make a
stretcher, which they very quickly did, from strips of
bark and staves, and we carefully lifted the old man on
to it in spite of his protestations. In a little while the
woman returned to tind that the carriers were about to
remove her man and she burst into a frenzy of rage. Like
some wild creature trapped in a corner she sprang with
one bound upon the carriers, who were about to shoulder
their load, and quickly drove the four of them, stalwart
fellows though they were, into the surrounding bush.
She next returned to her man, bent down over the
stretcher and, after caressingly running her hands over
him from the soles of his feet to his shoulders, knelt by
his side with one hand on each of his arms, fixed him with
her shining eyes and burst into an impassioned musical
speech. In a moment it was as though a spell had been
cast upon him. He answered with his eyes but did not
utter a word. She stopped speaking and half raising him
with her strong and supple arms embraced him fondly,
caressingly, and laid him back comfortably to rest.
She now rose quickly to her feet and swung round and
with defiance in every line of her body faced me-the
first white man she had ever seen in her life.
I must admit that I had been deeply moved by this
spontaneous display of affection for a helpless old man
and as I looked at her, even as she was all trembling with
rage, I loved her spirit. Spontaneous recognition of good
will followed, and in an instant she was transformed.
Such is the force of intuition in these children of nature
that without my having spoken a word she instinctively
knew my sympathy and felt that I was their friend and
would not harm them.
By this time the babies were quietly sobbing, with
their little arms clasped tightly about her bare limbs.
Her first instinct was to soothe them, which she quickly
did, for now, completely relaxed, she squatted near by
and drew her babies to her breast and gently rocked them
to and fro, leaving me to talk to the old man.
After the recent display I was convinced that more
harm than good would be done by removing him, for
said the old man, "If I leave this forest I shall surely die.
My father and my father's father have lived here always."
The woman joined in his entreaties that he should be left
where he was. "For," said she, "have I not tended him
well? Is he not my man? Who then can care for him
better than I?"
MEN OF THE TREES
Soon one of the carriers whom I had sent back to my
camp came up with my medicine chest so I dressed the
injured knee, and leaving a supply of bandages and iodine
reluctantly passed on my way.
Two months later I was again camping in those parts.
The first evening, just before sunset, an old man crept
up to my tent. I at once recognized my friend of the
forest and welcomed him with keen delight. He was now
able to walk quite well and he said he had come to return
thanks. He brought with him a tall, fine looking young
man of the same tribe, who carried on his shoulder a live
antelope which had apparently been trapped that after-
noon. This he said was a present for me. I examined my
patient's knee which was now healed and after the ex-
change of a few words lie hurried off in the direction
from which he had come.
All the next day I was busy with work in the forest
and returned to my camp in the evening, towards sun-
set, to find the same old man again. This time he had
brought with him two young men. The next day I moved
my camp and pitched it twelve miles further on, and
again at sunset the old man turned up, this time with
four young men who after exchanging greetings would
not be detained but quickly disappeared into the night.
Thenceforth, night after night, as I journeyed through
that forest region my old friend would appear just before
sunser with two or three fresh followers, but never once
did they accept my invitation to camp with my carriers.
At length I discovered that my forest patient was none
other than the late chief of his tribe. At the time of his
accident he had been succeeded by a younger man, for
it is by only fit and able bodied men that the rank of
chief can be retained.
THE MAN HUNTERS
ONE evening one of the young forest dwellers came to
my tent with unaccustomed haste to tell me that his
brother had just been killed by a buffalo. It appeared
that several of them, armed merely with bows and ar-
rows, had attempted to shoot the "King" of a dangerous
herd; for in ever herd of buffalo there is a leader or
King who is generally the strongest and fiercest of them
all. This wild buffalo had charged at sight, knocked down
his victim, and full of rage at having been hunted pro-
ceeded to vent it upon this unfortunate man. The poor
fellow was terribly smashed up and died a short while
The tragedy was recited to me in detail, and as I
listened to the lurid story, a great feeling of pity came
over me; added to that v.'as a strong desire to exterminate
the brute who had taken from me one of my forest
friends, and in the hearing of all present I promised to
hunt down the buffalo and have revenge. Turning to
the boy I said, "I have heard your story. You will sleep
under my tent flap to be near at land, and ro-morrow
very early we will start out together; .ind I will nor rest
until I have slain the buffalo v.-hich killed your brother."
THE MAN HUNTERS
Dismissing the carriers who were standing round the
camp fire I sent them to bed and quickly turned in my-
self, while the tired boy curled himself up under the flap
of my tent and was soon asleep.
Next morning we were away long before dawn. Our
route took us through the little camp where the boy had
lived. His mother came out to meet us, and standing in
the morning moonlight with hands outstretched she
called upon the God of the Forest to give skill to the
We first went to the scene of the tragedy and carefully
noted the footmarks of the buffalo and from there set
out along a well beaten game trail leading towards the
drinking place-a water hole in the forest-which was
frequented by the herd. Here my guide was confident
that he would find the spoor of the buffalo. Carefully he
walked round the water hole, every now and again stoop-
ing close to the ground to make a more thorough inspec-
tion of some hoof mark. Soon he measured with his closed
hand the width of an exceptionally large impression
made in the damp sand by the buffalo. I had been leaning
against a tree close by, watching his investigations with
interest, but for the moment taking no actual part in
them. I could see now that he had found what he was
looking for, and from this stage onwards there was no
hesitation. At once he gave me the direction and in a few
seconds we were following hard on the track of the
savage beast which, not many minutes before, had been
drinking at this very hole.
gMEN OF THE TREES
It was now dawn and easy, even for me, to see in which
direction he had gone. Although there were other buffalo
in the herd this lad had got the culprit properly marked
down and no time was lost in following up the track.
Now and again the tracker would stoop and pluck a
blade of grass which had been recently bruised by the
foot of the animal in passing. Such is the skill of these
sons of the forest that they can readily tell by examina-
tion of such a blade how long ago the game had passed.
As we proceeded the bush became more and more
dense, and although we were following in the trail of
the buffalo, at times we had to crawl on our hands and
knees to get through the entanglement of scrub. We fol-
lowed with the greatest care and precaution, fearful lest
the sound of a breaking twig should betray our presence,
for we knew full well that if the buffalo scented us first
there would probably be another tragedy; a charge by
the infuriated buffalo, a short sharp shock, and all would
be over with one or both of us.
While I was leading the way, with great caution fol-
lowing stealthily the now well defined track, my follower
suddenly caught at my shirt sleeve bringing me to an
abrupt standstill. With every muscle tense he silently
drew himself close up to me. I could feel his heart beat-
ing as, intently peering over my shoulder, he raised his
chin slightly protruding his lips to indicate the direc-
tion of the quarry. There, not ten paces away, stood the
King of the herd-the man-killer. Although we were so
close to him my view was obscured by the dense scrub
IC;_m I 0
I (I- 0
THE MAN HUNTERS
and all I could clearly see were his nose and the tips of
his horns which indicated that they were enormous. For
the rest, all that was visible was the merest outline of his
The instinct of self-preservation caused me involun-
tarily to look around for a tree behind which to shelter,
but a glance showed that there was nothing of the kind
in the immediate vicinity. It was indeed a tight cover.
In my endeavour to get a shoulder shot a twig snapped
and our lives hung in the balance for the next few mo-
ments. There was a terrific snort and for a terrible two
seconds it seemed as though the whole herd were charg-
ing down upon us, but what actually happened was that
they most unexpectedly cleared off in the opposite di-
I got up from my crouching position and measured
ten paces from where I had been to the foot marks of
the front feet of the buffalo. Apparently his cow had
been lying in front of him and the remainder of the herd
on the other two points of their triangle. It is a well
known fact that in these forests buffalo, when they lie
up for the day, always make this formation, one of them
taking turn to stand and be on guard at his point of the
triangle until relieved by another, so that from whichever
way an enemy may approach he will be observed by one
of the three standing animals and the alarm will be given.
I was unwilling to return to camp after having been
so close to the quarry without having fired a shot. How-
ever, the brother of the dead boy protested that it would
MEN OF THE TREES
be impossible to get another chance of coming close to
the herd again that day, so I decided to return to camp.
The bereaved mother came to welcome me as a victor
and it was hard to have to confess myself defeated. Some-
how I felt I had failed her, and I determined then and
there that I would not return a second time without hav-
ing made the buffalo pay the penalty for the killing of
That night I could not sleep, and the next morning the
hunt started even earlier than before. It was an easy
matter to reach the water-hole and pick up the new spoor
from there and follow up the buffalo into the forest. This
time I had made up my mind that I would shoot if only
I saw so much as a square inch of him at which to aim.
After a wonderful exhibition of tracking on the part
of my guide we eventually came upon the herd, and this
time good fortune was on my side, for my bullet found
its mark. As we followed up, after a few minutes' pause,
we came upon the blood spoor which proved that al-
though the herd had vanished the buffalo had been
wounded. I continued in hot pursuit for about an hour,
though fully conscious that I was taking big risks, for
a wounded buffalo is prone to circle round and hunt the
By this rime the sun was high in the heavens and soon
we were tracking in great discomfort owing to the in-
tensity of the heat. It was now several hours' journey from
water, and in a part of the forest which was quite un-
known to me.
THE MAN HUNTERS
Anxious lest I should get hurt, four of my men had
taken upon themselves to follow me at a distance, and
as we were slackening our pace these men came up to
me and at once suggested that it was high time to give
up the chase and return to camp. In the circumstances
it seemed foolish to continue the pursuit, but I would
not listen to them, for I was determined to get the
We had now come to a small opening made by a wind-
felled tree, and here we sat down to rest for a few min-
utes, all the time with ears strained for any sound of
breaking twigs which might indicate the whereabouts of
the buffalo. Just then a little bird burst into song. It
seemed to me that he was singing "Embali kidogo, Em-
bali kidogo" (a little farther on, a little farther on).
Turning to my followers I whispered, "Do you hear
what the little bird says? Embali kidogo, Embali kidogo.
Shall we continue or return?"
These good fellows just looked hard at each other and,
after a slight pause, by general consent decided to con-
tinue the chase. Once more we pushed on along the same
old trail, with the sun all the time getting hotter and
Another hour passed and although I felt that we must
now be very close to our prey my followers again began
to talk of camp, one of them reminding me that we were
travelling all the time in the opposite direction. For the
second time we sat down to rest, and I quietly told them
that whatever happened, for my part I was determined
MEN OF THE TREES
to catch up with the wounded buffalo and finish him off.
Secretly I was in a quandary, for I knew that unless I
could persuade them to continue with me there would
be very little chance of my ever being able to get back
to camp. On the other hand, what seemed to me more
important than anything else at the moment was suc-
cess, for if I had returned unsuccessful, I felt that I
should have lost my chance of making good with my
friends, the forest dwellers. Not knowing the country,
I realized my entire dependence upon the knowledge of
these four bushmen, and yet I hardly dared to give them
a direct order to continue when it might be a question
of life or death for them.
While I was turning over the situation in my mind
one of them picked up something from the ground, and I
said, "What is that?" Ir was a tiny tick. The boy knew
that it had been brushed off the buffalo's back by an
overhanging branch. I placed it on the open palm of my
hand and in a flash I had an inspiration. Looking into
their faces I said, "Let the tick decide. If, when I place
it on the ground, it walks in the direction of camp we
will return but if it walks in the direction of the buffalo
we will continue." With brightened faces all agreed that
this was a very good idea, for it was "Shauri ya Alungo"
(God's business) to decide.
I put the tick on the ground and all eyes were turned
upon the oracle. The insect remained motionless for a
moment and then, in the intense silence, it seemed that
he deliberately made off in the direction taken by the
THE MlAN HUNTERS
buffalo. Without another word each man rose to his feet
and the chase was continued.
We had not gone very far when we realized that we
were close upon our quarry. In the distance I heard a
breaking twig and simultaneously a gentle pull at my
sleeve made me look round cautiously. My hunter friend
was scaring back on our track where there was an ominous
crashing of bush as the buffalo, who had circled round,
suddenly turned and charged down upon us. Dropping
on my knee I fired just in time. The shot staggered him,
he swerved from his course and fell, but was instantly
on his feet and with lowered head again dashed onwards
towards me. There was not a moment to be lost for he
was now almost on top of me. I had no time to take care-
ful aim, but as good fortune would have it my shot found
its mark and the great "King" of the herd lay dead at our
The news of the kill spread far and wide in the mys-
terious wilderness way, and the forest dwellers hastened
from their remotest fastnesses to meet the returning
hunters. For my part I hastened back by the forest track
and found the bereaved mother reclining with her back
against the trunk of a giant tree, her hands folded in
front of her in quiet contentment; with eyes glistening
with tears of joy she welcomed us back from the chase.
No mere words were spoken, but her "Thank you" was
none the less eloquent for all that.
KATOOTERO AND HIS HONEYBIRD
I HAVE related this adventure at length because the shoot-
ing of this buffalo was the means of finally establishing
my friendship with these proud and elusive tribesmen.
I gradually got to know them as intimately as any white
men can know a black, and some of my happiest and
most profitable days in forest work were spent with
These people are natural scouts; the most skilful man
among them in the use of the bow and hunting is voted
Chief. They are, generally speaking, very healthy people
and have no recourse to medicines or witchcraft. They
keep themselves fit by regulating their diet and taking
strenuous exercise, which they get quite naturally in the
course of their hunting. They do not cultivate the
ground, but manage to vary their diet alternatively, by
using meat and green food, wild fruits and nuts, tree
seeds, roots of plants, wild yams, and a certain number
of forest weeds which take the place of vegetables. Sting-
ing nettles, when they can be found, are valued as a food.
They are first boiled lightly and afterwards pounded to
pulp. Honey takes the place of most sweets. This they
collect from the hollow trees, of which a number are
KATOOTERO AND HIS HONEYBIRD
allotted to each family. No family would think of tres-
passing on another's honey preserve. They' prefer the
honey in th, comb, while the unhatched grubs at a cer-
tain stage of incubation are considered a great delicacy.
These forest folk live so close to nature that they make
even the birds their allies. I have seen a honey bird lead
a hunter to a hollow tree in which there is honey ready
to be taken. It was fascinating to watch one of these
little birds trying to get the attention of Katootero, the
lad who used to hunt with me sometimes. We had been
out for a hunt in the early morning and he was now
resting, and I was taking this opportunity of discussing
the prospect of an expedition that I was planning. Pres-
ently one of these tiny honey birds came up close to
him and perched on the bough of a nearby tree, and
started chirping noisily. He told me that this was one of
his honey birds that was anxious to show him some hollow
tree with honey for the taking.
To me it seemed perfectly ridiculous that this tiny
bird should make such a fuss and be so insistent on Ka-
tootero following him. I later discovered that the honey
birds know well to whom to go, for it is the unwritten
law of the forest that each dweller has his own territory.
Now that the honey bird had got the lad's attention, it
flitted from bough to bough in the direction of the hol-
low tree, returning every now and again and perching
quite close to the lad as if to make quite sure that he was
On leaving camp Katootero had picked up a piece of
MEN OF THE TREES
burning wood and when next we encountered an old
fallen tree that had rotted he collected several pieces of
touch-wood and tied them round the smouldering stick
with a small creeper cut from the forest. This delay
seemed at first to agitate the little bird who made more
fuss than ever. But once the hunter was ready again for
the trail the honey bird flew on ahead. We did not have
to go very far along the game track that we were fol-
lowing, for soon the little bird stopped and then flew
into the denser part of the forest. About two hundred
yards from the trail there was a clearing where a giant
tree had fallen, thus letting in the sunlight through the
canopy of the forest. To the north side of the clearing
was a tall tree and looking upwards Katootero's sharp
eyes immediately spotted a small hole from which bees
were flying. They must have been from ninety to a hun-
dred feet up, and to this height the boll of the tree went
up clean, without a branch. For my part, I could only
just see the position of the hole and it was only when the
light caught the wings of the bees, as they flashed in and
out of the hollow, that they were obvious to me.
It looked as though it was impossible to climb this tall
tree and I waited to see what Katootero would do. He
was looking around, and at the same time, every now and
again, blowing on the touch-wood to get it well alight.
Another way he had of getting a good smoke going was
to swing it backwards and forwards. Suddenly it seemed
as though he had an inspiration. About twenty-.five feet
away from the big tree was a tall thin one which could
KATOOTERO AND HIS HONEYBIRD
be climbed. It was slender and whippy, and not more
than twelve inches in diameter at breast height. Produc-
ing a long leather strap, or mukwa, Katootero rapidly
climbed to the top, and when the tree started to sway
with his weight, he swung it over in the direction of the
big tree and seemed to be rapidly falling, but, with a
quick motion, caught the main stern, held onto it, swung
his mukwa around it and bound the two trees together.
He now mounted higher and presently reached a posi-
tion just below the hole from which the bees were swarm-
ing. He next blew some smoke into the hollow, using the
same means of subduing these insects as the modern bee-
keeper. The only difference being that he hadn't bellows.
He just puffed the smoke in with his breath. In a few
minutes he plunged his hand into the hole and brought
our a supply of honey in the comb, which he deposited
in a leather bag swung from his shoulder. Having got as
much as he wanted he cautiously climbed down to where
he had tied the thinner tree and with great care released
it. I held my breath when he kicked off from the big tree
and slid down the slim one. It had been a remarkable per-
formance, and I was glad that he came down without
All this time the little bird had been waiting patiently,
and now he rewarded it with a liberal supply of grubs in
the comb. It is one of the fascinating facts of the forest,
that these small honey birds live in symbiosis with the
In regard to marriage customs my friends of the forest
MEN OF THE TREES
are content with one wife. The usual dowry paid at the
time of marriage is a pair of elephant tusks, which are
not so much appreciated for their intrinsic value, but
rather because they are a proof of the skill and bravery
of the bridegroom. If a maiden is beautiful and skilful
she will command a vcry large pair of tusks, and the
young man who is fortunate enough to win her may have
to hunt many months before he can find ivories worthy
The girls and women wear their hair long and plaited.
They are well set up, with boyish figures. They c.rry
themselves gracefully when walking, and yet have the
stride of a man. The woman is far more the comrade of
her husband; che ic treated as an equal and will often
hunt with him, or take her turn to hunt alone, while the
man will stay at home and mind the baby. It is even quite
a common thing to find a brother and sister hunting to-
gether, for at an early age the equality of the sexes, both
as regards responsibility and usefulness, is recognized,
and the young lad of seventeen or eighteen does not re-
gard it as infra dig to be seen about with his sister, whom
he will often take with him on a long hunting trip.
When hunting together, the forest dwellers have a
code of signs and sounds which closely resemble the notes
of birds or the noises made by animals common in their
particular part of the jungle. Their imitation of birds
and animals in the forest is so accurate that it deceives the
animal that they are tracking, and yet can be recognized
by their clansmen. Once, for my special entertainment,
KATOOTERO AND HIS HONEYBIRD
- -- - - - - - - -
a forest dweller imitated the call of distress such as might
be made by a female baboon so realistically that rte "Old
Man" of the troop rushed out into the clearing, right in
front of us, prepared to defend his mate. When he real-
ized that the cry had come from a mere man he gave
grunts of anger which quickly changed to sounds of al-
most human laughter when the suspense was broken, and
then he trundled off back into the bush.
These forest folk do not live in villages nor do they
make permanent buildings. I have never seen more than
four or five booths together in one place and these would
belong to the same families. There is no defined path
leading up to such a camp. A stranger might pass quite
close to a group of shelters without realizing their exist-
ence, for great care is taken to obliterate any apparent
road of access. It is usual for these shy forest people to
return to their camps by different routes, so that they
shall not betray their presence to strangers by leaving
They live their lives with proud reserve in the great
solitudes of the forest strictly secluded. They are highly
intelligent, and while shy yet in the face of personal
danger they are absolutely fearless.
The hunters have been the friends of the forest for
their wants were meagre and easily satisfied without the
necessity for tree destruction for making farms. A few
dead sticks gathered from wind-fallen branches provide
sufficient fuel. withini n the spell of the forest they guard
their own domain from all intruders, for no rival would
MEN OF THE TREES
risk their poisoned arrows. Just as the honey preserves
are defined, so in the jungle each dweller has his own
territory. To the white man the origin and observance
of this law are inexplicable except as the survival of the
past, but to its power is due the preservation of many of
the existing virgin forests.
These then are my friends the forest dwellers, and as
I came to know them better they began to render me
valuable assistance in forestry work; for a bond between
us had been established and with a very little training I
was able to use them as forest scouts. They entered en-
thusiastically into the work of collecting tree seeds, or
any other useful work which I might suggest.
It is true that these primitive folk were not conscious
at the time of the far reaching results of their work, but
were merely doing what I asked in order to please me.
To them it seemed just a whim of mine which, however,
they were delighted to gratify. They could see no more
profit for themselves in collecting seeds than in climb-
ing a tree for a botanical specimen; but nevertheless in
time they became some of the most enthusiastic Men of
the Trees. By reason of their close association with nature
they were well adapted to render me valuable assistance.
They had an intimate knowledge of the forest and I was
able to reach even the most inaccessible parts under their
guidance and thus to carry out valuable survey work.
This was not all, I was able through them to obtain many
botanical specimens which were of considerable value,
being used for identifying timbers of economic im-
KATOOTERO AND HIS HONEYBIRD
- - - - - ;; - -
portance. They were natural forest protectors and it was
their great concern that the forest had already been in-
vaded by neighboring tribes and whole areas cut down
and burnt. I was anxious, if possible, to prevent this de-
struction, and my forest friends were only too willing,
on their part, to co-operate with me. Without their assist-
ance it would have been impossible to have started many
of the forest nurseries or to have raised the trees with
which to plant abandoned farms. Their voluntary service
was of particular value at the time because my depart-
ment was sadly under-staffed and the demand for forest
seeds was far beyond the supply available.
"W'hen the time came for me to leave their forests, I
parted from them with real regret, a feeling which e\i-
dently was reciprocated by them as, for the first time
in their lives, a number of them accompanied me on my
way, leaving the shelter of their forest homes to bid me
Looking back upon the time spent with these children
of nature, and having with deep interest entered into
their joys and sorrows, I am convinced that in spite
of their precarious existence in the jungle, they have
managed to arrive at and retain many of the joys which
we hold dear. For there in the heart of the forest they
live their care-free lives and enjoy each other's comrade-
ship, with sufficient food and shelter, even though their
home may be but a primitive bower of leaves and
HOW THE COCK BECAME KING OF THE BIRDS
MANY a night I have sat by my camp-fire to be enter-
tained by old chiefs and head men. \\'hen I got to know
their language it was a continual source of delight to me to
listen to their folk-lore and nature stories. I always found
that there was a subtle sense of humour underlying their
presentation. They reminded me of my experiences with
those delightful peasants of France, who live in lie moun-
tain villages along the Riviera. They invariably had a
jest which they were always ready to share with their
camp-fire friends. Some of the stories they told to me
took as long as five nights to recite, for we always ad-
journed our gatherings before midnight, so. as to turn
in and be ready for an early start on the following day.
"How the cock became king of the birds," lasted for
five nights. It started like this as most stories do. "Once
upon a time all the birds of the forest quarrelled amongst
themselves as to who should be the greatest. At length it
was suggested that they should present themselves before
the lord of the forest, whose special title I have now for-
gotten, to ask him to decide. This he agreed to do. First
of all the eagle came and the lord of the forest said to
the eagle, 'What have you got to say for yourself?' And
HO\\ THE COCK BECAME KING OF THE BIRDS
the eagle replied, 'I can fly higher and see farther than
all the other birds. Surely I should be king of the birds.'
And so the lord of the forest replied,'I hear what you say.
Stand to one side. Call your wife.' And so Mrs. Eagle
came, and she spoke in the same language. And the lord
of the forest replied, 'I hear what you say. Stand to one
side.' Next came the Bird of Paradise, who said, 'I am
more beautiful than all the other birds, surely I should
be king of all.' Again the lord of the forest spoke as be-
fore, 'Stand to one side, call your wife.' And so the fe-
male Bird of Paradise presented herself and spoke in the
I must explain that the reason why the story took five
nights to relate, is because my African friends paraded
every known bird for judgment. Often I failed to recog-
nize the bird about which they were speaking and then
I would have to stop them, for I would not let them
continue until it had been made clear to me about which
bird they were speaking.
Finally, on the fifth night we came to the end of the
story. "At last the cock came to the lord of the forest
and he said, 'Cock-a-doo-del-do.' And the lord of the
forest replied, 'I hear what you have said, stand to one
side, call your wife.' And so the hen came, and she said,
'Tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk, tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk.' And the lord of
the forest turned to the cock and addressed him, as fol-
lows, 'My friend, you have won the day. You are more
clever than all the other birds of the forest, because you
have taught your wife a different language from your
MEN OF THE TREES
own. And, moreover, now that I have decided that you
are king of the birds, by reason of this, all the birds of
the forest will be your enemies and so you had better
stay right here with me.' That is why it is, cocks and hens
always stay with men."
At times I suspected that their stories subtly alluded
to the relation of the black and white races. There were
many inferences regarding the strong and the weak, or
the strong and the cunning. Such was the story told of
the fox and the wolf. At this length of time and writing
from a different continent, I cannot recall how the quar-
rel started or why the wolf began chasing the fox. I only
remember the story took a whole evening to relate be-
cause all the country through which they passed was
described in minute detail. But the story ended like this.
"At last the fox rushed into a great cavern where there
was an overhanging rock. He was dead beat and put his
front paws up against the rock and called, 'help, help, the
rock is falling.' And the wolf, who was hard behind him,
afraid of being crushed by what he thought was a falling
rock, stood up on his hind legs and pressed against the
rock with his fore feet as hard as he could, when the little
fox doubled back and escaped, leaving the wolf expend-
ing all his energy in a futile task."
Again, there was a story of theelephant and the canary.
It was never clear to me why they fell out or became such
rivals. But it seemed that the canary generally got the
better of the elephant and although the greatest animal
of the jungle challenged the little bird on many an occa-
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