Jack Ewing

Nature Stories

Jack EwingNature and Local History Stories

YOU MAKE MISTAKE, MAYBE WE DIE

These days everybody knows that Costa Rica is a Central American country located between Panama and Nicaragua, but there was a time when it was fairly common for people to confuse it with Puerto Rico. I once made that mistake myself. Little did I know that I would end up living here for most my life.

As director of Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge, I meet lots of people and am often asked the question: “How long have you been here?”

“Forty years”

“Wow, what did you do, come down here on vacation and never leave?”

“Well no, it wasn’t quite like that.”

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Jack EwingNature and Local History Stories

Has the Time Come to Say Good-bye to an old Friend? – I Hope Not!

Back in the 1970s Diane and the kids and I lived in the casona, the old Hacienda Baru home. We didn’t get around to digging a well until the early 1980s, and every year, the spring that supplied our water would dry up in mid February. To deal with the situation we carried drinking water in 5 galon plastic containers from another spring two kilometers away and water for washing dishes and flushing toilets in 55 galon drums. The girl who worked for us went to the Barú River to do laundry, and every afternoon around 4:00 PM everyone went to the river to bathe in the crystal clear water. The village of Dominical was out of water too, so most of the town – about 8 people at that time — met us there, and the afternoon bath became as much a social event as one of personal hygiene.

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Jack EwingNature and Local History Stories

What goes “CHRIT-CHRIT-CHRIT”, Licks its Eyeballs, & Gives You a Stinky Piece of Tail Whenever You Try to Kill it?

Most people don’t like bugs. The term brings up negative images of all sorts of undesirable things, both living and not. If there’s a bug in your computer program, some obscure little quirk is making your life miserable. “Don’t bug me!” means don’t annoy me. A bug can be a germ, vermin, flaw, wiretap, defect, fault, or problem. It can mean to pester or bother. My thesaurus lists only one synonym with a positive connotation, the word enthusiast. In Spanish, the word for bug, “bicho”, is often used to mean a very undesirable person.

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Jack EwingNature and Local History Stories

Everybody Loves Toucan Sam the Fruitloop Bird…Or do They?

Guiding visitors on ecological tours can be very rewarding. Showing guests their first monkey, sloth or toucan is as gratifying for the guide as it is for the visitor. Birds and animals aren’t usually obvious to the untrained eye, and it is often difficult to explain or point out to people the exact position of wildlife within the dense vegetation of the rainforest. A typical conversation might go something like this: “See him? He’s right over there.” “Right over where?” “Look, just follow that trunk up to where it forks off to the left…” “Wait a minute, which trunk?” “That big one just to the right of the one with the vine.” “Oh yeah, that one. Okay now, I follow that up to the fork, right? Then where?” And so on, and so on. Once the bird or animal has been spotted with the naked eye, the next step is to find it with binoculars. Some visitors are practiced in the use of optical equipment, but many are not, and it is sometimes difficult for them to locate the wildlife. I have noticed that visitors will sometimes say they see something even if they don’t. However, there is never any doubt when the person encounters their first toucan. When the large yellow, black and red bird with the enormous beak comes into their field of vision, the visitor’s reaction can range from a simple, “Oh, my god,” to something resembling a low-level orgasm. Nowadays all of our guides have telescopes which they can quickly focus on the wildlife, eliminating all that foreplay and getting right down to the nitty-gritty.

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Jack EwingNature and Local History Stories

Capuchin Capers

The troop of 28 monkeys was strung out over about 100 meters, moving through the forest. The lead monkey, a mature female, came to an area where the tree cover was broken by an open swamp with only a narrow corridor two trees wide going around it. About half way across the corridor the leader abruptly leapt back and let out an excited yelp, one of several different alarm barks the two observers had heard them use. This initial bark was followed by a series of short barks in a slightly calmer voice. Flor Vallet scanned the foliage with her binoculars near where the lead monkey had been when when it jumped back. Finally she saw the source of alarm, a non venomous bird-eating snake. It wasn’t large enough to harm a full grown monkey, or even a juvenile, but it was a snake nevertheless, and they instinctively disliked it. The troop kept moving forward, but as they arrived at the point where the snake was coiled each monkey veered over into a neighboring tree, staying well out of its reach. They didn’t need any further signals. Every monkey in the troop knew exactly where the snake was coiled. Was this communicated to them via the alarm call followed by the short series of barks emitted by the lead monkey when it first saw the snake?

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Jack EwingNature and Local History Stories

The Punishment

The incident took place so long ago that Daniel Valverde doesn’t remember for sure if Alvaro Mesa was the one who actually felled the last manú negro tree on Hacienda Baru or not, but he was definitely the one who sent the workers up into the rainforest to cut it into logs and split the logs into posts. Some people say that what happened that day was Alvaro’s punishment for cutting down the last manú negro on Hacienda Barú. Others say it was the curse of an Indian shaman whose tomb Alvaro had opened. Regardless of why it happened, it was the worst experience of his entire life, and one that all the people who were with him that day will remember for the rest of their lives.

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