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Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 1914.

Page 108

of the bayous we had to cross were uncomfortably boggy. We had to lead the horses through one, wading ahead of them; and even so two of them mired down, and their saddles had to be taken off before they could be gotten out. Among the marsh plants were fields and strips of the great caeté rush. These caeté flags towered above the other and lesser marsh plants. They were higher than the heads of the horsemen. Their two or three huge banana-like leaves stood straight up on end. The large brilliant flowers—orange, red, and yellow—were joined into a singularly shaped and solid string or cluster. Humming-birds buzzed round these flowers; one species, the sickle-billed hummer, has its bill especially adapted for use in these queerly shaped blossoms and gets its food only from them, never appearing around any other plant.
  The birds were tame, even those striking and beautiful birds which under man’s persecution are so apt to become scarce and shy. The huge jabiru storks, stalking through the water with stately dignity, sometimes refused to fly until we were only a hundred yards off; one of them flew over our heads at a distance of thirty or forty yards. The screamers, crying curu-curu, and the ibises, wailing dolefully, came even closer. The wonderful hyacinth macaws, in twos and threes, accompanied us at times for several hundred yards, hovering over our heads and uttering their rasping screams. In one wood we came on the black howler monkey. The place smelt almost like a menagerie. Not watching with sufficient care I brushed against a sapling on which the venomous fire-ants swarmed. They burnt the skin like red-hot cinders,