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

Page 40

wings. Darters, with snakelike necks and pointed bills, perched in the trees on the brink of the river. Snowy egrets flapped across the marshes. Caymans were common, and differed from the crocodiles we had seen in Africa in two points: they were not alarmed by the report of a rifle when fired at, and they lay with the head raised instead of stretched along the sand.
  For three days, as we steamed northward toward the Tropic of Capricorn, and then passed it, we were within the Republic of Paraguay. On our right, to the east, there was a fairly well-settled country, where bananas and oranges were cultivated and other crops of hot countries raised. On the banks we passed an occasional small town, or saw a ranch-house close to the river’s brink, or stopped for wood at some little settlement. Across the river to the west lay the level, swampy, fertile wastes known as the Chaco, still given over either to the wild Indians or to cattle-ranching on a gigantic scale. The broad river ran in curves between mud-banks where terraces marked successive periods of flood. A belt of forest stood on each bank, but it was only a couple of hundred yards wide. Back of it was the open country; on the Chaco side this was a vast plain of grass, dotted with tall, graceful palms. In places the belt of forest vanished and the palm-dotted prairie came to the river’s edge. The Chaco is an ideal cattle country, and not really unhealthy. It will be covered with ranches at a not distant day. But mosquitoes and many other winged insect pests swarm over it. Cherrie and Miller had spent a week there collecting mammals and birds prior to my arrival at Asuncion. They were veterans of the tropics,