Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pau mulato II

When we bought the Bosque Santa Lucia property back in 1981, I was still employed by an international health organization and therefore I didn't have the time I have now for looking after it. My backup at that time was a hired hand, who lived in the old house that used to be part of the estate. The falling-down structure of mud and wattle was more than 50 years old. The original homesteader had raised his family there, 11 daughters and one son. It was subsistence living in those days because it was nearly a full day by horse or mule to get to Santarem and back home. That same trip now takes 25 minutes by car, as an old man drives! Even at the time we purchased the place in 1981, transportation wasn't an easy affair. Not one inch of the Santarem-Cuiaba Highway, BR-163, was paved and the 3 kilometers from the highway to the Bosque was impassable part of the year. I had an old jeep that would get me to Cipoal and from there I would often have to walk in to our property. The point I'm getting to is that with a full time job and roads being what they were, I didn't get out there every day. Likewise, my hired hand didn't work for me every day. On one of my sporadic visits, I discovered that he'd cut down nearly all the pau mulato (Calycophyllum spruceanum) trees in the baixada (lowland) next to the house to make charcoal, which his wife used for cooking their food. I assume part of the production was sold or bartered off to the neighbors too. The years have passed and my hired hand eventually took off to the gold fields. He was last seen on a marble slab at the local hospital mortuary. Malaria, I think. Many pau mulato trees still exist in the baixadas of the Bosque. The one in the attached image was cut just recently by the electrical power company because it was too close to where the lines were being put up.

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