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Volume 1921uv1
Georges Dodds'
The Ape-Man: his Kith and Kin
A collection of texts which prepared the advent of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Selected 19thCentury Simian Fiction (1830-1914)
Shelf UV1
1. Mary E. Vandyne: How the Monkeys Crossed the Stream

Mary E. Vandyne
How the Monkeys Crossed the Stream
Christian Union
39(3): 79
Monkeys build a simian bridge across a stream
How the Monkeys Crossed the Stream

[26] Mary E. Vandyne. 1889. How the Monkeys Crossed the Stream. Christian Union 39(3): 79. [Monkeys build a simian bridge across a stream]

Without undertaking to say how far Mr. Darwin is right or wrong in tracing our relationship to the apes and monkeys, we are all agreed, I am sure, that Jocko is the most wonderful and amusing of animals, with his queer resemblance to ourselves and the extraordinary ways he has of doing things. Where is there a more interesting or amusing creature than Jocko as he goes about with his master, the organ-grinder, helping to earn the pennies and gathering them up in his queer little fists with as much eagerness and anxiety as if he knew a coin of the realm from any other bit of metal or even a smooth round stone? What legions of little folk used to gather round the cage of the late Mr. Crowley, of Central Park, watching him swing in his hammock, take his meals from an ordinary plate with knife and fork, tuck himself in his little iron bed, and altogether behave himself, as nearly as a chimpanzee could, like a well-brought-up human boy or girl! No wonder there were a great many tears shed by bright eyes when our climate proved too severe for Mr. Crowley, and he pined away and died of consumption. I am afraid "it will be a long time before we look upon his like again," as Shakespeare says.

But, amusing as Jocko is in captivity, he is still more wonderful in his native wilds, where he relies upon his native wit to accomplish his own objects, and keeps house and attends to his own affairs in his own fashion. The following story of how a party of monkeys, bent upon a journey, overcame the obstacle of a running stream and crossed it triumphantly, is told by a well-known traveler in Mexico, who witnessed the scene himself:

The party was five hundred strong. It was apparently a kind of migration or change of quarters, the object, no doubt, being to find a most hospitable place wherein to establish themselves and set up a new home. They trotted along in lively, good-natured fashion, chattering as only monkeys can, when suddenly they came upon a swiftly flowing brook and halted on its banks in dismay. A monkey, you must know, hates water quite as much as a cat does, and nothing will induce one to wet the end of his paw if he can help it. But there was the stream, and there stood our traveler, hidden by the trees, but near enough by to watch all the maneuvers.

The monkeys set to work. Three or four, seemingly the leaders of the party, ran up and down the bank seeking a spot where the stream was the narrowest and where there were tall trees on each side. Presently a satisfactory spot was found. Up the tree sped a monkey, and another after him, then a third, and then a fourth. The first wound his tail about an overhanging limb and suspended himself head downward; another wound his tail about the neck and shoulders of the first, and also hung head downward; so did the third and fourth.

Now for the marvelous part of the story! The living chain became a pendulum set in motion by the lowest monkey grabbing the herbage with his claws and producing a steady swaying back and forth, the distance increasing every time the pendulum traversed its arc. A little patience, some frantic exertions on the part of the end monkey, and, presto! a lively swing, and he has seized hold of a limb of a tree on the opposite bank. See! a bridge is formed; and now, with an agility apparently too great even for monkeys, lively as they are, the whole herd have mounted, Indian file, upon their companions' backs, and, by the aid of this living bridge, have crossed the stream -- well, not dry shod, but dry footed.

But now, our traveler says, he became alarmed about the bridge. The limb of the tree on the opposite side of the bank from which it depended was much lower than the one on this side. If the end monkey on this side let go, he must infallibly drop in the water, and get a sad ducking. This seemed very cruel, considering the services he had just rendered his brethren. However, they had no idea of deserting him, and the problem so difficult to human intellect did not puzzle their monkeyship's intelligence for a moment.

The Solomon, or some other great intellect among the party, applied itself to the question. He nodded and winked, and in monkey language declared himself equal to the emergency. Then he ran up the tree and affectionately wrapped his tail about the neck and shoulders of the poor beast who had so manfully supported the line on that side of the stream. The latter loosened his claws, and allowed himself to be drawn up to such a height that his fellow who formed the other end of the chain would, on loosening his hold, land safely on the further bank without so much as wetting the end of his tail.

It was a marvelous performance, and the story is strictly true. How often, in our vanity and conceit, we think that animals are indolent and stupid, and do not know anything! We do not realize how much wisdom and intelligence God has given to Puss and Ponto and Neddy and Jocko. In regard to many things it often seems as if they were wiser than ourselves.

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Georges Dodds
William Hillman

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