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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/696

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sixty feet long, from two and a half to three feet wide, and fifteen or eighteen inches deep. Their sides, especially on the bottom, are left very thick for protection when they run aground or strike the rocks in passing the rapids. They are full aft and astern. The prow is surmounted by a small oval platform, cut out of the log, and carved more or less elaborately; on the poop is a small round seat, likewise shaped out of the log. The pilot sits here.

A quarter or third of the whole length, in front, is left free. The three or four polers who propel the boat work in this space. They go and come in file, generally with the gymnastic step, striking the platform, already mentioned, with their feet to give them spring. The passengers and baggage are amidships, and a half dozen paddlemen behind, seated on the sides of the boat, assist the polers in hard places. The crews change places every two or three hours. The management of the long and heavy poles, which, in time of high water, have to be from twenty-five to thirty feet long, is much more laborious than that of the short paddles.

There are generally one or two women on board to do the cooking and keep a fire constantly burning on an earthen hearth in the bottom of the boat. An encampment of Banziris offers a picturesque scene, with the pirogues beached on the shore, the crews grouped on the sand, each around their fire, and the long poles stuck in the ground near them, like so many gigantic lances. On the route in fine weather their songs, and the races between landings, with their lusty cries, and all trying to splash the rival boat, make the hours pass pleasantly. Their boisterous gayety is as wholesome and fresh as that of the young demigods of primitive Greece. They have a sculptural beauty, with their well-developed busts and vigorous limbs, the muscles of which have been well brought out by their rude sailor's life; and their nudity, and even the color of their skin—black, with a coppery tinge like bronze—complete the picture. They show their quality in the hard passages, when the pirogues pass the dangerous rapids, when they throw themselves into the whirling waters to hold the boat up or push it on, and they ward it off with their poles from the rocks at the precise moment when it seemed about to break against them. They are wonderful swimmers from infancy. As soon as he is four or five years old the little Banziri is given as his first plaything a pirogue and a paddle suitable to his size, which he sails alone in the creeks around the village. Their features are pleasant and rounded in graceful curves, with not excessively broad faces, full cheeks, round and shortish nose, not flat, the lips not too thick, revealing admirable teeth, and large black eyes, intelligent and merry. They