I am writing the memoirs of a bold adventurer and a wonderful grandfather, Nathanial Horatio Kenworthy, who passed away peacefully on October 6, 1899 – his ninety-ninth birthday. I complete this manuscript out of love and devotion for a true Renaissance man: an accomplished traveler, a well-known writer, a lover of fine art, and a teller of sweet recollections. This man enjoyed life to the fullest, and even on the last day of his life on this earth, he was still busy retelling his most cherished memories.
Alone, I am entrusted to carry out his last wish, to make his adventures known to the world before they are forever lost in the annals of time. Since he was never married, he adopted my mother after she became an orphan, and outlived his siblings and his closest friends; he had no one to ensure that his legacy would be immortalized through history. Hence, being his favorite grandson and eager listener, by default I was chosen for this important task.
Perhaps I was his most treasured kin because I always pestered him to tell me about his adventures. I alone would never tire of hearing the same tales over and over again, albeit on most occasions he’d embellish the facts to make things slightly more appealing for my young ears. I remember often sitting upon my aging grandfather’s lap or on my favorite white wicker chair while he told many great stories of his younger days. While I was pleased to hear his adventures retold in a variety of ways, my mother would often ask Grandpa to stop sharing his tall tales, since they were centered upon improbable adventures and implausible circumstances. Even after all these years, I can still hear the vexation in my beloved mother’s voice as she openly chastised my dear grandfather.
“Dad, please stop filling the boy’s head with such nonsense. You know he’ll be the laughing stock of the entire school – that is if he ever talks about his grandfather’s wild adventures.”
Grandpa would become equally as annoyed with Mother’s blatant desire to keep his stories silent to the ears of the entire world, and he would let Mother know his true feelings. “Oh, Elizabeth, what will it hurt, telling the boy the truth? You know that sometimes the truth can be even more astounding than any fabrication of one’s mind. And if he passes my adventures to the next generation, my legacy will be enjoyed by those who are still just a glint in their grandmother’s or grandfather’s eyes. Now, please let the men of the family enjoy some real male bonding time before we head off to bed. I want my grandson to have a big tale to latch onto and dream about when he enters into another and more peaceful realm of existence.” With this nasty rebuttal, Mother would just shake her head and return to cooking our dinner or cleaning the house. Well out of earshot of Grandpa’s wild tales, I still can hear her displeasure resounding off of the parlor walls. “Ha, male bonding time, my old tea-kettle dad. You’re not at the Goat’s Head Inn now with your gullible mates. You’re in our home, and in a sacred room where we should respect and only share the truth with the ones we love and the ones, no matter how naive, who love us.”
I didn’t give a shilling about any family feud over right or wrong, sacred or profane, truth or exaggeration. With all my heart, I just wanted to hear every detail of an amazing tale and share those tales with the angels when I slept. “Come on, Gramps, what happened next?”
“Right, son, so…as I was saying before your mother came into the room and wanted to scuttle our man ship, our tramp steamer, The Hattie Chester, was slowly chugging up around a bend on the mighty Amazon River when we caught sight of a thousand angry natives. These were the notorious Awa tribe, wearing their full war paint and wanting to let loose their poison-tipped arrows upon us and our tiny craft. Without a warning, they unleashed their death wish upon us. Although I had no idea how many of those deadly projectiles rained down upon us, I do know that there were so many that the sun was blocked out for at least a full twenty minutes. Yes, the golden glow of the morning sun had been obliterated, like a solar eclipse in the middle of the daytime. In the shade of the impending gloom, we kept huddled behind rows of wooden crates, and as each resounding zomp shattered our eardrums, we all envisioned our earthly demise. I surely thought that we were going to die that sunny day on the river. And the idea that we would probably end up as shrunken heads on the spear of a tribal shaman was not very appealing.”
I could barely contain my excitement – Grandpa had never told me about this particular adventure of his journeying up the mysterious Amazon River before. “Really? Then what?”
“Well, Captain Simeon Parsons tried in desperation to navigate around a series of rapids through the hail of arrows that continued to pelt our tiny boat. But, sure enough, the river won this particular skirmish as it surreptitiously drew the tiny craft upon a narrow sandbar in the middle of the river. There we were, miserably dry docked with no hope in sight, and only ten meters from the savages who wanted our heads and any other parts for their sacred trophies. While we were in dire straits as a result of the Awa, it was only half of our dilemma. The men and I were indeed facing a scary moment, because on the one side we had the bloodthirsty natives wanting our prized skulls, while on the other were vicious Cocodylus intermedius circling their prey like vultures on dead carrion. And those Cocodyli were large – and when I say large I mean it, since at least a handful were as long as our vessel itself. The Hattie Chester would have merely been a tasty hors d’oeuvre for those nasty crocs.”
“Grandpa, tell me more!”
“It was obvious we were in grave danger, so I had to think fast before we became someone’s or something’s much-anticipated dinner. The only thing I could think of was to cause a diversion, and furthermore we needed to lighten the boat so we could break free from the grasp of the poorly placed sandbar. I took my trusted muzzle-loader, Betsy, filled her with powder, wadding, a steel shot, and let fire. As I gave her my free rein, the noise from my gun frightened the warriors which then offered some protection for the crew. I continued to fire rounds at the natives as fast as I was able to load such an antique weapon. With my gun blaring, all hands on deck threw out some shiny trinkets to catch the attention of the Awa warriors. Lo and behold, it worked – the bloodthirsty mob was distracted and stopped their barrage of arrows to grab the goods thrown in their direction. Now I wondered if the beasts could be so easily put off of their intended dinner.”
“Cheap trinkets don’t lighten a boat. What did you do to free the Hattie, Grandfather?”
“The only thing we could possibly do to save our European hides: we took about half of the Sus barbati we had on board and threw them into the river. Those poor beasts were squealing and kicking and trying their best to get away from ending up as morsels for the crocs. Alas, their struggle was all in vain. When they hit the water, the feeding frenzy began, as the hungry hordes even tore into each other for the delicacies we had tossed over the side for them. While the croc’s mighty jaws ripped apart the pigs and themselves, we were able to focus our full attention upon releasing our tiny craft from the sandbar. With these well thought-out diversions in place, the evil sandbar that had us in its deadly grip was about to release us and our lightened boat. After the entire crew threw their weight into the venture, slowly we dislodged the bow and were on our way, much to the dismay of the malevolent natives and the hungry Cocodyli.”
“Heavens no, lad, that is just the start of the journey and certainly not the end of it. We were a full three months on that ochre ribbon of dreams. There are a myriad of exciting tales to be told, so do not get too comfortable just yet, or you shall miss the best parts of the entire trip.”
“I’m all ears, Gramps!”
“All right, we had escaped the jaws of death from both our two-legged and four-legged foes for the moment. With a clear path ahead of us and the wicked ones soon to be far behind us, Captain Parsons urged the crew to stoke up the boiler and jam the wood right up to its very brim to get up a full head of steam. Within minutes, our beautiful lady had been freed from her sandy bondage and gathered enough power to whisk us away from the source of our worries and our possible demise.”