National Geographic : 1940 Feb
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by Hugh B. Cott HE SMOKES RUBBER AS INDIANS DID BEFORE COLUMBUS CAME This native of Maraj6 Island, Brazil, taps jungle trees for the milky latex, which he pours over a stick he revolves above a palm-nut fire. The sphere grows like a snowball. Each slow revolution hardens the fluid until the ball may weigh fifty pounds (page 156). Half the tappers here now have bicycles with rubber tires made in the Java branch of an Akron factory to pedal forth daily and tap trees to get more rubber for Akron. After their early breakfasts of rice, dried fish, and tea the tappers swarm out from the "lines" to the trees, many still wearing rainbow sarongs and singlets-striped cot ton shirts-while others have adopted pro saic overalls or shorts. Afoot or awheel, each tapper balances on one shoulder a bamboo stick, with a rattan basket swinging at one end and a "milk can," usually an old kerosene container, at the other (pages 154, 157). When he reaches his trees he first pulls off the strips of rubber coagulated there from the previous day's tappings. (Usually tapping is done every other day.) He puts this "tree scrap" in one compartment of his basket to be used for "off grade" rubber. Next he shaves off a sliver of bark taking care not to wound the wood-and puts a cup in place beneath a spout stuck into the bark at the lower end of the diagonal cut. The peel-off he throws into the other half of his basket, for "bark scrap" also makes low-grade rubber. In making the cut, the tapper pulls his oddly shaped knife toward him, about half way around the tree trunk. He leaves his collecting can at the first tree, and taps from 350 to 400 trees until the hollow-log gong sounds, about 9 o'clock.