National Geographic : 1897 Mar
84 RUBBER FORESTS OF NICARAGUA AND SIERRA LEONE takes a basketful of earthenware gill cups, a hunk of adhesive clay, and a little, narrow-bladed hatchet. " If he adopts the most approved method of tapping the trees, he reaches as high as he can with his hatchet, making an incision in the bark, but not reaching through to the wood. The milk immediately begins to issue in rapid drops or little streams. With a spat of the adhesive clay he immediately fastens one of his little gill clay cups just below the bleeding gash, and molds the clay so as to make all the rubber milk flow into the cup. Three such gashes, at equal distances around the tree and at equal height, is the rule. The next day he will make three more gashes in the same way, just a little below these three, and so continue, until by the end of the season he will have reached the level of the ground. Each of his 100 or 150 trees is treated in the same way, and he returns home, after having traveled from 3 to 5 miles, barefoot and almost naked, through thorny thicket and malarial, steaming swamp. " When he reaches his hut, he again takes another gulp from the demijohn, snatches a breakfast of salt fish and mandioca meal, which are often moldy from the reeking damp of the swamp, and then he starts out again with his calabash buckets to gather the milk, which by this time has ceased to flow. His gill cups are full, or nearly so, and when he reaches home he has milk enough to make four kilos of rubber, on an average. The next task is the coagulation of the milk. For this purpose he has a jug-shaped furnace, made of earthenware, called a boido, open at bottom and top, and with a small aperture at the side to admit the air for the combustion. In this piece of fur niture he builds a fire, or rather a smudge, with the nuts of the inija or urucury palm. The dense, black smoke which rolls from the open top of the boido is the reagent which coagulates the milk. For this purpose the rubber-gatherer has a circular bladed paddle, like the paddle of a canoe, which he smears over with clay, so that the rubber will not adhere to it. This is sus pended by means of a cord from the limb of a tree just above the smudge, the milk is poured over the blade of the paddle, which is then turned over and around about in the smoke, and in a few moments the film of rubber is coagulated. The same process is repeated of wetting with milk and smoking the grow ing lump until it reaches the weight of from 5 to 25 kilos or more. Then it is slipped off from the paddle as a mitten is pulled off from one's hand. This ball is the crude rubber."