National Geographic : 1940 Jul
The Celebes: New Mlan's Land of the Indies limbs rise like crosses and kapok pods cluster thickly against the sky. Before daylight we crossed the peninsula to Koeandang, riding out along the bay to gaze down upon it as the sun rose and our little ship came in. The following dawn met us at Inobonto, whence comes excellent copra. Bullock Carts on Balloon Tires In many parts of Malaysia the copra is pried loose from its shell and dried in the sun until it looks like a castoff shoe sole, curled by the heat and touched with mold. But between Inobonto and Bolaaing are some coconut es tates where No. 1 copra is grown, so I walked between ports while the steamer took on cargo. Down the long aisles with fronded roofs and slender columns come balloon-tired bullock carts, laden with coconuts. The load is dumped and on sharp-pointed stakes set in the ground the tough husk is split off. With a long, heavy blade a man in a breechclout splits the brown shells into two hemispheres, spilling the colorless milk and revealing the clean white meat. Then the copra-on-the-half-shell is dried on a long metal floor, under which blazes a care fully controlled fire of husks. After it is toasted, the meat comes out of the shell more easily and in more uniform pieces. In wide trays it is again dried for days. Eventually the coconut oil may find its way into soap and margarine for beauty bath or frying potato chips-or into nitroglycerin. Netherlands Indies officials encourage the production of No. 1 copra, with discouraging results, but Minahassan Christians, among the progressives, avail themselves of govern ment advice and aid. Back at Manado, I obtained an American car for my tour to Tomohon, Tondano, Likoe pang, and Ratahan. "You won't like the Minahassans," said my friends. "They're too civilized. They let one man support the whole family. They copy European dress. "Give 'em a sarong and a thin blouse, let 'em comb their hair as smooth as oiled ebony and they're fine. But put 'em in patent-leather slippers, a peach-colored dress to their knees, and a permanent wave, and it's no wonder they sing the 'St. Louis Blues.' " Minahassa welcomed Portuguese priests and Dutch conquest without a fight and settled down to providing clerks and stenographers for Java. The government depends as much on the Minahassa for white-collar workers and clerical skill as it does on Ambon for soldiers. One reason for the trend toward modern clothes is their cheapness. A really good batik sarong is costly and a chic woman needs many. Diaphanous kabayas fastened with gold pieces have a short life and not always a merry one. Minahassans prefer a variety of modern dresses and the sense of being up to date. The Sunday parade in the highlands shows the trend. The old folks wear plain black; the middle-aged, bright sarongs; the young women, European dress (page 58). A few months later, when the girls have found jobs in Java and motor up to a cinema palace in Batavia's Deca Park or to Soera baja's "Hollywood Dancing," they feel at home. If the Javanese fashion plate, with a pleated fold at the front of her hand-dyed sarong, seems more chic, it may be because she has vastly more to spend on her clothes. One September day I rolled down from the buffalo-grass hills near Ratahan to the Mo lucca Sea, looking toward Ternate and the Molucca (Spice) Islands. The Government Resident was visiting the region and palm skirted arches bearing the word "WELKOM" were being built over the road. A holiday atmosphere pervaded this peaceful coast. Then, down through the coconut grove came a slow procession with men in faded blue bear ing a simple coffin on shoulder poles. Those who followed were divided between those in funereal black and the younger men in white ducks. This Minahassan funeral carried me across time and space to a country church in Wiscon sin years ago. The words were different but the music was the same. "He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone." Long after I lost sight of that sorry little procession, the sound of that Christian hymn continued in my brain, and the exotic scene, by means of this familiar, nostalgic tune, related itself to my own boyhood on a Wisconsin farm. U. S. Newspapers Go East to Die The Minahassa has its own colonists who are pushing the Christian front along the narrow peninsula into regions once ravaged by pirates and slave hunters. One day I followed them along the curving road that climbs from Amoe rang to Motaling. Rain drove me back, for the roads are not good, and in the Motaling market place-re mote enough-were spread out what my chauffeur asserted were roasted squirrels, lying on a headline background of "Goggin Pleads Guilty," "Seek Escaped Convicts Here," "Brookline Police Sergeant Named at Ded ham." Bad news travels far. Old United States newspapers by the ton are shipped to the East as wrapping paper.