National Geographic : 1969 Jan
parents' simple sleeping platform, the daugh ter's end of the house was papered with Christmas cards and calendar pictures of Chi nese movie stars. Enclosed with curtains, her platform boasted red-satin pillows and a pink puff spread over Japanese-style sleeping mats. The old mother squirted a stream of red betel-nut juice out the window. Her stained lips cracked in a smile like a sliced tomato. "She brought those ideas up from the plains," she snorted with that mixture of pride and contempt the old reserve for the young. We sat on low stools close to the fire and shared the family's bean-and-rice gruel. An oil lamp glowed orange on a beam overhead, throwing in bold relief crude carvings of snakes and human skulls, mark of a family that had once hunted heads. The old mother grunted in pleasure at our interest. She pulled a basket from beneath her bed and unfolded a coarse black-cotton jacket embroidered and beaded with symbols like those on the beam. She showed us a headdress heavy with bells, cowrie shells, and boars' tusks: a bridal costume passed down through generations. She had been married in it, and -for all her new ways-so had her daughter (page 32). We left Daladalai and turned north across the fertile plains that produce most of the island's food. Route 1, Taiwan's western artery, was the usual madcap race track. Timber trucks contested the right of way with bullock carts teetering under high loads of sugar cane. Buses bullied automobiles, and tiny taxis with locomotive-size horns blasted bicycles and motorcycles off the road in a well-established pecking order. In a continuous stream of traffic, the highway pulsed with the press of people of one of the most densely populated lands in the world. Centuries-old servant of the rice farm er, a water buffalo draws his master's plow through a field soaked by the mon soon's deluge. Despite 340,000 buffaloes on the island, they remain in short supply. Farmer's new friend, a power tiller equals the efforts of five water buffaloes. Here a man plows soybean stubble under before planting his rice. Some 21,500 of these small tractors, manufactured in Japan and Taiwan, are now in use. The fall rice harvest was well underway. Coolie-hatted girls in skintight pants, their faces protected from the dreaded darkening effect of the sun by bandit-style bandannas, helped their men cut the golden grain and feed it into foot-operated threshers. Ducks Follow the Harvest Sheaves of threshed rice stalks lay waiting to be collected for making paper, for feeding livestock, or for fuel. A duckboy was fattening his flock on the scattering of kernels left by the harvesters. His face creased in a smile when we stopped, and he offered us tea from a pot steaming on a rice-stalk fire. "Harvest no come same place same time," he said. "We take small ducks, move from field to field. Ducks eat. Walk long way long time, sleep in fields with ducks. Soon ducks big. Very fat. Bring good price." The ducks moved on in a close-packed mass, flowing like a river of feathers over the dikes between the fields, the boy guiding them with a flag on a slender bamboo. We moved on too, turning east toward Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan's major tourist attraction.