Howler Monkeys and a Man Named Jerry

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  ,
Monday, March 22, 2004

Imagine the snort of a pig. The bark of a dog. A very large dog - perhaps a bloodhound. One where the bark comes from deep inside the dog. Put the two sounds together; magnify them and you get a sound quite similar to that of a Howler Monkey. Howlers are the loudest of all land animals. Only the Blue Whale is capable of climbing to a higher decibel level. Howlers don't grow much more than one meter and their maximum weight is 20 kilograms.

The first time I saw a troop of them I couldn't believe that such a great roar could come from such a tiny creature. And speaking of howling monkeys, we met a two legged one on this trip as well. This monkey had a gray tail tied at the back of his head. His name was Jerry. Ellen and I had slipped and slid up and down hills of mud to get to the beach. We were on the island of Bastimentos, Panama, a small island with a sleepy fishing village on its point. A fishing village with no fisherman. No boats go out in the morning. None come in at night. Everyone just hangs around talking to one another. When we finally got to the beach we stopped at a bar that was really just a dilapidated shack. The shack had a few tables set around it so we sat and ordered something to drink.

"Is that your dog?" howled a gray haired, white man with the ponytail. He carried a large stick.
"No" I replied.

Without another word the white man began beating a brown dog that was laying on the ground a couple of tables away. The white man with the ponytail chased the brown dog through the tables and chairs then all the way around the shack/bar. The dog being faster than his assailant, raced quickly toward our table then lay down cowering at my feet.

Huffing, the pony-tailed loon howled, "If he's not your dog why is he laying beside you?"
I asked the waiter if there wasn't something he could do about this crazy bastard. I'm not sure if the ponytail was angry because I called him crazy or because I made reference to his being born out of wedlock. Maybe it was both. He focused entirely on me now with a two handed grip on his dog beating stick. He claimed that stray dogs often made toilet beside the tables. I said that I had never heard of such a thing, but judging by his behavior it wouldn't surprise me if a pack of dogs weren't organized with such intent. After a tense few moments of posturing Ellen and I slowly backed off. The dog got away too.

Over the following few days I spoke with several people about the pony tailed white man. One fellow four hours away in Cahuita, Costa Rica even knew him. His name is Jerry. He's either American or Canadian and about 10 years ago he bought up almost the entire beach for just a few hundred dollars. He's apparently despised by all, dogs included, and can't go anywhere on the island alone for fear of a beating or maybe worse.

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