Photo: Aleksey Boyko/Shutterstock

You Got Your Pens Moving: Animal Stories From the Matador Community

Guatemala Panama Photo + Video + Film
by Teresa Ponikvar Jul 28, 2009

After reading this week’s submissions, I am fully convinced that animals need to make more appearances in our travel writing. In these stories, they provide comic relief, metaphors, and suprising new perspectives on human affairs.

Enjoy these excerpts from your fellow Matadorians’ work!

“People a lot smarter than me wear hats or pith helmets in the jungle. I had to wear those silly-looking helmets for 3 years in the jungles of Panama, years ago. They make you sweat, and then, the leather headband shrinks and crushes your skull. I’m not working for the government now, so when I go in the jungle, I wear or don’t wear whatever the hell I want to.

I never saw the spider I came across. I walked right into his web. It was at just the right height across the trail to wrap my whole head and the upper half of my body in stuff you could use as a substitute for Super Glue, only it stinks worse.

While I was cussin’ and flailin’ around trying to wipe the mess off of me and my trail partner was laughin’ his ass off, the spider was probably spinning a new web !

Solution: Wear a hat? Hell no! Get a taller trail partner and let him lead the way!”

–Michael Lynch

“Cockfighting is legal in Guatemala although even some Guatemalans are unsure of its legality. This lack of knowledge speaks to the mystery surrounding the blood sport. Few Guatemalans are capable of telling you where to find a cockfight if asked and even fewer possess concrete details pertaining to fights. Your best chance at gaining admittance to a cockfight is through connections. I was fortunate to have just such a connection.

My university professor in Guatemala, whom I shall call Roderigo, was the uncle of a weekend gallo fighter, Gabriel. Was I interested in seeing a fight of Gabriel’s, Roderigo asked. Of course, and we were off one Saturday evening to the cockfights.

We drove to the house of Gabriel, on the fringe of Guatemala City. Luis, Gabriel’s father, was waiting for us. Roderigo had only just parked when Luis opened my passenger-side door and whisked me (“Rapido, rapido, Aaron ”) into his home. He had never before had the chance to explain his gallo-passion to a foreigner.

He showed me to a study in the back, and through the windows I could see the family’s rooster coop behind the house. “Special windows,” Luis said,pointing to the doubly-thick panes, “No hear cuckoo.” I glimpsed only one rooster occupying a cage before Luis took me by the sleeve and rushed me back towards the driveway (we were late for the fights), but it stood in profile to me: proud, meditative, mysterious.”

–Aaron King

“Were they going to charge at me? I had never been so close to one cow before, never mind an entire herd! I continued to approach them and when just over a metre away they started to run in the opposite direction. I didn’t expect such large animals to be so timid.”

–Dan Massie

“Pushing his nose through the glass shards, mangled steel, and dilapidated bricks of a former palace, now destroyed, he trots along the sidewalk. Stopping briefly to scratch his spotted white and black neck with his long, slender legs.

‘Don’t you realize there is a war going on?’

Ignoring the hulking, armored vehicles as they drive past, he continues foraging through the rubble. He doesn’t care about the politicians or their wars.

The “weapons of mass destruction,” roadside bombs, religious tensions, and suicide bombers wreaking havoc on cities mean nothing to him. He won’t shed a tear for the mothers and fathers not going home to their children, or the children being buried by their loved ones. He just wants his next meal.

Panting, and without filling his stomach at the palace where people once gorged themselves on luxurious feasts, he darts into the darkness.”

–Michael James

Community Connection

There have to be more great animal stories out there–tell yours in the comments.

Got great ideas for future “get your pen moving” prompts? Share them in the comments!

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