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Across Unknown South America by Landor

Poisoning it badly and eventually causing unpleasant sores


I

tried to make up for time lost by marching at night--a most trying experience, as my men, unaccustomed to the work and frightened at every shadow, let the mules stray in all directions. I unfortunately had to hand over to my followers a few cartridges each, or else they would not come on. Every now and then that night they fired recklessly in the dark--much to the danger of beasts and men alike--thinking they had seen an Indian, or a leopard, or some other wild animal. I was glad when we arrived in camp and ascertained that no one had been wounded.

That night-march demoralized animals and men alike. Most of the animals strayed away during the night, as the grazing was bad where we halted. I was compelled to halt for two days in that miserable spot, simply devoured by flies and mosquitoes and _carrapatos_, in order to recover them.

If you do not know what a _carrapato_ is, let me tell you. It is an insect of the order of Diptera and the genus _Mosca pupiparas_, and is technically known as _Melophagus ovinus_. Its flattened, almost circular body varies in size from the head of an ordinary nail to the section of a good-sized pencil. Like the _carrapatinho_--its miniature reproduction--it possesses wonderful clinging powers, its legs with hook attachment actually entering under the skin. Its chief delight consists in inserting its head right under your cutaneous tissues, wherefrom it can suck your blood with convenient

ease. It is wonderfully adept at this, and while I was asleep, occasionally as many as eight or ten of these brutes were able to settle down comfortably to their work without my noticing them; and some--and it speaks highly for their ability--were even able to enter my skin (in covered parts of the body) in the day-time when I was fully awake, without my detecting them. I believe that previous to inserting the head they must inject some poison which deadens the sensitiveness of the skin. It is only after they have been at work some hours that a slight itching causes their detection. Then comes the difficulty of extracting them. If in a rash moment you seize the carrapato by the body and pull, its head becomes separated from its body and remains under your skin, poisoning it badly and eventually causing unpleasant sores. Having been taught the proper process of extraction, I, like all my men, carried on my person a large pin. When the carrapato was duly located--it is quite easy to see it, as the large body remains outside--the pin was duly pushed right through its body. The carrapato, thus surprised, at once let go with its clinging legs, which struggled pitifully in the air. Then with strong tobacco juice or liquefied carbolic soap, or iodine, you smeared all round the place where the head was still inserted. The unpleasantness of these various beverages immediately persuaded the brute to withdraw its head at once. You could then triumphantly wave the pin and struggling carrapato in the air. You were liberated from the unpleasant visitor. It was not uncommon while you were extracting one--the operation took some little time--for two or three others to find their way into your legs or body. I fortunately possess blood which does not easily get poisoned, and felt no ill effects from the hundreds of these brutes which fed on me during the entire journey; but many people suffer considerably. My men, for instance, had nasty-looking sores produced by the bites of the carrapato. The mules and horses were simply swarming with these insects, which gave them no end of trouble, especially as they selected the tenderest parts of the skin in various localities of the body to settle upon. Where an animal had a sore it would soon be swarming with carrapatos near its edge. It would then putrefy, and maggots in hundreds would be produced inside the wound almost within a few hours.


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