Pink Boots and A Machete

The Book of the Week is “Pink Boots and A Machete, My Journey From NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer” by Mireya Mayor, published in 2011.

Mayor was born in February 1973 in Miami. While in her early twenties, she discovered her calling– primatologist / zoologist. An inspirational college professor helped her apply for a government grant to study a monkey in Guyana.

Thereafter, she braved infinite life-threatening dangers and primitive and uncomfortable conditions (like poor sanitation, and an extremely limited and at times– disgusting diet, and unbearable heat, to name three) on dozens of expeditions for weeks or months in obscure places to observe various animals in their natural habitats.

In the Congo, there were killer bees. In the jungle in Guyana, there were itinerant miners who were robbers and rapists; piranhas, malarial mosquitoes, tarantulas, vampire bats, ticks, leeches, etc. The author had to sleep in a hammock to avoid poisonous snakes on the ground.

In June 1997 in Madagascar, “Every visit to a village required a rum-soaked meeting with tribal elders that lasted through the night, occasionally for days.” While seeking a specific species of lemur in an animal reserve (that was not exactly a tourist attraction), she was bitten by a small scorpion and swarmed by wasps. Hundreds of cockroaches nestled in her pants legs overnight, shocking her when she went to put them on.

On another occasion in Guyana, she and her crew collected flora and fauna specimens from a mountain on which they camped (on the edge of a cliff, basically) in a “… flimsy sheet of nylon attached to the rock face by a single, six-inch steel pin.”

In Namibia, she was one of eight people who lifted the six-foot, six hundred pound neck of a tranquilized giraffe. The whole animal weighed approximately eighteen hundred pounds. The goal was to herd giraffes into a trailer to help them mate and reproduce.

On another occasion in Madagascar, when a mudslide from a monsoon prevented their hired truck from going any farther, she, another scientist and expensive porters (strong men) had to hike hours and hours with heavy gear, dozens of bags, crates and a generator to a campsite.

Mayor related that on another occasion in the Congo, “I woke up in an unusually good mood, considering it was 5am and I still had the worm [in the foot], the filarial bites, and the infected tick bite… Repeated hot soaks and antibiotic treatments finally banished it [the tick bite].”

Read the book to learn of the new species Mayor co-discovered, how she fared on a reality show, the kinds of issues she dealt with for being female in a male-dominated field, and much more.

Four Wars of 1812 – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Four Wars of 1812” by D. Peter MacLeod, published in 2012. This was a multi-faceted, brief account of conflicts among the U.S., Britain, Canada and Native Americans between 1812 and 1815, that simultaneously showcased the art of that era.

Britain was interfering with America’s commercial and military shipping– including embargoing the country’s eastern seaboard and Shanghaiing sailors for the Royal Navy– and interfering with America’s imperialistic activities against Native Americans in its western states. America’s anger reached a boiling point in June 1812, when it declared war. True to their stereotype, the Canadians didn’t really hate anyone, but the closest place the Americans’ enemy (Britain) happened to be, was in Canada.

Late summer 1812 saw the then-United States invade Canada, the Great Lakes, Quebec and later, Halifax to fight the British, who retreated from Lake Erie.

Britain’s goal was to defend Canada without hindering its ability to fight France. Having the same enemy (the U.S.), Britain and the Native Americans helped each other capture Detroit in 1812.

The author neglected to mention the number of military and civilian deaths caused by the wars. The artwork mostly avoided gruesome battle scenes, but portrayed or consisted of: weaponry, ships, people, and patriotic artifacts such as commemorative coins.

In October 1814, a poem penned by Francis Scott Key was set to music. It became the Star-Spangled Banner.

Read the book to learn more details of which battles occurred when, and how the fighting was stopped.