Palo de la flecha, too, is used as poisoning material, and seems to be even more powerful than the two plants mentioned. There is a milky juice under the bark of this tree which, when it comes in contact with the human skin, makes it smart like a burn. The water is poisoned by cutting the bark from the trunk and boughs directly into the water, the people taking care to stand to the windward. One man who neglected this precaution got some juice in his eyes and was blinded for three days, though an application of salt water finally cured him.
Although a single man may poison fish in a small way even in winter, he is hardly likely to do so except in summer-time, when provisions are low. The Indians dislike going into cold water; besides, they say that the cold impairs the effect of the poison.
In summer-time the Indians may also improvise a net with the help of their blankets, and drag the river at suitable places. Farther down on the Rio Fuerte, I once saw them make a large and serviceable net by fastening sixteen blankets together lengthwise with a double row of wooden pins. Along the upper edge of this net they made a hem three inches deep, and through this they passed vines securely joined together by means of the fibres of the maguey to do duty as ropes. The opposite edge of the net had a hem four inches deep and this was filled with sand to sink it as it was dragged in. The boys and girls were told to go ahead and splash all they could in the water to prevent the fish in the net from swimming out, and it was funny to see them dive heels over head into the water over and over like porpoises, the girls as well as the boys, with their skirts on. The fishermen advanced slowly, as the net was heavy. When it was brought in toward the shore, the women, even those with babies on their backs, helped to drag it. As the two ends of the net reached the bank, the big fish were picked out and thrown landward, while the remainder were brought up with a dip-net made of three blankets. Eighty good-sized suckers were secured, besides a large quantity of “small-fry.”
Resumption of the Journey Southward—Pinus Lumholtzii—Cooking with Snow—Terror-stricken Indians—A Gentlemanly Highwayman and His “Shooting-box”—The Pernicious Effect of Civilisation Upon the Tarahumares—A Fine Specimen of the Tribe—The Last of the Tarahumares.
From this trip I returned to San Carlos, mainly over the highlands south of the barranca, and shortly afterward was able to continue my journey toward the southwest. The cordons here, generally speaking, have a southerly direction, running parallel to each other.
Reaching at one place an elevation of 8,800 feet, I had a fine view of the entire central part of the Tarahumare country, seeing as far as Cerro Grande, at the northern end of the llano of Guachochic, in which direction the country, as a matter of course, looked quite flat. Nearest to us were wild-looking arroyos and cordons, covered in the lower portions with oak-trees, and higher up with pines. We were in the midst of vast pine forests, and even the country north of us looked like one uninterrupted forest of pines.