5 The Lower Reaches of the Lefu
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38 The Lower Reaches of the Lefu A Sea of Grass. Autumn Bird Migration. Dersu’s Shot. The Village of Khalkidon. Living Water and Living Fire. The Marsh’s Feathered Residents. The Earth’s Shadow. Feeling Poorly in the Morning. A Change in the Weather. The next morning I decided that Olentyev and one of the riflemen, named Marchenko, would go with me, and I would send the others to the village of Chernigovka with orders to wait there for our return. With the help of a village elder in Lyalichi we quickly found a punt that was in quite decent condition, and we exchanged twelve rubles and two bottles of vodka for it.1 We spent the remainder of the day outfitting our boat. Dersu fashioned a paddle, used stakes to create oarlocks, put in seats, andskinnedsomepoles.Iadmired thespeedand quality ofhiswork.He never fussed about; everything he did was well thought out, consistent, andcompletedinatimelyfashion.Itwasevidentthatlifehadtaughthim to be energetic and effective, and to not needlessly waste time. In one of the huts we happened upon some sukhari—and frankly that was all we 1. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat, usually propelled by a pole. In 1906, Russian currency was pegged to the gold standard, where one ruble equaled 0.774 grams of gold, and one gram of gold was worth $0.73. Adjusting for inflation, one ruble in 1906 equated to $13.50 in purchasing power in 2012 (Officer and Williamson 2014). Therefore, Arsenyev paid $178.00 (and two bottles of vodka) for this boat. 5 The Lower Reaches of the Lefu 39 needed.2 Everything else—tea, sugar, salt, grains, and canned goods— we still had in good supply. That same evening, on the Gold’s advice, we transferred everything to the boat and spent the night on the riverbank. It was windy and cold that night. We couldn’t really get the fire roaring due to an insufficient firewood supply, and as a result everyone suffered from the cold and got little sleep. No matter which way I wrapped myself in my coat the cold wind found a way in—first at my shoulder, then my side, and then my back. The firewood we had was of poor quality; it crackled and sent sparks every which way. Dersu’s blanket ended up with a burn hole. As I dozed I could hear him scolding the log, calling it “bad people.” “He always burn that way . . . yells all the time.” He said, mimicking the sounds of the crackling wood. “Must chase him away.” AfterthatIheardthesplashandhissofwhatwasobviouslytheburning log being thrown into the river by the old man. I managed to stay warm enough to fall asleep. Later that night I woke to see Dersu sitting at the fire, where he was adjusting the flame as the wind was blowing it in all directions. I noticed that the Gold had covered me with his own blanket—this was how I had managed to stay warm. I also saw that the riflemen were huddled asleep under Dersu’s tarpaulin. I suggested to Dersu that we switch places, but he declined. “No need, captain.” He said. “You sleep; my will watch fire. His is terribly naughty,” and pointed to the firewood. The more I scrutinized this man the more I liked him. I discovered new qualities in him every day. I used to think that wild people such as he were selfish, and only Europeans possessed qualities such as compassion , philanthropy, and empathy for others. Had I been mistaken? I fell asleep thinking about this, and slept until morning. Dersuwokeusonceitwascompletelylightout.Hehadmadeteaand warmed up some meat. After breakfast I sent the team to Chernigovka with the horses, and the rest of us slid the boat into the water and we set off on our way. 2. Sukhari are cut and specially dried bread, a staple on Russian expeditions even today due to their long shelf life. Similar to an unsalted crouton. 40 The 1902 Expedition We floated with the current quite effectively and used the poles to push ourselves along. After about 5 kilometers we reached a railroad bridge and stopped there for a break. Dersu told us that as a boy, he used to go this place with his father to hunt roe deer. He had heard about the railroad from the Chinese, but had not yet seen it himself. After a short rest we continued on. The mountains disappeared entirely after the railroad bridge, so I got out of the boat and...



Subject Headings

  • Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
  • Dersu Uzala.
  • Arsenʹev, V. K. (Vladimir Klavdievich), 1872-1930 -- Travel -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
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