Day 23, November daily post challenge:
I like monkeys and monkey stories, don’t you? Gary of Gary’s Holler Notes wrote a story last week about one that bring these thoughts to mind. It’s about Abner, a monkey who is either a legend or a myth of the western North Carolina Smoky Mountains, depending on which storyteller you hear the story from.
In 1980, during my first trip to India, when I was admiring all the cute little monkeys and monkey families that were just everywhere, a nephew then living in Manipal gave me an altogether different view of monkey cuteness. It seems that a particularly ornery monkey in his village used to steal freshly washed clothing the women spread along the fence and on the shrubs to dry. They would put their heads through the sleeve of a blouse and swing away through the trees when the owner sought to take it back.
Yes, of course it made a wonderful mental picture, but I doubt the woman who had to replace a blouse that went with a special sari was amused at all. Not to mention that a cornered monkey can become quite vicious when he’s pinned down or challenged. So there are lots of problems when people try to make a pet of a monkey just to satisfy some fanciful whim.
I don’t believe in keeping exotic pets in unnatural environments, even though I do understand their allure. There’s something so appealing about baby monkeys especially. They’re intelligent and sweet looking; they remind me of human babies who will never grow up to be a human teenager. They do, however, grow up, and that’s when they either escape or are frequently abandoned.
A quick google research into the number of simians living in captivity in private homes in this country came to 15,000–even though in 1975 it became illegal to import monkeys to be kept as pets into the United States. Humans will always find a way around whatever laws may keep them from having anything they want. To wit, that 1975 law led to a thriving pet trade involving breeding and selling primates in this country from stock that descended from animals brought in before 1975.
It’s easy to understand then, why and how monkeys come to be living–loose and with their lives in peril–just about anywhere humans are gathered and live. It’s how little mischievous monkey stories come to be. And forgive me, I still like them, especially this one about Abner. He seems to have had a reasonably satisfying existence through the human that rescued him. No doubt the two gave each other a degree of what humans often aren’t very good at–companionship.
I love the description of Abner harassing the local hunters’ dogs, how he’d swing Tarzan style through the trees and plop down on the dogs’ backs and ride-em-cowboy until the dog would collapse of fatigue. Then he’d choose another dog and do the same thing all over again. In a way, it seems to me that in that way he was able to extract some revenge of a sort on the hunters who probably hunted him down and sold him into captivity to be mistreated.
Guess we’ll never know for sure if he met his demise at the hands of the hunters who were understandably piqued at the disruption of the hunt–thereby becoming a legend–or if he was only a myth in the first place. Being from the storytelling culture of the South myself, I know the propensity for a good storyteller to get carried away and not being bound by the truth if a lie makes a better story. If you’d like to read Abner’s story and decide for yourself if he’s a legend or myth, click here and read the whole story as Gary wrote it. (If you do, be sure to take a couple of extra minutes and read all the comments too. More good stories are buried in there.)