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Olama—The "Sanate "—Muy-niuy—Idleness of the people—Mountain road—The "bull rock"—The bull's-horn thorn—Ants kept as standing armies by some plants—Use of honey-secreting glands — Plant-lice, scale-insects, and leaf-hoppers furnish ants with honey, and in return are protected by the latter—Contest between wasps and ants—Waxy secretions of the homopterous hemiptera.
We rode up to the large hacienda at Olama, and were asked to alight by a man whom I at first took to be the proprietor, but afterwards discovered was a traveller like ourselves, buying cattle for the Leon market. The owner of the house and his sister were away at a little town three or four miles distant; and I was a little nervous about the reception we should have when they returned and found us making ourselves at home at their house; but Velasquez had no apprehensions on that score, as he knew that throughout the central departments of Nicaragua it was the custom for travellers to expect and to receive a welcome at any house they might arrive at at nightfall. Excepting in the towns, and on some of the main roads, there are no houses where travellers can stop and pay for a night's lodging; but every one expects to be called on to give a night's shelter. This is all that is given, as travellers carry with them their hammocks and food. About an hour after dark, the owner and his natives. They are about the size of a magpie, with much of the active movements of that bird. They are generally seen about cattle, sometimes picking the garrapatoes off them, but more often one on each side, watching for the grasshoppers and other insects, that are frightened up as the cattle feed. On this morning, there were several of them on the top of a shed. Every now and then one would ruffle out its feathers, open its wings a little, give a step or two forward towards another, stretch out its neck, open its bill, and then give rather a long squeak-like whistle. As soon as it had done this, it would hurriedly close its feathers and wings, and hold its head straight up, with its bill pointing to the sky. All its movements were grotesque; and its sudden change in appearance after delivering its cry was ludicrous. It appeared as if it was ashamed of what it had done, and was trying to look as if it had not done it—just as I have seen a schoolboy throw a snowball, and then stand rigidly looking another way. After a few moments, the " sanate" would lower its head, and, in a short time, go through the same performance again, repeating every movement exactly, as if it had been an automaton.
Bidding adieu to our host, we rode over grassy savannahs, with much cattle feeding on them, and in about five miles reached a small village called Muy-muy, which means in Spanish, very-very. I think it is a corruption of an old Indian word "Muyo," met with in other Indian names of towns, as, for instance, in Muyogalpa. After riding all round the plaza, which formed three-fourths of the town, we at last found a house where they consented to make us some tortillas, on condition that we would buy some native cheese also*
The land around was fertile, but the people too lazy to cultivate it. Many of the houses were dilapidated huts; and the place altogether had a most depressing. aspect of poverty and idleness, i asked one man what the people worked at. He said, "Nada, nada, senhor," that is, "Nothing, nothing, sir." Some of them possess cattle; and those that have none sometimes help those that have, and get enough to keep them alive. The principal subject of interest seemed to be the "cantos," who had come up the river, and given them guns and iron pots for their black dogs; but no one had the curiosity to ask what they wanted the dogs for. It was Sunday, and many of the country people from around had come into the village. All that had any money were at the estancia, drinking aguardiente. The men were dressed alike, with palm-tree hats, white calico jackets, and trowsers; the latter, often on one leg rolled up to the thigh, as is the fashion in this part of the world. Nearly all were barefooted.
Having breakfasted off tortillas and cheese, we continued our journey, and crossed two rivers running to the eastward; then ascended a high and rocky range, along the top of which the path lay. We took this mountainpath to avoid some very bad swamps that we were told we should encounter if we went by the main road. The mountain range was bare and bleak; but we had a fine view over the surrounding country. Opposite to us, on the other side of a wide valley, was a similar range to that along which we were travelling, the sides partly wooded and partly cleared for planting maize. We passed several Indian huts with grass-thatched roofs, and met a party of Indians travelling down the. mountain in single-file, each man carrying his bow and arrows. They were going down to Huaco to buy corn, the maize crop haying failed around Matagalpa the last season. The mountain road, though dry, was rocky, with steep ascents, and our mules got very tired. About five o'clock we descended from the hills into the valley of . Ocalca, near to which there had been some gold workings, now abandoned. Here we came in sight, for the first time, of the pine forests, a high range a few miles to the north being covered with them.
About dusk, we reached an Indian hut, and proposed staying there for the night. The owners were pure Indians; the women, engaged as usual in grinding maize, were naked to the waist. There was an old man and his son, and some children. The old Indian looked distressed at our proposal to take up our quarters there for the night, but he made no objection. The accommodation was very poor, there being no hammocks or bedsteads; and I think all the inmates must have slept above on some bamboos that were laid across the beams. Learning from the old man |Jiat there was a larger and better house a little further on, we relieved him of our company; and crossing a river, reached a cattle hacienda owned by a very stout native named Blandon, who made us welcome. The house was a large one; and there were a number of mozos and women-servants about. We asked if we could buy anything to eat; and Senor Blandon said he would get supper prepared, at which we were much pleased, as we had had nothing all day excepting a drink of coffee at daylight, and some tortillas and cheese at Muy-muy. After waiting a long time, we were invited to our supper; and on going into an inner