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Published: December 23rd 2014
I'm enjoying a morning bicycle ride through Chi Phat and nearby villages, when off to the side I notice a great commotion in the fronds of a palm tree. A couple people are looking up, so something is happening.
A monkey, it's got to be a monkey, raiding the tree for coconuts! Then a big coconut flies through the air and thuds heavily as it bounces on the ground.
That's no monkey. That's a man. I see his toes way up there, prying more coconuts from their attachments, and then more coconut bombs fly.
Better stay clear, I think, but this is worthy of closer observation. There's no ladder up the trunk, no ropes, no big poles. He climbed that tree, like a monkey. All I can see clearly are his toes now, and flashes of blue as he weaves around the palm branches. A woman nearby is amused at my interest, but she's watching carefully as well.
Then suddenly he emerges from the greenery, and starts his descent, clinging to the ridges on the trunk with prehensile toes and sticky hands. He's down in a flash, brushing himself off. I'm breathless, what a show.
then his partner surveys an even taller tree nearby. He hops on the trunk like a spider and scrambles up, defying gravity, defying any limitations of human limbs and digits. Instead, they are his allies, and the soles of his feet and the palms of his hands are molded to cracks and ridges on the trunk. He hoists himself into the fronds. I hear branches crackle and then the first thud of a coconut bomb. I glimpse his toes and his legs, and sometimes his face. After relieving the tree of a cluster of nuts, he swings himself out of the branches and slides down the trunk.
He's on the ground now with his shirt off, shaking dust and insects off his striking, compact body. He's a small man, under five feet tall, but with muscles that would be the envy of any body builder.
He's done this countless times. I want to know this man's story, but at the moment, it's not possible. I know how to ask him if he's afraid, but I think of that question too late.
I show the two men their photos, but they do not seem interested. They are bagging
up the coconuts now, for market, perhaps? I try to ask if they are going to sell them, but everyone looks at me as if I'm speaking a foreign language. Which I am, of course.
What an amazing show that I just witnessed. But for the coconut bombers, it was just part of a morning's work.
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