Forget about the wonderful art in this photo and let me ask if you’ve ever had to literally run for your life? Well I have and it was from the guy in the center who was legitimately homicidal and a known killer. He had already killed all the dogs and pigs in the village, and everyone knew a man would be next…just about the time I walked into the area to field collect.
I had passed through his village a few days earlier without incident. Yet the night before I was to pass through again you could hear him yelling in rage from miles away. That morning I enlisted the help of several men armed with spears and bush knives to accompany me. As we neared the man’s house and his yelling intensified, I stopped my men and reiterated the plan to keep me safe. Everyone nodded in understanding. We saw him sitting on a stone with a dented metal bowl worn as a helmet, the stew running down his face. As he jumped to his feet all my armed protectors vanished into the forest.
With the man growling in my face I could see the entire village had taken to the hills above, silently watching. Luckily the man’s sister had stayed and was trying to lure him into his house--telling him he needed to get dressed. As he went inside the sister motioned me to run—which I did, downhill. Running as fast as I could my momentum took me faster than my legs could manage until I tumbled into the bushes with the man storming behind. Curiously, he did not attack, just huffed and puffed inches from my face.
Thinking quick, I asked the sister if the man could help carry a carving down to the mission station in Angugunak. This way his hands would be occupied and he would be in front as we wound our way down the steep switchbacks. Once safely at the mission I locked myself in the guesthouse and the man exploded in rage. He was eventually chased away by a nurse holding a hypodermic needle—something he feared more than the police shotguns. When I asked the locals why didn’t they just arrest the guy if he was so dangerous? They said, “oh, no, that would only make him really mad.”