Yeleswaram

Yeleswaram was Rev. Henry H. Moyer’s first mission station upon
his arrival in India in 1921.

At first, he was located at Siamilcot (sp?) for Telugu language
study with a Brahmin teacher, and from there directed the
construction of the missionary house at Yeleswaram in the middle
of the jungle of the eastern ghats, about 50 miles northwest of
Rajahmundry.

This house was a small, stone house similar to Pennsylvania Dutch
homes, and not all like the massive, sprawling, masonry
missionary homes located elsewhere.

As late as 19xx, tigers and monkeys roamed these jungles, and in
that year, the then current occupants of the house, the
Schmittenners through their son Sam, invited Peter Scopes, Dirk
Muyskens and Harrison Moyer to a tiger hunt.

I have no idea how Dirk and Peter travelled, but my dad had no
money for train fare, and so I rode my bicycle the 150 miles from
Narasaravupor to Gunter, Bhimavaram, Rajahmundry, and thence
to
Yeleswaram.

I do remember the most noteworthy part of this trip was that the
left pedal pads broke off somewhere wast of Gunter, and so I was
forced to complete the journey pedalling on the stump of the
pedal, all taken in stride when one is 15.

My dad loaned me his 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun, and later
it crossed my mind that I must have presented an interesting
sight to the natives, riding a broken bike, with luggage front
and back, and a long gun slung over my shoulder.

As always, I found the natives extremely friendly and gracious,
to the point of my being embarrassed.

One extremely hot afternoon, I arrived at a village in coconut
country, and asked one of the villagers if I could have a coconut
to drink.

Much to my chagrin, 3-4 boys immediately scrambled up to the
coconut palms and commenced throwing coconuts down until
about 20
lay on the ground.

Then they struck off the tops of many with machettes, proffered
them to me, many more than any one person could possibly drink.

Reaching into my pocket for change to reward them, I found I had
nothing smaller than one rupee, about four times the value of the
coconuts, so their generosity was ambly repaid.

One highlight of the trip was riding along the construction site
of a new dam across the Krishna River, noting the depth of the
valley being dammed, and impressed by the men and women
laborers
carrying dirt and rocks on their heads down into the depression,
swarming like so many ants.

Lodging was obtained from English plantation owners along the
way, oak bungalows, and the hospitality of missionaries. I
followed the India custom of accepting this hospitality, and
leaving a money gift on the dresser in my bedroom before leaving
in the morning.

Upon our arrival in Yeleswaram, we were escorted in style into
the jungle by servants, who nicely set up a big tent in a
clearing in the middle of nowhere.

From thence each morning we hopped on our bicycles, and rode
off
into the jungle. The first day we only saw a jungle fowl, about
100 yards away, which disappeared so soon we had no time to
attempt a shot.

The second day we came upon a picture perfect pond deep in the
woods, about a quarter mile in diameter, ringed by woods on two
sides and tall tiger grass on our side.

As it was late in the afternoon, we had the ideal hunting plan.
We would secret ourselves in the tiger grass along the bank, the
deer would come to drink, the tigers would be attracted to the
deer, and we would shoot the tigers.

All went well for about an hour when, shortly before sunset, Dirk
got restless and went for a walk.

Within moments he shouted for us to come and join him. There in
the mud at the water’s edge were fresh tiger tracks, with the
water slowly oozing back into the depressions.

These tracks were huge, about 16″ across.

We stared, with the realization that a giant tiger had been there
five minutes ago, and maybe was still in the area.

Gone was our 15 year old bravedo of hunting tigers. We hurried
to where we had left our bicycles, scrambled aboard, and rode
determinedly out of the jungle, all the while looking over our
shoulders expecting to see the tiger chasing us.

Actually, for the uninitiated, being in tiger country is not as
dangerous as one might suppose, apparently, mankind gives off an
odor which is obnoxious to most wild animals, and so they avoid
people as much as possible. Except if you are foolish enough to
corner them, they will only attack in self-defense, and generally
will flee.

Natives, to play safe, sing songs and beat drums to scare them
away, and carry torches at night.

The fabled man-eating tiger is really a tiger too old and slow
for hunting its usual fare, and overcoming its natural fear of
mankind out of desperate hunger, attacks its first man, or cow,
or goat, and then realizes how easy it is.

Once a man-eating tiger has killed its first victim, the mighty
hunters in the region converge on its location, and do not give
up the hunt until it has been destroyed.

My dad was a far better hunter than we, and when he first went to
Yeleswaram, he had a motorcycle to carry him to the villages in
the jungle.

He tells of two incidents, both at night. The first is pretty
straight-forward. He’s riding home, and a tiger decided to chase
him home. Period.

The other is more fun. He’s riding home, and comes upon a
traffic jam in the middle of the jungle. People, ox-carts are
all stopped, and he is informed that a tiger is blocking the
road.

Taking his trusty rifle in hand, he rode to the head of the
column, and sure enough, there in the distance illuminated by his
motorcycle headlight, are two shiny eyes staring at him.

Taking careful aim, he shot, the beast went down, and he and the
others gingerly approached. They found a very dead donkey, and
the upshot of it was that my dad had to compensate the owner.

Life moves on. Sam Schmitthenner married his junior high school
sweetheart Ruth from Basra, Iraq; returned to Yeleswaram as a
missionary following in the footsteps of his father, and raised
five kids there.

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