Meet Tom–well, don’t wake him–he’s had a hard day flying babies to Children’s Hospital, flood victims off rooftops, and pileup victims over traffic-congested roads. Sometimes there’s just not enough caffeine in the whole world, right?
“What took you so long?”
“That last kid was HEAVY, Chief!”
I was gonna enter this in “Earth” but realized that my ‘face away’ ‘ordinary workaday’ heroes belong in something else much more. At some point I’ll finish ‘water’ and make it happen.
. . . and now, for a bit of history.
THE ACCIDENTAL HERBALIST by Herr D
Various unverified sources describe an unnamed conquistador that apparently didn’t slaughter Native Americans or necessarily do them any major harm at all. He also may have enabled several million modern lives to be saved and helped invent a dessert.
Ponce De Leon was looking for the Fountain Of Youth for his monarch. Out in the Everglades, the local Native Americans told his men, very helpfully, not to eat a certain plant. “Don’t eat that—you’ll die,” they told them. One of the men got lost. Well, he was a sailor and a soldier, not a forester or a hunter. He couldn’t find enough animals to eat that he could actually GET. He saw a lot of the poisonous plant and tried other ones. All of them seemed to make him horribly sick. He thought about his options.
He was alone and would probably die alone in the longest, most awful ways imaginable. Starvation takes about a month of racking abdominal pain, headaches, and other horrible symptoms. Or—he made himself a big hot meal of the poisonous root and ate it.
I’m sure anyone can imagine what he thought next. “I didn’t die? I DIDN’T DIE!”
No one had ever thought of cooking a poisonous plant before. No one had ever considered that cooking a poison might make it safe to eat.
So he did it again . . .
He staggered out of the jungle a couple of months later to find people again and tell his story. He was very sick but very alive. That was the invention of tapioca. Why was he so sick so much? Many of the thirty varieties of ipecac also grow in the Everglades. Understanding the way ipecac causes one to vomit up a poison before it kills has been very important to the treatment of poison victims.
So yes, one conquistador saved millions of lives and invented a dessert eaten by millions by going off to bungle through the jungle while barfing his guts out. A questionable honor, but an honor nonetheless.