The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Friday, December 2, 2011

Feeding my Dreams

I had a very close and special relationship with my grandfather João Alfredo Tardelli, Vô Tô, and although he is gone for over ten years I still feel him close to me.
Although I was raised in the farm and Vô Tô was a most urban man (although he raised song birds in his back yard), he helped shaped my life and my love for nature and adventure.
The only hunting story that I know from Vô Tô was when he was a boy in Ribeirão Preto, now a big modern city, but back in the 1920’s a much more rural community. At that time all the boys of the same age built themselves muzzle loading “pistols”. Basically a wooden plank sawed or carved into a stock, a barrel with an end hammered down to form the breach, black powder from fireworks and a toy gun paper primer. The bullets would be anything that went down the barrel.
Vô Tô and a party of likely minded kids were “exploring” the outskirts of town when they located an inhanbu (Crypturellus tataupa), a ground dwelling bird from the Tinamou family. They surrounded their prey, cocked their pistols and fired on command like a firing squad. The white smoke from the firework powder completed clouded their views, and a couple seconds later the inhambu flew away not missing even a feather.
When he would visit us on the farm he would build me bows and arrows from a bush that we had in our garden that had very straight branches. I remember that once I used an umbrella casing as a quiver. The handle was very short and I could only slip it through one arm and the arrows hurt me badly.
On another occasion he made me a stone ax. It never really worked, but I was very proud of it.
There was also an endless amount of story telling and very important conversation, a lot of it centered on Tarzan and adventures in dark Africa. Along the same lines I inherited from Vô Tô the love for books and reading. There was the natural history and animals of the world collection, the 1960’s Tarzan comic books, the “Tesouro da Juventude” and “Trópico” encyclopedias, and the “Dicionário Práctico Illustrado” from where I first develop an appreciation for firearms.
On the Christmas of 1979 he gave me two Jules Verne books, “The Light House at the End of the World “and “School of Robinsons” and those opened a complete new universe for me. Adventure, guns, hunting, savages and pirates. Later I discovered “O Caçador”, a first Portuguese edition of John A. Hunter’s “Hunter”.
But the greatest things that he would make to me were Tarzan knives. He would carve the knives out of wooden planks reclaimed from fruit boxes. Many times they had different patterns that he first would draw on paper, then cut the profile and transfer it to the planks. He used an old folding knife that his grandfather brought to Brazil when he emigrated from Italy to carve the wood.
I don’t remember how my Tarzan knives Vô Tô made, especially because there were other grandchildren that would compete for them.
After Vô Tô passing in 2001 my mother collected all his knives and gave to me. The folding knives, including my great-great-grandfather one, came insight a soap boxes that belonged to my grandmother Flamínia, and the last known Tarzan knife came carefully wrapped in gift paper.
This treasure will be kept for many generations to come.


  1. Rodrigo, I congratulate you for having enjoyed the charms of nature, something that today's young people in Brasil don´t do.

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