Tales from Otoni: Saving Lives by Bicycle

It is worth reading another tale of our friend and dinosaur guide of the sampa bikers, the otoni.

On hot summer afternoons the Olympia sun lay down later so that even when the Baron’s chart was closed, there was still a day’s chore that could be taken advantage of.

My Merck Suisse bike was a sky-blue color, the color of the infinite horizon that we were searching for on our pedals, and with it I was unceremoniously descending down Rua Jorge Tibiriçá with Paquito, my dog, on the go. I would pass by Sapataria Vieira where I would join Adilson and we would go to Cachoerinha to swim in their backwaters.

It was about 8 kilometers of land, “cow ribs”, sand and pebbles that we trampled madly, competing with the sly sun that threatened to hide by the bands of Guapiaçu.

One reached the Cachoeirinha by an old wooden bridge that also served as platform to jump in a well of the river that formed 5 or 6 meters below. Bicycles and clothes dropped on the ground, we fell from the bridge enjoying the emptiness and in the sequence the thud in the waters, there deep by 4 or 5 meters. Paquito, a dog born with a vocation for aqualouco, fell behind the owner.

On one of those summer afternoons when we reached the river, we heard a fussing and strange noise. Anguished cries, cry for help! From the top of the bridge, still pedaling, we saw the scenery at the edge of the well and understood the plot. One family, men, women and children screamed in despair for one of them who had just drowned.

No time to undress as one life slipped, we jumped off the bridge and for a long time we plunged into the edge of our breath trying to find someone in the cold, muddy, murky depths of the river. After a long time in this fight, exhausted and without more forces we stop the search and accept the consummate fact of the death of the drowned. We signed the certificate. Paquito came out, shaking his leather, sprinkling water and crawling on the grass, happy.

At the time, I was also a canoe operator and had been propelled down below, about eight hundred meters, my canoe plus my partner Pavesi, we built with the rough wood of the monkfish. I went to get her to support the search while Vieira tried to show solidarity with the pain, suffering and despair of the drowned family, so close, so far, so lonely.

I climbed the river, raking my canoe back to the well, nightfall, when I noticed car headlights crossing the bridge and reaching the river. The news had already arrived in the city, and from there came those police cars carrying the delegate, relatives and friends of the drowned, some curious perhaps, with the bike light may more for sure, bicyclebazzar.

The scene was erased and the drowned background was illuminating with the cars of lighted headlights lined up at the edge of the well, allowing Vieira and I to re-enter the scene. We positioned the canoe, and while the gentle stream moved it downstream, we scanned the ship for the wrecked body. When one perceived some obstacle, one or other taking turns, it immersed following the stick until the tip to identify the twist. We repeated the sweep for a few hours until, on Vieira’s time, he came back bringing the body of the drowned man, pale, purple, slippery, and tossed through the hair.

The presence of death made that hot summer evening very cold. We received hugs, thanks, including from the police. The deputy asked us for permission to write down our names and address, because he would come to us if he needed volunteer firefighters.That warmed us up a bit. At the time, the nearest Fire Department garrison was in São José do Rio Preto, about 50 kilometers along dirt, dust or mud roads.

We appreciate the rides offered but we prefer to go back pedaling for the night and its mysteries. I had so much to talk about with my bike, companion of so many adventures. It was not over yet.

While we, now “firemen” did our service, the news that someone had drowned in Cachoeirinha was spreading through the city. He also came to my house before me.Luckily, a little earlier, but long enough to leave my worried ones, my mother panicking. My father had already taken the car loaned from Uncle Salvador, who joined the group and returned to fetch my mother who would go after her son, alive or dead. They abort the search, for we meet at the door of the house. I arrived pedaling, sad for the drowned, happy to help, happy for the appointment made by the Delegate, and already thinking, negotiating and persuading the skinny to paint it red.