Read “PATERNO,” THE DISGRACED MASCOT of Bamboo Tales , free online book, by Ira L. Reeves, on

Ostracism in Monkey Society.

There is a certain analogy between the Chinaman’s pigtail and the prehensile appendage of that very astute little animal, the monkey, for the proud possessors of either of these grotesque physical adornments lose social caste the moment they are bereft of them. That there are reasons to believe that the tail of the monkey is his credentials to the polite society of his race the following incident will serve to substantiate:

One day in May, 1899, when one of our infantry regiments which had been ascending the Rio Grande, in the Island of Luzon, in pursuit of the wily and festive Filipino, had halted to rest, it was decided to have an exhibition of company mascots. Each company had a monkey an even dozen of them all told. There were “Pat” and “Mike,” who proudly wore strips of billiard-table cloth about their necks; and “Aguinaldo” and “Paterno,” named respectively for the leader and brains of the Tagalo insurrection. “Aguinaldo” wore with dignity a little tin sword by his side that one of the men of his company had made from a salmon can, while “Paterno” looked gay and world-wise in a ballet skirt ingeniously contrived by a company tailor from a bit of red mosquito-bar. The others all had names, most of them for some distinguished military commander to whom they were supposed to bear some facial resemblance.

The show was a decided success. Every contestant put aside his work-a-day tricks, and performed those only that were intended for gala days. “Aguinaldo” was a sure winner from the first, for he had learned to draw his sword, wave it dramatically over his head, cheer for a few seconds in monkey talk, then break and dash to the rear. “Paterno” was an easy candidate for second honors. He gave a giddy dance and looked coy.

But “pride goeth before a fall.” It was decided to let the mascots have a social gathering. They were brought into a ring formed by grinning soldiers. All went well for a moment or two. They grinned, caressed, and made merry. Just in the very heights of the ecstacies, a playful young monk, that had been exchanging “sheep’s eyes” with “Paterno,” in a fit of playfulness made a grab for the latter’s tail, but lo! there was none. The news spread like the incoming of “amigos” after the capture of a Filipino town. A damper fell upon the meeting. All scorned the maimed fellow with that frosty bearing that a reigning belle bestows upon a promising debutante, or the monkey family toward their tailless fellow-monks.

The disgraced animal begged and entreated for further notice, and a renewal of the general good time that had been so unceremoniously ended by the recent discovery, but his solicitations were in vain none condescended to again notice him.

With “Paterno,” patience at last ceased to be a virtue. Knowing that the playful young monk who had made the discovery caused his downfall, he looked for a moment at that guileless-appearing creature. The expression of his face rapidly changed from a look of entreaty to that of ferociousness. With a vicious bound, he pounced upon his enemy, clawing, tearing, and biting. The other members of this solemn gathering simply separated the belligerents, none daring to do harm to the socially ostracised fellow.

Finally, giving up the struggle, “Paterno” withdrew from the crowd. In the melee he had lost his skirt. He looked long and pitifully at his fellow-mascots who had so suddenly turned against him. Great teardrops gathered in his eyes and trickled down his hairy cheeks. Raising his head, he spied a bamboo thicket in the distance. With a wild yell, he sprang through the line of sympathetic soldiers and made for the jungle.

Company E had had their last sight of “Paterno,” their tailless monkey mascot.