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He Shoots, He Scores

I learned how to dart baboons in a dormitory room in Manhattan. It was on my first break back in the States after I had joined the troop. I practiced relentlessly in my room. Angled shots, pointing down, pointing up, fast spinning shots, over the shoulder, in the wind (with the fan turned on). Allan, a stolid graduate school friend with a low center of gravity who had been a standout lineman on his Fredonia, Kansas, high school football squad, consented for me to practice wrestling him as if he were a darted baboon.

Time went by and I improved. I could have darted a baboon anywhere in my room, in or out of Groucho Marx’s pajamas. Two fantasies dominated my darting then. I wanted to dart Fritz Lipmann. Lipmann was an incredibly famous biochemist, got the Nobel Prize decades ago, and now was an august octogenarian who would spend his day shuffling around the campus in his running shoes, endlessly passing my first-floor dorm window. I would get him in my blowgun sights from behind my biochemistry textbooks (which were half about him), choose between his rear end and shoulders, try to calculate his body weight for a proper dosage. I refrained from darting, however. The other fantasy was to sneak into Central Park and dart some random people. While they were down, I would quickly Magic Marker some Mayan hieroglyphic on their bellies and leave them to wake up soon thereafter underneath the Alice in Wonderland statue. I figured three such cases and the newspapers would be screaming, TV pundits would lecture on Mayan rituals of sacrifice, Jimmy Breslin would beg for me to give myself up, frenzied angry crowds would form around police stations in which jobless PhD archaeologists would try to come up with feeble alibis about how they weren’t the Mayan Darter.

The months passed and it was time to return to the field.


From A Primate’s Memoir by Robert M. Sapolsky. © 2001 by Robert M. Sapolsky. Reprinted by arrangement with The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York.

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