Part II, Subadult Years

Chapter 8, The Baboons: Saul in the Wilderness

Sapolsky updates the intricacies of the baboon’s social relations, particularly noting the rare friendship formed between baboons, Rachel and Isaac. Isaac is an interesting character, as he is particularly indifferent to hierarchy and engages in sex with young females during their first estrus cycles instead of fighting over the ones who are more likely to conceive. Sapolsky, of course, tells about his favorite baboon, Benjamin, who keeps the baboons up all night by calling out after a bad dream so as to confirm they’re all still there. Saul, from a neighboring troop, enters the pack by making eyes, and then love, with Boopsie. Saul remained isolated, an incredibly strange behavior, until he overthrows Uriah as alpha. Saul exhibits an intense rage, but only when provoked.

Chapter 9, Samwelly versus the Elephants

Samwelly was the brother of Richard, one of Sapolsky’s research assistants. He had a knack for building things, so that’s what he did. He built an elaborate house with multiple rooms, a door, benches, a hearth, and even made it waterproof with mackerel cans. One day, Samwelly dams an entire river, and he loses his mind when Sapolsky explains it must go. His lunacy is salvaged once a herd of elephants come and eat his house every night, so he had work to fix during the day.

Chapter 10, The First Masai

“The Masai people actually do live almost entirely on cow’s blood and milk, just like the legends have it.”

One day, Rob joins the Masai as they drain the blood of a goat and sacrifice it. They get to talking about his research and America, and Rob gives a brief introduction to human evolution. The Masai ask questions about human ancestors and if they were Masai. Soirowa says,

“People are always learning new things. Maybe, once, a long long time ago, these were the first Masia, and they did not even know how to be people yet.”

And everyone is satisfied with his answer.

Chapter 11, Zoology and National Security: A Shaggy Hyena Story

Laurence of the Hyenas, a fellow field biologist, grew up in the California deserts. His passion for hyenas gives them some limelight they truly deserve for their hunting efficiency. They work in packs and take down beasts 10 times their size with one of the highest percentage of successful hunts for a big carnivore. And lions have the worst.

Sapolsky also includes a conference in which a colonel inquired field biologists to help them develop a predatory strategy for their new tank. Laurence and Sapolsky take the government’s money and free food without giving them enough information to really be useful.

Chapter 12, The Coup

Sapolsky shares a story of the time he arrives in Nairobi during the beginning of a coup. He takes shelter from zooming bullets on the streets in Mrs. R’s boarding house for a few days until he makes his way to Nairobi National Park. At the last checkpoint to enter, soldiers motion for Sapolsky to pull over and put a knife to his throat until they take his watch and let him be. He says,

“Never since that time has it occurred to me that I can talk my way out of anything.”

Chapter 13, Hearing Voices at the Wrong Time

Rhoda and some women from the village ask Rob to drive a mad woman to the government clinic. First impressions are huge and this is Sapolsky’s,

“She was covered with goat shit, goat blood, goat innards, the bulk of which was smeared down her mouth… she seemed intent on strangling me.”

Upon arrival at the clinic, the employees refused to take the batshit crazy lady in unless Rhoda and the crew physically got her back in the room themselves. Sapolsky asks Rhoda what makes the lady crazy, and she says two things, she killed the goat and only men do that and

“She hears voices at the wrong time.”

This experience gave Sapolsky a harsh reality of how schizophrenics are handled in other cultures, and the woman died shortly after being locked up, which was passively dismissed by Rhoda.

Chapter 14, Sudan

On his first day in Sudan, Sapolsky couldn’t find a toilet for shit – pun intended. The people at the hamlet he was staying at said there are no latrines there, so Sapolsky shits in the middle of the street under a flashlight as the guy gathers all the people of the hamlet to watch. Rob catches a ride on a barge loaded with people, animals, crates, and barrels to make an 800 mile journey. It took 10 days to make it to southern Sudan’s capital, Juba, and all ten of those days passengers shit on the barge. In Juba, for the first time in Africa, Sapolsky felt very out of place. He didn’t stay long and ventures to a village on the top of a mountain to the bush. One night, Rob learns why everyone has fires at night. He’s attacked by fire ants, and if it’s any indication of how wretched that experience was, he leaves the next day. He joins some crazy Somalians on a lorry, but finds solace in a guy named Baker who finishes his journey with him to Torit.