Ruth Harkness: The Lady And The Panda
My husband, Bill and I were opposites, but we fit perfectly. I had been with Bill for ten years and could not believe the love of my life was gone. When my husband bill died I received a relatively small inheritance. I received about $20,000, which was not an unpleasant amount in 1936, but wouldn’t last more than a year for a fifth avenue address. This was the last thing that I would spend time dwelling on. My husband decided to go on the expedition with four men with dreams of capturing the giant panda. Though they deserted him long before he passed. I decided that I wouldn’t leave Bill’s mission incomplete- I would pick it up and carry it to victory. In my lifetime several large animals had just been described for the first time. These animals included the mountain gorilla and the velvet-coated cousin to the giraffe the okapi. The Roosevelts were successful in shooting a giant panda on April 13, 1929. Killing a panda brought glory, but capturing one alive would be a historic achievement. On Friday, April 17, 1936 I boarded the Dollar liner American Trader. When I arrived in Hong Kong I truly felt at home. Though, the approach to shanghai was dirty and ugly. The summer in Shanghai was 100 degrees. I began to pick up the language known as pidgin English, a trading tongue that mixed English, Chinese, Indian, and Portuguese and followed the pronunciation idiom and grammar of Chinese. Smith was my husbands partner on the expedition, but I could see he wasn’t up to the task. Besides, teaming with Smith, another large mistake my husband made was getting tangled in the legendary Chinese bureaucracy, which left Bill in Shanghai for months. I soon flew from Beijing to Nanking, but it got cut short due to illness. I had an awful case of bronchitis developing and nearly lost my hearing during the high altitude plane ride. Soon I met the young brothers. They were also interested in catching the giant panda. Shortly, a plan was set in...
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