I wrote this years ago and neglected to post it.
Sunday morning I was walking down to catch the 7:15 bus to the city to give a lecture. Yata drove by and hailed me: “Yugan! I have something good to show you.” She pulled into the parking lot, hopped out of the car, opened the trunk, and drew back the rug in the trunk to reveal a beautiful, full size headhunting knife in a wooden scabbard with a woven carrying sash.
As heartily as I root for the aborigines, I do understand the government’s reticence in promoting Tayal religion and tradition, which are based squarely on headhunting, especially in recent days, with feelings running so high over Vice President Lu’s racist slurs. Technically, I suppose, the knife she was showing me is illegal, which is why she had it hidden under the rug. It is longer than my forearm, which is past legal length in
A tribesman further south lately has fired up his smithy and forged small scale knives of traditional shapes. I have obtained two, complete with wooden sheathes, and apparently, this encouraged him to go ahead and produce this full scale knife to see if I was interested. Yata was giving me the first chance to buy it. I picked it up to examine. Of course this is For Display Only, but I wanted to make sure it has a good heft. It has a good heavy back and is sharp enough to do what it was designed for.
As I was giving it a few swings, a busybody sightseeing lady came up behind me and stuck her nose in our conversation: “What have you got there? What are you going to do with that?”
Without turning around, I said, "We're getting ready to come out of the grass." Everybody in Taiwan knows that "出草 coming out of the grass" means to hunt heads. I gave the knife a few more swipes and put it back in the scabbard, to test the fit. Then I turned around to give the busybody sightseer an engaging smile, but you know what? She was nowhere to be seen.