Time - May 31, 1943

Last July, when the steaming heat lay stifling across northeast India, a perky, pint-sized, hickory-tough U.S. Army officer slung a sack of dollar watches over his shoulder and set out on foot through one of the world's wildest jungles. He was armed only with a stout Kentucky hunting knife. His escort was a file of stocky, semicivilized native bearers.

Last week his American friends finally learned what 47-year-old Captain James Arthur Kehoe, peacetime tobacco farmer, stove manufacturer and general trader of Maysville, Ky., had been up to. He had been surveying the jungle, dickering with the savage Naga headhunters of the region, and setting up a series of vital military outposts in the trackless country between the U.S. air bases in northern Assam and Jap advance lines in Burma.

Kehoe had volunteered for the job. A West Pointer of the class of 1918, he resigned from the Army soon after World War I, asked for active service again after Pearl Harbor. British officials, whose effective administration stops short at Nagaland, soberly advised against his mission; but after a thorough aerial reconnaissance of the saw-toothed, jungle-matted mountain ranges, Trader Kehoe jumped off with their qualified blessings.

Mostly by "Hookum." In the months that followed Kehoe hardened himself to do five miles a day in the incredibly difficult region. He fought off attacks of malaria and dysentery, made friends with the main Naga tribes. He hiked 500 miles before getting his first two outposts established; after that it was easier.

His standard method, when he located a prospective site, was to find the local chief and begin negotiations by dangling a dollar watch before the potentate's eyes, meanwhile exclaiming "American hookum!" In Naga talk, "hookum" means magic.

Once relations were established (and the chief had his watch), Kehoe could usually get several hundred workmen under a "dobashie," or native foreman, to clear the site and set up native huts. He paid them off in silver rupees. Some posts are several weeks' trek from Assam, and food and supplies are sent out by plane.

The Tiger's Tooth. Kehoe has become uneasily fond of the Nagas, but grins if anyone refers to their head-hunting as an old, forgotten custom. He has attended two head-hunting trials (involving the harvesting of 13 heads) in the border area where British law still reaches. Witnesses took oath by biting on a tiger's tooth (to prove they were stronger than tigers). The courts, baffled by native blandness, could do nothing but levy a general fine of 1,000 rupees each on the villages involved.

Some 200,000 Nagas live in an area of about 4,000 sq. mi. They live a communal existence, share food and work (although males usually retire at the age of eight and thereafter devote themselves to mastering and using the spear, crossbow and dah, a wicked knife). They are capable though casual farmers. Some raise pigs for trade, but for eating they prefer the dog, which is bred for the Naga table.

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