Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
BACK in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, the day dawned with cold mist. Boys were supposed to be strong and herd cattle despite the weather: come rain, come thunder or come scorching heat. Granny had boiled dry maize grains and packed them in a 2kg sugar plastic container. The boiled grains had cracked open, courtesy of granny’s
experienced hands one could easily peel its skin. That was packed breakfast.
Under the mist, we untethered the goats and opened cattle for grazing. The cattle were knee deep in the mud and we had to enter the kraal to drive them out. Without shoes, (which were a Christmas time luxury) we thoughtlessly plunged into the cow dung goo, itself infested with white maggots. By the time we drove out all the cattle, we were dirty to knee level and we shook off the maggots as we drove the cattle to the pastures, far and wide.
We headed to a vast swathe of interlocking valleys, rivulets and rivers that provided the rich pastures. Cold dew helped clean our feet of the cow dung syrup and the maggots. Once in a while one stopped to remove menacing thorns, immediately running to catch up with the rest. Cattle hooves pounded the ground, raising thick dust that chocked our nostrils as we followed with our dogs on tow.
It would have been worse if the ground was not a bit wet. Soon the cattle spread and started grazing, grabbing at little everything else green as they started their breakfast after a long night in the kraal. From the way they grazed, it was a sumptuous green breakfast, watered by dew. The view on the ground would have been picturesque, if the low grassy hills had not been shrouded by translucent mist.
A he-goat made noisy courtship. We ignored it. He continued, subconsciously displaying his dangling bits. The bearded she-goat ignored him and ran into the centre of cattle. We had to keep both goats and cattle together to avoid losing them to jackals, hyenas and lions, even.
With axes and catapults dangling from the necks, and our dogs, we had enough weaponry. Suddenly the sun defiantly fought the clouds, thrashing them away with its angry rays. The rays licked the dew from the grass, leaving it lush green. In moments, the mist and the clouds had scampered for cover, probably in another planet.
Cattle initially grazed in a hurry but we drove them on so that we started afar ,then graze back towards home for the afternoon milking time. Grandfather was strict with time. We used the shadow of peg struck vertically into the ground to estimate time. It worked so well for us.
At midday, according to our watch, we drove back to the kraals for milking. Half way through, we did our usual trick. There is one cow that we so loved. It was called Manzuma. We always milked it in the bush and drank straight from its tits. It stood still as we took turns to milk it from tit to mouth. Thereafter, we proceeded. Grandpa never got to know about this. He would have flogged us silly.
After milking, we drove the cattle back to the pastures. In the afternoon heat, dogs started barking vigorously. We ran to them and found a huge python, slithering, stopping, slithering and stopping. It was taboo to kill the python, for Karitundundu, the ageless autochthon of wisdom and knowledge, would find out and break our necks. It was a sacred snake.
But boys being boys, we picked up stones and went after it. We stoned it but failed to kill it. It slithered into a hole and we decided to dig it out. While preoccupied with the python, the cattle disappeared.
We abandoned the python and ran after the cattle. Clueless, we first went for the spoor. It was scattered. We then hushed and listened for the bell. There was no sound. We divided ourselves and set in three directions. In an hour we had found almost all of them except four oxen. None of them had a bell. At sunset we went home without them and decided not to tell grandfather. We would wake up at the first cock crow to look for them. But we got home to find grandpa standing at the kraal working on the manure compost.
Soon we were in trouble but we ran away. Late in the evening he came for us in the kitchen with a sjambok.