The day Tonde lost eye in catapult ‘battle’

23 Oct, 2021 - 00:10 0 Views
The day Tonde lost  eye in catapult ‘battle’ Each boy had a catapult. It was a must. The catapult either dangled around the neck or was in the hands

The Herald

Isdore Guvamombe – Saturday Lounge Reflections

Women and teenage girls criss-crossed a network of village paths — to Dande river, to the bush or to the well and little everywhere else — obviously for different chores, while young girls opened coops for the chickens to freely roam about everywhere.

Village chickens are known to celebrate their daily release with darting runs, chortles, sniggers and titters. Crackling, giggling and chuckling!

Immediately the chickens started picking up worms, grasshoppers, ants and crickets and little everything else.

Smoke filtered through the dark grey thatches of kitchens, immediately disappearing into the skies. The village was alive!

An atypical fragrance of dry soil wafted in circles as beetles and ants came out in full force, probably to find new footing.

Soon the heat caught up with the village and the ground seemed to be melting from the heat, sending up a shimmering mirage that obscured the eye.

Back in the village, in the proverbial land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, October is a terrible moon.

The heat is unforgiving and generation-after-generation has known that all chores are done early in the morning while it is still cool.

From mid-morning to late afternoon is the time villagers hid from the wrath of the sun; hid under the eaves of kitchen roofs, under trees and little everywhere else where it was cooler.

Even livestock spent most of the time in the shed of huge trees and later trooped to Dande River for drinking water.

As small boys, we did many things, most of them bordered on mischief. We moved in a group. It was a mixed bag. Most of our clothes were tattered but we never minded. We had no shoes, too. It was not an issue for, some of the feet were too strong for ordinary thorns. Instead of injuring the person, the thorn would get broken.

Each boy had a catapult. It was a must. The catapult either dangled around the neck or was in the hands.

Stones — the bullets for the catapults — were selected carefully from those small smooth ones on the riverbed, polished smooth by years of being run over by water.

Normally, each boy had two pockets full of the stones. Ordinarily each boy would be extremely worried if his pocket was torn and porous.

A pair of shorts torn in the back exposed ashen buttocks. If a pocket got torn, a rubber band or a tree bark fibre was used to secure the end. The stones were a must.

This day we decided to go Mutemwa. Mutemwa was a huge pool on Dande River and was geographically at the border of our village and the next village.

There, women from the next village bathed and fetched water mostly early morning or late afternoon.

We took the route of the riverine vegetation, avoiding places we knew were designated for women to bath. We avoided not because we did not want to see women’s bodies but because we feared we would see our own mothers and sisters’ bodies. That was a village taboo that would bring untold abomination to our village.

We were too young to date women but we were beginning to be aware of their existence in men’s lives. We were imminently and imminently growing into men.

We took the longer route to Mutemwa, following the river as it snaked twisted and turned. We hunted for birds and hares. We caught no hares, but shot and killed a few birds.

As we approached Mutemwa pool, there was a noise and we were sure there were boys from the next village swimming. Soon we arrived at the pool. Women fetched water. There was not borehole in their village. The only well had dried up. The pool was their only source of water left. There were more than 10 women there, either washing clothes or fetching water.

The group of boys from their village was using the downstream side of the pool to swim. They made a lot of noise and enjoyed their swimming until they spotted us.

The women continued with their chores, making no case of our arrival.

Soon, Tonde, who was a known bully in his village and beyond, left the pool to confront us.

Tonde was muscular and too ugly for his age. He had wrinkles on the cheek that competed with another cross-line on the forehead. He had a permanent frown that combined with a charcoal dark complexion and white glob eyes.

What made him look worse was a combination of thick dark lips and a nose that sat precariously on his face like a bull frog. He was a monster with huge palms.

Soon he told us to back off and other boys joined him. Soon he started slapping us one-by-one. We withdrew amid the clapping, kneeing, shoving.

After running off a bit, we licked our wounds, regrouped and went for broke.

We decided to use our catapults. So there we were taking positions in cow horn formation under the cover of the riverine vegetation. We got very close. Virimai, who had taken charge as the commander of the war allocated us a man each to shoot. But before we started, we were noticed by some woman, who apparently had been relieving herself on the riverbank. She took off in great speed, screaming and shouting.

We were sold out and we took to our heels but Tonde and his team pursued. We went up a ridge, down another one and crossed the river and they kept on coming. When they were closing in, this villager hid by a huge stone.

From that vintage point, I saw Tonde falling to the ground, rolling and writhing is agony. He held his eye and cried loudly. His boys stopped the chase and gathered around him. After a moment they retreated and Tonde still held his eye.

We are so scattered that we went home one-by-one. No one knowing which angle the other is coming from. Until today, Tonde has one eye.

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