"... Growing up on a large farm of cows,
goats, sheep and lots of crops, offered a lot of work engagement
during school holiday time. Wild animals like zebras, antelopes,
and some times a few scary ones like hippos, lions and leopards
too were a part of life on our farm. We worked till the
early part of the evening and not because we were lazy,
but safety from prowling animals after evening was never
guaranteed. As teenagers curiosity consumed a big part of
our lives and the evenings, time when people our age else
where would go messing around, we were resigned to the art
of imagination. We dreamed of when our horizons would never
ever be limited to the surrounding Nshenyi Village hills.
Some of us fantasized of one day becoming world renown super
stars in fields, that mainly were inspired by people we
heard on radio. But as the years went by fantasies became
a childish pastime that we scorned. We needed to expend
our vital luxurious evening hours after work more sensibly.
The nearest farm didn’t help that much, for it was
located a mile away from ours. Sometimes we made adventurous
trips to the neighbours but that was seldom. Then one day
we discovered to our great amazement something that was
always there, Grand pa’s hut.
Grandpa lived about
100 meters from our farm house, in a well-dressed grass
thatched hut. It was his castle of some sort, for he conducted
himself therein with an air of a knight. There were different
kinds of wall hangings, mainly of animal skins. He had been
a hunter a million years before we ever were born and he
had tales from history that span over 200 million years.
Most of them he made up. Grandpa was in his seventies and
the passing of time seemed to smile an eternal smile of
youthfulness onto him. He was a yarn-spinner, our farm term
for someone with a great knack for telling exciting stories.
And grandpa made up for our lull evenings. He told tales
of chivalry, hunting, wars, origins of things and one of
our favourite was how he lost his wife.
Grandpa had married
a foreign woman. She was as foreign in the sense that she
came from the neighbouring village. They were married for
28 years and according to him she was the ozone layer over
his vast life of hunting, traveling, warring
and trade. He had a strange way of referring to people and
the ozone layer seemed a thinly stretched metaphor. But
grandpa never was at loss to redeem himself and so he made
that reference a classic. He said that the woman of his
passion and love had been always around him, but as the
years went by the ozone layer started wearing off. He said:
"Poor girl was getting too old for me and she never
loved living on the edge anymore. She started worrying over
so many things. One evening my lovely ozoie couldn’t
get up. I persuaded her but she didn’t budge. She
was passing on; dying right before my eyes. I couldn’t
have it. I carried her in my arms to the edge of the Bara
cliff. I cried and begged the moon to keep her for me. I
couldn’t put my precious one six feet under. The moon
accepted and she lifted out of my arms and went to live
on the moon". To grown up teenagers this was one of
the most far-fetched stories, but the conviction with which
he spoke and the fact that, whenever someone objected, he
would take them out into the moonlit night and show them
a woman on the moon, made us believe grandpa. It made us
believe so much that every school holiday we brought back
home many friends to come to grandpa’s hut and hear
the gripping stories.
Now years have passed
and we have grown up into men and women. Some of my siblings
have turned out to be their childhood dreams, stars in their
own right. Some have moved on to live in other countries.
But Baba and I have stayed on. The memories of teenage of
a hut that was lit with a hunter’s fire, who was also
a great story teller, have kept our love for the farm life
kindled. Grandpa went to be with his ozone layer up on the
moon, but the hut that he lit literally with fire and great
stories still stands. And Baba picked up from where grandpa
left off. For you see, I was invited to write a story for
an international farmers’ anecdotes festival. My story
won and stole the headlines around the world.
Nowadays people come
from the furthest of places to sit and hear hearty stories
in the hut on fire..."
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