Village boy narrates: How we cheated death. For the cattle, this was a place of plenty and they moved slowly as they munched and munched. For us, it was time to play paper ball. Football was our main game, but we never really enjoyed it as we cast eyes on the ball and eyes on the cattle.
Being a February weekend, we were herding cattle far and wide from the village on a lush-green vast wrap of land on the foot of Mavhuradonha Mountains. Suddenly, the innards of the earth rumbled and lighting stabbed the air, its ferocity cracking the depth of the sky with unmistakable cruelty.
The eye could see in that flash moment the blue-grey sky being sliced into chunks. The anger was defining. It needed no hyperbole diction. At some stage you would expect pieces of the sky to drop to the ground. Optical illusion! Even the low-hanging dark grey clouds quivered and seemed to scamper for cover and yet they had nowhere to hide.
They could neither drop to the group nor recede into the abyss of sky since they were pregnant. Pregnant clouds had this dark grey-silver look and moved sluggishly as delivery time neared. An accompanying wind set grass and tree branches singing from its westerly notes.
We were herding cattle, far from the village. Far and wide beyond Dande River. The fragrance of impending rains seemed to bring excitement to the cattle. The feeling was congealing. We feared and liked the rains too. The cattle seemed to share the same.
Soon, teaser bulls started their antics. They poised their small horns, spattered dug all over the place, ran around, smashed the bushes and gored anthills, muddying their faces. The bigger elegant bulls were more reticent and yet we knew they could start a fight, anytime.
Among the bulls were Bushman (Bhusumani) and Delport (Dharapoti). The rest were insignificant, young teasers. The lead cow was Madzimai. It always led the way and took most of the flak from herd boys. She had a white face and forward looking horns but she never gored anyone. She gave a lot of milk too.
Soon the clouds could not hold on any longer. Heavy rain drops prattled the group and hit us and the cattle hard. There was nowhere to hide. Hiding under trees was taboo, for lighting could strike any minute.
We decided to drive the cattle home in the rains. It rained silly. But the rains were coming from the direction of the village and it became hard to drive the cattle against the rains. They always wanted to avoid facing the rains, so, they resisted and changed direction. Then we decided to wait for the rains to subside then drive them home.
February was bad time in terms of flooding and we had somehow ignored that fact. The rivers flooded quickly. The banks that normally drank the water were soaked and full. The ocean far away would be slow in their uptake. The dams spilled after every rainfall.
As the raining subsided, we started driving the cattle towards the village. As usual, Madzimai led the way with much confidence and intermittently one or two calves strayed out of the herd. But we wrecked the area, combed all cattle into the herd, again and again and again and again. The sound of gushing water welcomed our ears from a distance as we approached Dande River.
The cacophony of crackling cattle bells and the gushing water was eerie and profound. Dande River was frothing and seething with anger. It burst its banks and we were stranded. Behind the clouds the sun was setting and day light was giving way to darkness. It was late. We urgently needed to cross the flooded river to the village. The river was so flooded that even the daring Madzimai was hesitant to lead the way across.
We cracked the whips to force them through. The dare devil in Madzimai came out. She plunged into the raging flood and the rest followed one-by-one. Soon she was swept away by the currency at the centre and thrown into the riverine vegetation, across. There she was shaking her body from the wetness and lethargy of crossing. Some calves and weaker cattle were hit and careered far downstream where they managed to cross.
The five of us chose our cattle to use in crossing. This villager clung precariously to the tail of Bhusumani, Tapfuma clung on to the tail of Dharapoti. The bulls were not used to being caught on their tails. They panicked, plunged and were shoved fast across the river. The current was too strong by the centre.
When crossing the river back in the village and proverbial land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, one should always pay attention upstream. That is where the water comes from. That is where the logs come from. That is indeed where all trouble comes from.
Tapfuma, held on to the tail of Dharapoti and somehow spotted a huge log coming with ferocity and speed and he could not help but shout “log, log, log g-u-u-u-ys”.
The log hit, tossed, flipped and drowned Tapfuma and Darapoti. Soon the two separated. But for us who were also in danger, it was hard to follow the events. It was time for each man for himself.
By the time we crossed to safety, we could not find Tapfuma and Dharapoti. Dande River frothed angrily downward, its water tinged brown by the soil. There was no any other sound audible than the sound of gushing water. The sound of gushing water even drowned the crackling cattle bells.
We were split in allegiance. We were in fear. We had two fears. The fear that Tapfuma might have drowned. The fear that the cattle could stray into people’s fields if left unattended.
Meanwhile we were wet and cold. As cold as the tits of a witch. We shivered and quaked. We feared the worst. A fragrance of that which is inexplicable and that which cannot be expected and yet happens, filled the air. We called out to Tapfuma, there was no response. We whistled our known code, there was no response from him.
There was nowhere to look for him because most of the riverine vegetation had been floored by the raging river as it burst its banks, beyond imagination. Only huge trees remained standing defiantly. Dande!
It became dark and we sent Tapiwa to the village to announce the bad news, while we drove the cattle, albeit with an air of fear about the incident. We had crossed with cattle as our aides before and had been successful. The had been used by generation after generation.
As the village became agog, with the news of Tapfuma’s disappearance, elders immediately grouped and trickled to Dande River. As the search started in the dark, with the aid of home-made torches, it started raining badly again and the search party was abandoned.
That night the village did not sleep. Karitundundu, the ageless village autochthon of wisdom and knowledge, was consulted. His spirit needed some dance and music to manifest.
After about 30 minutes of dancing and singing inside his shrine, the spirit came and prophesied. There we were, squashed in the corner, to answer to any questions the occult would want to hear. We feared the occult too much.
But when the spirit manifested, it never asked us questions much to our chagrin. It new everything that had happened and we felt helpless.
Tapfuma, the occult said, was hurt but alive. The villagers danced and ululated. But you could see some faces had doubt. But the occult had the final say. The occult ordered the villagers to go and sleep soundly. Dismiss.
Soon after midnight, Tapfuma arrived at his parents’ home. His clothes tattered. His right foot broken. His ego broken. His body injured. His spirit, clearly intact. But his life with him.
After being flipped by the log, he lost control and let the bull go. The water, he said, knocked him up and about against rocks and trees, spinning and twisting him little everywhere else. Being a good swimmer, he later found himself in Gwatura pool. In the pool, waters run still and here he managed to swim across and that was quite some distance downstream.
Disoriented, hurt and tired, he rested under a huge tree until he found himself again. Later, he took off to the village, limping slowly. He had summoned the little energy left in him to carry his weight home.
Source – The Herald
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