Things boys did growing up

Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, there was peace, goodness and jollity.
I bought coca-cola from the village shop atop a rock promontory and opened it. The spectacular hissing, sound was confirmation of the originality of the drink and the untampered seal.

I picked up a small stone and threw it into the bottle, sending contents frothing and spilling out.

I placed my thick lips firmly on the bottle mouth, trying to avert the imminent but self-inflicted loss.

The Coca-Cola was defiantly stubborn and backfired on my nostrils and hurt, with childish awe.

That was the mantra of the time.

Other less-fortunate boys, those who could not get a coin to buy the coke but milled around looked on and greened with envy. I was the son of a teacher, so it was expected, for teachers, were revered those days. They were trendy icons of society. Eventually we all shared the drink, systematically taking a sip each.

One of the boys, Takawira, scratched his itchy skin vigorously but subconsciously. He was one of the victims of ringworms that boys of my age shared and struggled to clear from the arms and legs, night and morning.

Elders said the worms were transmitted by kittens, we played with.

But there was scabies too, we shared as we bathed together on Dande River. Contagious.

Generally, same aged boys shared soap, scrub stones and little anything else, disease included.

Boys played games,that were not only stupid but at times fatal. There was boxing, wrestling, high jump, long jump and bend-and-be-kicked-on-back.

The latter was not only fun but painful and even fatal, given the position that exposed one’s essentials to some lethal kicks. But we played it, be that as it may. To enter the game, rival players signed an indemnity by locking up their last fingers and shouting “tamakana fongo!”

The sun shone endlessly, day after day this August school holiday, sucking moisture from Mother Earth, leaving the ground tinder dry and backed into a hard soil cake. Dande River had become a ghost of its rainy season self, most of its parts shrivelled into sandy patches except for the big pools; Gwatura, Mariana, Mutemwa and others.

After sharing our coke, I joined the boys on bird hunting, which then would culminate in fishing and collection of cattle for close up at the end of the day. It was routine.

Our catapults, made of hard Y-shaped sticks, tyre tube rubber and hide.

We attacked and killed almost all edible birds, avoiding those regarded sacred and inedible.

The knowledge was passed on from our ancestral lineage, through generation after generation. There had always been ancestors, Karitundundu the ageless village autochthon always insisted, under whose shadows we lived and under whose guidance we should live.

The ancestors, he always quipped, left a legacy that we should protect and knowledge we should use for our survival.

So was we hunted for the birds, we were conversant of the does and don’ts. After some shooting and some terrible misses we found ourselves at Gwatura, the big silent pool, that had stood the test of time. It never dried.

Soon we took our fishing positions in a line along the bank.

Suddenly we stared silently at the tips of our fishing rods and the floats.

Somehow, dragonflies enjoyed sitting on our rods and floats. They were boring creatures, insensitive to our plight.

I lowered the tip of my fishing rod into the water, tentatively, pensively dislodging the dragonfly , which darted a few centimetres away, poised and darted the same distance back and came to rest again, a little farther up the rod. Stupid.

Suddenly there was thunderous splash into the water. It turned out Takawira had supposedly withdrawn from fish to scratch his itchy skin but he had something up his sleeve. He timed a hard ostrich kick on a bending but unsuspecting Isaac which sent him flying into the deep pool.

Apparently, they had agreed on the bend-and-be-kicked-in-the-back earlier in the day.

It took a passer-by to rescue the drowning Isaac as we all ran away from the scene.

Isaac missed death by a whisker, after the elderly passer-by used sand to beat the hell of water of out his stomach. The story was never told home.