“I wanted to be a Cattle rancher when I was young, because it was what I knew best and I loved it.” Sandra Day O’Connor
I could account for my grandfather’s Cattle, but one thing true was, I just didn’t know how many he owned. Nevertheless, I could literally tell whenever one was missing. They all had names and we could identify them by both their names and behavioral characteristics. So, just by looking around, I was able to tell that Mobwe was missing.
Mobwe was a Cream White Cow. She was stubborn and cunning. She was fond of separating herself from the rest when grazing. This she did with a view to stray into a nearby Maize field. It was easy to notice that she was missing because of her peculiar colour. The Creamer White colour and horns curling forward gave her away as she silhouetted. Her absence was extremely conspicuous.
Mobwe had ferocious appetite for fresh stalks of maize. Once a Cow tasted the stalks of fresh maize, it was difficult to keep it in check. The experience is only comparable to how difficult it is to advise a girl who has fallen in love for the first time. My grandfather opted to tie a bell around Mobwe’s neck. This helped in noticing her intentions to sneak into nearby fields and look for her when she went missing. We could identify the sound of the bell even when Mobwe joined a different herd of Cattle. At times we were compelled to use Bbonzo to discipline Mobwe.
Bbonzo was an exhuberant and trusted dog that used to chase and bite the nose of naught Cows when we commanded him to so. There were times when Mobwe would defiantly without permission and in full view of all of us stray to the nearest maize field in an effort to taste fresh stalks of maize. This to her was an act of protest.
My memory draws me to recall Mainza the black Cow. She was endowed with serenity and was known for producing a lot of milk. She was our local saviour in times of hunger and thirst in the field. We would simply stop her and start drawing milk without any resistance. The milking was in such a way that it’s product was directed from the tits into the mouth. The milk was warm, smooth and smelled nice. We never used to worry about the possibility that the udder or the milk could have been infected. Our goal was to quench our thirsty and satisfy our hunger.
In memory of Zimbabwe; he was our source of entertainment. He was a brown bull and was known for being highly temperamental and viciously aggressive. The most notable attribute for this bull was the aura of authority and pomp he carried himself with. Many times he was seen strolling around the herd while exhibiting great authority. You could easily tell that he felt that he owned the Cows.
When struck with boredom, we looked for a bull from another herd of Cattle to incite a bull fight. One of Zimbabwe’s contenders was Zaire. When they met for a fight, there was dust. I am certain that you’ve heard of the adage that; ” When bulls are fighting, it is the grass that suffers.” I witnessed this first hand. The grass and the soil really suffered. It used to be ecstatic moments as we cheered them hysterically. The bull that lost the fight brought nothing but shame and stupification to the herders. It was an emotional experience. Sometimes blood would ooze from the skin of bulls. Zimbabwe was not dehorned and either was Zaire. So with their horns, they could inflict serious injuries on each other and become casualties. The elders did not permit us to agitate or even organize these fights but we did it anyway. This was done to satisfy our ego and also for amusement.
I always remember Bbulumunsaka with gratification. Bbulumunsaka had black and white patches. He was extremely reliable and very hard working. They used to form a formidable pair with Japan. Japan was brown and had long horns. They were usually yoked together. It was a very disciplined pair. They followed instructions religiously during ploughing. These two postulated what is enshrined in the Holy scripture which state; “Can the two walk together unless they agree.”
I fondly remember Copper. He had curled horns facing downwards, an Oxen that belonged to my grandmother. She bought him after selling maize to the Cooperative after a bumper harvest. No-wonder he was named Copper, the hyphenated form of Cooperative.
Dearly missed is Kachiindu. Kachiindu the brown Cow and had a name that reflected the fond memories of the Primary School my father attended. Kachiindu Primary School was a marvel and very famous in those days. There were few primary schools around during the time my father went to school.
We had several unique Cows and Oxen, I can go on and on describing them. My grandfather owned so many cattle that even the actual number eluded us as non of our family members knew exactly how many they were.
When I qualified to grade eight, I went to a boarding school. This meant that I was no longer a regular herds’ boy. I only joined my fellows during holidays.
During one holiday, I came home only to find very few animals in the kraal. I inquired, “Where is Mobwe, Zimbabwe, Bbulumunsaka, Mainza, Japan, Copper, Kachiindu and the rest……?”
Lo and behold, I was informed with unfathomable trepidation and dismay that they had died of DENKETE. I was told that Denkete was a local name for animall illness commonly known as Foot and Mouth disease. This is a severe, highly contagious viral disease for Cattle and Swine. It also affected Sheep, Goats, Deer and other cloven hooved ruminants. The disease spreads very quickly if not controlled and because of this, it is known as a reputable devastating disease.
It was an emotional experience that was beyond human comprehension as losing so many animals that we had forged friendship with was nothing less than a tragedy. These animals entertained us greatly during the time we had the opportunity to look after them. While herding cattle, we conducted several field operations including minor surgical ones on each other as boys. The fur on the tail of the cattle was used to suture minor operations.
In the company of our animals, we discussed topics such as how to for instance, approach girls. Older boys cherished discussing topics like; how to marry a girl who does not love you but live together till death. We devised means of missing lunch without necessarily fasting. All this was done within the hearing and company of our animals such as Mobwe and Japan. But Denkete deprived us from such fantastic moments by claiming their lives.
Cattle was a source of pride in our village. It is still a symbol of wealthy to date. You win the love of your preferred girl depending on the number of Cattle your father owned. Hence, the Tongas have an adage which states that, “It is better to have a Cow even when you do not have relatives.” Cattle generally has also been useful when it comes to the settling of disputes.
To pay my last respect to my heroes and heroines, I was shown strands of dry meat. They dried the meat of Zimbabwe, Mobwe and others. I ate the meat with an aura of respect. It was not common to kill animals for meat, but Denkete forced us to feast on our friends.
I have a few animals but have not established an ovation relationship with them as they are far away from where I stay. However, I am constantly in touch with those managing them. Sometimes I take part in Cattle naming ceremonies. I have given some Cows names in memory of places I have stayed and visited.
May the spirit of our dead Cattle lie in peace in several unmarked stomachs. Whoever invented Denkete shall not enter eternity. Farewell.