The thrill of being boys in the fields of plenty
Boys will always be boys. This weekend after a long time I took a walk from my maternal ancestral mekgoro/ditlaagane to the southwest, much along the recently ploughed masimo. In this journey all memories of the early 1960s came to mind. Then boys were generally a law unto themselves as they could move all over and invade the masimo and take ripe magapu and nche (water melons and sweet reed) without the owner’s consent. Such was known as “go itaya khutu.” It was never considered stealing but helping our boyish greed. This weekend as I traversed these fields with green ripening products I couldn’t help but reminisce about my youth. The things we did then? We could just raid a field and help ourselves with whatever was ripe. Such acts were punishable by caning of the wrong doers. Still such did not deter the boys from the adventure. Such was the things the boys did with such impunity. Such acts of thuggery were only lessened by some fear of certain fields that were known to be owned by dingaka (traditional doctors) and baloi (witches). We had serious superstitious beliefs that we knew we could become crippled or die if we dared help ourselves with produce from such masimo. Walking through these masimo, I went deeper into the area and started remembering the past like it happened yesterday. Activities I was part of just came back to mind like these happened yesterday. I recalled one such day we were herding clan cattle and goats. Around midday we realised our morning fill was no more. We were a bit hungry. How could we be hungry in the midst of plenty? Boys being boys, we raided the next nearest tshimo. We helped ourselves with water melons. We carried our loot into the bushes nearby. We had a feast. Just as we were ready to leave, one of us came up with a story that the old lady whose field we had raided was a moloi. It was revealed that she would find out who had stolen her melons. Panic and fear gripped us. She was going to get us all dead. She would just doctor our footprints. Such stories we had heard in our daily lives but for us to be potential victims was the worst nightmare then. Living in a superstitious society then, the things we did then make me just laugh today when I look back. On this adventurous day we drove the cattle and goats up to the nearest hillocks. Something bad happened. As we had almost forgotten the earlier fear, we now raided the trees for indigenous fruits. We climbed up these trees to pick the fruits. One of the boys accidentally fell down and injured his back. Being products of a superstitious clan the only explanation we could make for this accident was the curse (boloi) of the owner of the melons we had earlier stolen. The next problem we faced was to explain the visible pain our colleague endured. Tradition had it then that anyone who had fallen from a tree would eat his meals from a bed pan until he healed. We all bullied the victim not to show signs of pain.. We were cruel and it was all about being boys. Such was being boys.