I cannot be certain of the date or day, when my uncle and I were subjected to the tyranny of the Ngwaketsi sun and its heat, walking from the sediba [borehole], where the cattle of those lands are meant to quench their thirst, to my father’s cattle post. I am told that many many years ago, years before I was even born, herdsmen would actually walk ahead of their herd and the cattle would follow him faithfully in their magnitudes. This was just one of the many thoughts that accompanied me between the seemingly short conversations with my uncle KB, as we ourselves were marching behind my father cattle herding them along the dusty paths meandering through the Morwatubana savannas. This is how herdsmen “lead” their cattle nowadays, from behind the herd, following them. We had just been on the far end of Morwatubana, the side of the molapo [river], looking for my father’s cattle which we had been looking for since earlier that morning, and so lassitude was slowly luring us into his shadow and the sun slowly rising to its peak. Though we seemed to march quite fast behind the herd, it was just our feet and legs hurriedly carrying our sloppyish upper bodies through those dusty paths.
“Hee monna, Taekha , leuba le le gaketse waitse. Bona hela jaaka lefatshe le setlhahetse, le leruo ke mmopamo hela”, my uncle said; as if telepathically aware of my own thoughts about the dryness of the land brought about by the piercing aroma of the dust risen by the herd as it marched ahead of us, which had now awakened my sinus nightmare. I immediately concurred with him on the matter, which we soon found ourselves passionately engaged as we wondered how long it had been since our part of the country had received decent amounts of rainfall to emancipate our people and their crops and livestock from the stark drought. But that conversation was quickly wiped away by my uncle KB’s sudden realization. There is a Setswana proverb that says, “tlhako ya morago, e gata ha ya pele e gatileng teng” or, the cow’s rear hoof, steps upon the exact same spot where the front did, if directly/literally translated. However, my uncle’s melo dramatically expressed fascination was particularly with the literal truth of this proverb, his face was lit with excitement as he walked behind one of the calves watching its hoofs as they stamped the ground one after another in a seemingly magical fashion. He too like me, seemed to have always assumed that when the old folk coined the proverb it was just out of casual assumption without really having considered the practicality of this phenomenon.
As the exchange between us assumed a higher pitch and a lighter and jollier mood, the long walk to my father’s cattle post seemed to have shortened as we were now approaching an old once compounded settlement called “letlotla la ga Ophaketse”[Ophaketse old abandoned home], still within the Morwatubana lands.
This is the same area whose thought and memory is forever attached to that of the first time I ever saw a family of ostriches. It was some years ago, when my father and I were riding in his Toyota Hilux [which I have since inherited, BTW, LOL], that we ran into these tall and massive birds. They awakened the little boy in me, the excitement gave me such an ecstatic rush that it earned me a short story from my father about his boyhood days growing up in Kgalagadi. Although I never remembered what the story was or about, that short moment experienced with my father certainly remains one of the very few cattle post memories with him, which I will forever cherish.
Anyway, as uncle KB went on and on about his fascination with “cow’s rear hoof, front hoof” phenomenon, the tractor like sound of my father’s Bolero pickup truck awakened and could be heard in the not so far distance as it drew nearer and nearer from behind us. We had left him at the sediba still consulting with the borehole foreman [rraSediba]. He soon approached us and signaled that we would find him at the cattle post as he drove past us. Not too long after that the mildly blinding gleam of our herdsman’s house, made from silver sheets of galvanized metal, shimmered through the cloud of dust hanging above the nodding heads of the herd in front of us. As we slowly approached, my father opened the kraal and stood alert by its entrance to make sure the infant calves inside do not run out to their approaching mothers who were now all passionately mooing at them. After successfully herding all the cattle into the kraal, we all dragged our heavy feet to a tree within the compound were we then sat in deafening silence. After some time of being lost in the maze of my own thoughts, my uncle then shuttered the bubble of silence that had engulfed us: “ke gore re ka tswa re tsamaile sekgala se se kae hela gooha monna Taekha” , he asked me. The question proved to have caught me off guard as I lazily tried to think of an answer I did not even have, “go tswa ha Sedibeng hale go tla ha ke 4Ks [4KM]” , my father rescued me with an answer. The question had now sparked a conversation between my father and uncle to which I was not listening as I sat there beside them trying to figure out how long 4KM really is, because I had imagined it to be much longer than what we had just walked. Realising that the time had long gone past noon and that the sun was just about to start its descend, my father suggested that we leave all the cattle in the kraal for the day and adjourn our mission of dehorning the calves and branding them to the early morning of the next. We then hopped on my father’s truck and started our journey back to the village, Mmathethe. As we drove off I started to observe the distance meter on the car cluster as well as the distance from when we were leaving the cattle post to that at which the distance meter would signal that we had done 4KM. The distance which we had covered at the 4KM mark now seemed to be quite a long one, though in less time. From that point on I was thrilled at this little discovery, and became quite anxious to get home as I now couldn’t wait to get home and tell my mom and sisters about my big achievement that day, which it certainly is for any city slicker as myself. And that was my 4000m achievement. t
. Which is in fact meant to be pronounced, “Duiker”, like the name of one of Botswana’s early heroic national soccer players, Tumi Duiker, from whom I inherited the name by virtue of my name also being Tumi, shortened from Tumiso.
. Hey Taekha, this drought is scorching. Just look at how the land has gone dry, even the cows are just skinny.
. How long do you think is the distance we have walked today, Taekha?
. It is a 4KM distance from the borehole from here.