One of the high points of my time at Nokuthula was to be invited to supper with the rangers and listen to their stories.
We’d settle down around the fire upon which would be a pot of venison stew and the coffee brewing in a battered old kettle.
I would reduce their natural shyness by bringing a crate of beer, only a few being needed to start the story completion, each guy trying desperately to outdo his colleagues.
Simon, one of the three musketeers at the camp always managed to be the one to tell the more humourous stories when we gathered around the fire for a chat. His cheeky grin, easy manner and excellent knowledge of the flora and fauna in our piece of Africa endeared him to our clients.
He took great pride in teaching the clients as much as he could, always in such a way as to have them laughing uproariously at his antics, and they, in turn, always tried to persuade him to be their guide for the day, a task he thoroughly enjoyed.
“How did man and woman get together, Mkhulu? Do you know?” he asked one evening, grinning broadly.
“As far as I know, Simon, man gave up a rib and woman was made, so I guess they have always been together.”
“Hauw, Mkhulu, this Msomi is right! You truly do know nothing!”
Much slapping of thighs and loud laughter ensued at this comment – Msomi’s favourite ‘put-down’ line.
Msomi nodded sagely, puffing his noxious pipe, grinning at Simon in recognition not only of a recognised fact, but at Simon’s courage in voicing it. I just couldn’t win with these guys!
“In the beginning, men and women didn’t live together, but were separated by a deep and wide river.
“The men, on their side of the river, lived by hunting wild animals; the women, on the other side, by gathering fruits and bulbs and seeds.
“One day, while hunting along the banks of the river, the men killed a buffalo, but had no fire with them to cook it.
“They sent one of their number across the river to ask the women to give them some fire. When he got there, one of the women said to him ‘How can you swim back across the river with fire? Come into my hut and I will give you something to eat.’
“She pounded some grass seeds and made a porridge of them, so the man sat with her in her warm hut and shared her meal. It was so good, the hut was so warm and cosy, the woman so congenial, that he desired to spend the night too, and she agreed to his staying.
“After a while, his companions sent another man to look for him, and he also met a woman who was gathering grass seeds. She too took him home with her and gave him porridge. A third man was sent, then a fourth, but each time, the same thing happened.
Finally, there was only one man remaining and he, in fear of the unknown fate across the river, turned around and ran away – the world’s first confirmed bachelor!”
A number of grunts and mutterings signalled the end of Simon’s tale.
Msomi took his pipe out of his mouth and looked intently at Simon, then at me.
“That man’s name? The one who ran away? It was Simon – as Simon is the only man here with no wife!”
He thought this was hysterically funny and stamped his feet, body shaking with laughter as he pointed to Simon and let fly with a stream of incomprehensible Zulu which had the other guys, including Simon to fall about laughing.
They didn’t or wouldn’t tell me what was said, but I can only imagine that it was faintly obscene and definitely rude.
(If you want the recipe for what’s bubbling away in the pot ….. get in touch or leave a comment)
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