The cheer-cheer noise of Rolake’s palm-frond broom used to antecede the first cock crows in Wole’s compound. But today was different. The cocks had crowed a moment past, still the sound of Rolake’s broom brushing the earth was not heard in the compound. Only the sweet songs of birds from the surrounding bushes were entertaining the morning air. Well, that was not a strange occurrence though.
Have not the wise elders said in their proverbs that: ‘’the day is pregnant but nobody knows the kind of babies it will bear.’’? Do not the words of the wise elders go in vain?
Something unexpected might have happened, keeping Rolake late on bed. But Wole could not notice the absence of her usual early morning sweeping as he opened his bulging eyes, hasting from dreamland. The crows of the village cocks had woke him up.
‘’Punctuality they say, is the soul of farming,’’ thoughtfully, Wole mumbled, sleep still heavy in his eyes, ‘’A man who goes to the farm when the sun is already shining in the sky, would have to face a more hotter and sweaty working day. I thank you my Creator—the owner of day and night, for waking me into another calm and blessed morning!’’
He yanked his blanket off his body. The white-washed floral-designed wrapper also served as his bedspread, and sometimes as a loin-cloth. Meanwhile, he rose and sat on his bamboo-bed. Lively and actively, he rolled out of his bamboo-bed, wearing only khaki shorts. But as his two feet matched the freezing mud floor, he felt somehow cold. So, he wrapped his half-clad body with the wrapper. But because the cloth was not large enough to cover his entire body, his shoulders were left bare. After yawning wildly and stretched his body to the last limit, he bent and drew out his machete and hoe from underneath his bed. Busy-mindedly, he made towards the door. But he has not opened the door yet when something cut-across his mind momentarily.
‘’Oh, my chewing-stick!’’ he muttered.
Stretching his tall, dark, athletic body, he picked the half-chewed little stick from one of the cracks on the upper wall. Without hesitation, he put it in his mouth and chewed noisily as he backed out, facing the dewy weather of Awoye village.
It was August break, a rainless part of the rainy season of that year. There had been no recent rain but the trees and plants were wet with the previous night dew. So, they all looked whitish as if green were not their actual colour. The bleats of goats, the crows of cocks and the humming of birds from surrounding bushes have overtaken the passing night’s chirping of crickets, croak of toads and hooting of owls. The sun was fasting sprouting out yellowish in the sky, reflecting on the red mud walls and smoky thatched roofs; making them looked as if yellow was their natural colour. As the yellow sun turned pale in the sky eastern, the velvet and cloudy dawn gradually gave way; so the new day could become totally brightened.
Wole was a man of about 35, indigene of Awoye, a remote village in southern Nigeria. Because he was his parents’ only child when the cold hands of death snatched them away, he has no siblings. The epidemic that ravaged Awoye a whole year had cut his parents lives short. He was only seven then but he would remember and feel very sorrowful about the ugly incident. Many people lost their lives in the natural disaster. It was cholera epidemic, caused by unclean stream water intake. There was lack of enough rain that year, so the stream became dry and dirty. And perhaps there was no rain water for them to drink. Rain water had been their major source of clean water before that year, which the villagers had named a crazy year. Crops withered on the farms, animals and humans died in droves because there was drought. But most of the villagers had attributed the epidemic to the way they way had neglected their ancestral worship. But could an epidemic be caused by angry gods? Could the gods be angry to the extent of murdering the people they are meant to protect? Egbedi, the then chief priest of Awoye had answers to those questions. After divining the ancestral spirits or gods, he corroborated the claim that the gods were not pleased with the villagers.
‘’But mouthpiece of the gods,’’ inquired the Baale, the ruler of the village, in a defeated and sorrowful voice, ‘’what shall we do to quench the anger of our late fathers’ spirits?’’
Without replying the Baale, Egbedi divined the oracle of divination again, by throwing some white cowries on the two-palms-sized goat’s skin before him, stared deep into them for a while and made someone incantations. At the end of the divination, he came out with a hopeful result.
‘’Ruler of our land, for this plague to be to become something of the past, huge sacrifice to the gods must be made.’’ he said, looking up to the Baale on his throne. He was scratching the small area that had grey hairs on his bald head.
The wealthy chief Alade had once joked about the Old man’s head in the village centre while drinking palm-wine with other men, saying it looked like a desert land with scanty weeds. Though sounded funny, but nobody had dared laugh. Most of the villagers feared Egbedi even in his absence or after his death because of his magical powers. There was an unproven might that he could see the minds of everyone and hear what anyone said behind him. But count Alade out of such fear or fallacies. He believed his wealth was greater any power on earth.
After many goats and fowls were slaughtered to appease the gods, the epidemic grew even worsen. It was as if the gods had rejected the sacrifice or they were handicapped. But nobody could confront Egbedi to ask him why it was so. He had said the gods had accepted the rituals immediately it was done and they must belief or he got angry and casts spell on anyone who dared challenged him. Meanwhile, the epidemic only stopped after it had taken enough souls that could form a whole clan. This had happened before the white colonialists came from the district headquarters, Ilunla to build the maternity-hospital in Awoye.
Wole’s grandparents who raised him up to puberty stage had passed away, too, due to old age. So, being a lonely orphan from childhood had somehow made him lonesome, thoughtful and austere in nature. He hardly talks but if he would talk it has to be when it’s utmost necessary. And his words were always witty. Though, too much stressful time on the farms made him looked somehow older than his age, yet little traces of youthful agility lingered on him. He kept no hairs on his face saved his thick dark eyes lashes. The little wrinkles that prematurely appeared on his cheeks were also as a result of many days under the scotching sun, working tirelessly.
Wole was a never-say-die low-scaled farmer. At the crack of every dawn, his feet were sure to be among the first, if not the first, to rub off the previous day’s footprints on the farms path.
‘’A man who does not work ought not to eat,’’ Was his creed.
And if you are looking for a man who would follow his creed come rain, come shine, do not go far, it was Wole. However, his resolution to always wake up early for farm had specifically paid off, not for himself alone but for other farmers. Due his early waking manner, he had once saved many farmers from a colossal loss. A loss the farmers would have lived to grieve about in their entire lives. How did he save them the great loss?
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