When I was a cowboy

When I was just a cowboy, there were many amazing things happening to me, happening to other cowboys, happening to the cows, happening to the land of cowboys, happening to our friends, the wild animals.

In this series, I’ll be sharing with you my personal stories, that just happened to me, my cows, my friends, and my domain. A lot has happened, but written are those memories that I merely remember. Please note that stories told for a ‘cowboy’ here refer to my locality and I, mostly in remote areas of what are today western and north-western Tigrai, south, and southwest of Eritrea, the Gadariffs of Sudan, and north Gondar. I don’t know what other cowboys at other places do.

These stories are from my personal notes, that one day may become a book or books for that matter.

We, cowboys, give priority to our cows. They are our number one. Our prime belongings are flour (maize wheat), a traditional milking cup (ጓጒድ), a comb (we’re afro, you know that ?), a stick, and a plastic sheet to protect ourselves from soaking in the rain.

For several months, sometimes a year and beyond, we use one cloth, i.e. one trousers, one T-shirt, and one shoe. No reserve. My friends; socks, pants, and other underwear are luxury. In fact, I remember the first day I wore a pant and socks, I was over suffocated to death ?, as if I use to breathe through either of them ??.

So one day when I was away from home (don’t ask me in kilometers, it took me some five days on foot to come back home), and crossing the river Tekeze, there happened an overflood and I was at the lower end of it. My cattle and I were crossing the river. In no time, the flood doubled, tripled, and overflew. It was such a rush that neither retreat nor forward was safe. I decided to cross the river anyway and I had to push my cattle forward. We were practically floating.

The sun was setting and no one was around. It took me a very long time (could be an hour or so in modern timing). We entered the river at a distant upper part but the flood took us away down. At the end of the line, when I was close to declaring a triumph, all of a sudden, the flood brought a huge wood and loaded it on me. I was stuck inside the branches. It drowned me down and I couldn’t breathe anymore. I almost gave up.

All of a sudden, the big wood got hunged up by another tree on the riverside. After drinking a lot of garbage and fighting to the death, I managed to escape from the wood branches and climbed up the other standing tree. It was a kind of re-birth. The tree was, however, standing in the flood. I had to take some rest there until the flood lowers.

After some time, I climbed down, swam to the riverside, and then went out of the flood. I lost all of my belongings. I had only a trouser; no t-shirt, and shoes. In fact, it was not worrisome, I was almost dead after all. I couldn’t identify on which side of the river I was.

Now is a time to look for my cattle. It was dark, cold, and still raining softly. I had to search everywhere blindly. It was completely dark that I can’t see where I am stepping. I couldn’t find them though. Only hyenas shuffling here and there. Wild animals sound everywhere. It seemed to me that all of my cattle were eaten by them.

Somebody afar, from the other side of the river, I can see a fire. It was a sign that there is a cowboy somewhere in the middle of the jungle. I was calling and asking if they have seen cattle. The sound of the flood in between couldn’t let us hear each other. But the other cowboy was loudly announcing that there were cattle with no one keeping them. I could hear some of his words. Sometimes there are ways cowboys communicate. You don’t need to know them in person to exchange information, help, or ask for a favor. Being human among all the wild beasts was more than enough.

He is too distant, plus there are sounds coming from the flood, the wild animals, and the wind and the rain. Using all the energy I had, I asked him types of the cattle. He told me and it was them. Because the flood carried me to the other side of the river, I was searching in the wrong place. “Things get lost when you look for them in the wrong place”

Now I’ve to face the inevitable, re-crossing the river. It’s cold and I’m barefoot and naked. I’m in the middle of a jungle with thorny bushes. You can find all sorts of thorns in my body. There is no way I can be afraid of all these. I’m already helpless. I went down the river again, crossed it with due care, colliding with rocks, trees, and unknown swimming objects. It wasn’t as horrible as the previous one.

I joined my cattle, hurray. The strange cowboy gave me dinner and allowed me to sleep by his side. In the morning, I asked his favor to help me keep the cattle for that day so that I can go to a nearby town and buy a T-shirt and other stuff. He agreed. I took one of my stots and sold him. I still had no T-shirt while traveling to the town and selling my ox. I remember selling stot for 400 Qirshi, which turned me rich over a day. Bought everything I need including a raincoat gift for the kind cowboy.

A lot has happened after that. I was able to go to school and write this.