We once had a guy, one of many who used to work at our farm. Our farm which bordered a floody area that turned into a temporary muddy lake twice every year. A lake which harboured huge toads with ugly spots all over their toady skins. Toads which would swell and bounce every time we hit them with sticks; I always thought they would burst and splash their internal organs all over the place.
The toads would bask on rocks enjoying the mid day sun across the lake at akina Carol’s farm from where they would croak sarcastically at us coz we could not dare cross the muddy river.
His name was Kariuki, our farm hand. No one knew where he came from or where his family was. The only thing we knew was that he was a traveller of sorts jumping between farms looking for casual employment. He came to ours just when we really needed someone to take care of our girls- Nyameni, Kairetu, Jane and Monica– a mix of Fresian and Jersey cows which used to produce lots of milk.
Among the many jobs he was charged with was taking akina Kairetu to another farm to ummm, how do I explain this without sounding like a pervert- to see a bull. Ok, it was more than just ‘seeing’ a bull and as kids we loved the whole spectacle. It was funny seeing what we called the look of suprise on Kairetu’s face as the bull came rushing to her, saliva dripping from its mouth as it mooed and scratched the ground with one hoof. Kairetu would be like ‘What the….’ and before she could even say moo, eish happened and the bull would be all over her trying to ‘hold’ her inclined back as it stood on its hind feet trying to get a better penetration.
We would giggle because we knew that was the real eish. Grandpa, after taking this trip with us twice had decided the embarrassment of standing there waiting for the bull to finish as we stared in utter astonishment was too much for him- that’s why he had to hire Kariuki.
Nelly and I used to call him Karis, short for Kariuki. He would get mad at, point at us with a finger which had signs of having been hammered, cut and hurt in numerous instances over the past- the kind of finger capable of leaving a serious dent on a wooden table if he tapped continuously on it. He hated being called Karis because he considered it to be too youthful and disrespectful, sounded like the name of someone who smoked weed a lot!
We had another farm guy from Tanzania called Suleiman. Suleiman was quite a character; he was all show and no action. Right from the first day, he filled Nelly and i with adventurous stories of how he used to hunt for deer while he was our age which really endeared him to us. We felt cool hanging around him coz he taught us to make sling shots and deer traps, mole traps and even wild fowl traps.
Grandpa’s land had a thick forest and we used it as our training ground. Suleiman taught us how to lay the traps at strategic places, putting some maize at the centre of the wild fowl traps. We waited in anticipation….first day nothing, but the maize was missing. Second day nothing and again the maize was missing. Third day same thing and by the fourth day we got very apprehensive and even started doubting whether he had ever trapped anything in his life.
The moles kept burrowing into our maize crop and the traps remained there untouched. Suleiman later asked mum for some money to go to hospital and we never saw him again.
Karis came later after Suleiman and we hoped he would not take us through the agony of setting traps that never caught anything.
There was one thing about Karis- he never smiled. Much as granny tried to talk him into opening up about his family he remained tight like an Ox’s ass (that’s an old Gikuyu saying) and the most we gathered was that he walked the face of like Cain son of Adam looking for farm jobs!
I remembered Karis today because he had some peculiar habits which i have never seen with anyone else. For instance he travelled light, very light. The only clothes he carried along were the ones on his body. Not even an extra pair to change because he had this innovative thing going on where he would knit other torn pieces of cloth into his already existing pair. Like he would have a shirt with a blue sleeve on the right side and an Orange one on the other- crazy, ha?
So when he chanced upon our farm and landed the job, grandpa gave him a place to stay- a crib made from mud and cow dung adjacent to akina Nyameni and Kairetu’s sleeping quarters. Karis, as we mentioned before did not have anything other than what was on his body, plus a terribly worn out pair of shoes. My uncles gave him some more clothes and shoes while grandpa gave him two pairs of gumboots.
He bathed regularly and his shower sessions were ridiculously funny. First he would boil water in a metallic basin which he would then carry to the bathroom which was quite far. He would stagger under the weight and when he ultimately got into the bathroom he would sigh heavily as if he had walked a thousand miles.
Karis was all masculine and using beauty soaps for bathing was a big no for him. Bar soap was his thing; that and a huge piece of sack for scrubbing his body. He once bathed with Omo and started complaining that every time he smiled his face cracked. Alafu the Omo made him all shiny especially at the forehead- like a polished marble floor haha!
While bathing he would groan very loudly like a woman who had just graduated from Cambridge (catch the drift?) coz the water was always hot as stink; said it felt nice bathing in such hot water coz it made all the fatigue go away. We thought it was torturous.
Remember i mentioned that grandpa had given him two pairs of gumboots, right? He cut the worn out pair and turned it into something that resembled Crocs which he used only when going to the bathroom. His feet were not made for soft material like rubber slippers!
If his groaning while bathing was ridiculous, his after shower theatrics were a spectacle. He had this pair of jeans he wore everyday which was held tightly at the waist with sisal strings. He walks out holding the metallic basin on one hand and his shirt of many colours on the other. The bar of soap would be sliding to and fro on the basin like a pendulum as he walked, leaving yellowish marks on it, the piece of sack would be dangling from his shoulder dripping water on his tummy.
While he walked his wet feet would make squishing sounds on his customized Crocs- a sound which went like “Kwishikwishi kwishikwishi”. He would stop midway and shove his huge index finger into one of his ears and move it vigorously the same way one would whisk an egg in a bowl. The ear too would make a funny sound like “Chikichiki chikichiki”. Occasionally he would shake his head too which made us think that perhaps water had filled his head through his ears and he could feel it forming rivulets around his Medula.
Karis was quite a nice guy but what really irked me was a habit he had of using my pencils and pens to do the whisking thing in his ear. I loved sucking my pencils and pens and his action always left a bitter taste on them, a taste like no other and when i discovered what it was i ceased my sucking habit!