William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
LOSS OF JOY
An elderly Maasai headman has his Mannyatta near the new ICROSS dispensary deep in Maasailand. The gentleman has seven wives, 30 children and before the drought had 1000 head of cattle. He now has only 100 head and a large family to support. Even the goats find little to eat during faminesI was in Africa again this summer and the smell of the Maasai and Samburu cattle herds brought back old memories of joy from my childhood.
As a small boy my Mother would send me back to the pasture early each morning to bring in her house cow “Blossum” for milking. The other young cattle and steers came in with me for watering. I would pump the trough full after milking. My brother Brian was a new baby and we needed Blossum’s milk for the house. Blossum’s calf stayed in a pen (to avoid his suckling) and I fed him half milk and half water by having him suck on my fingers which I placed in the pail to teach him how to drink.
It was cold on my bare feet in the dew filled morning grass as I walked back to the end of our farm to round up the cattle with my dog pal, who was a good cattle-dog when not chasing after chipmunks and groundhogs.
Halfway back, Blossum would stop and defecate, a huge cow-pat and I would place my small cold feet in the hot steaming dung which felt good and warm and tickled as it ran through my toes. This was a true feeling of joy!!! The bottoms of my feet were like leather and hardened so I could walk of run on the stubble fields but the shear warmth and joyful feeling the hot cow dung squishing through my toes was bliss, indeed.
When I told this memory to my friend Robert Osborne who is a city boy from Toronto, and was also in Africa with me, he said I was disgusting and that perhaps the Lariam Mefloquine that I was taking was affecting my brain? I chuckled at the thought.
The Samburu and Maasai lads at ICROSS Headquarters laughed when I told them of his comments. The all agreed that there was nothing more joyful than running your cold feet through warm cow dung. My old friend (Maasai Elder) Paul Ose Lasois said we have all lost joy since now we all wear sandals or shoes or boots. He said it was a long time since he had felt the joy of the cow dung tickle through his toes. The Samburu lads nodded in agreement. They said cow dung is a very useful thing, and it is used for mixing with ochre to do their hair amongst the Morans and it is used as cement to cover the sides and roofs of their manyattas, and it is a wonderful source of fuel for cooking fires once it is dried properly. However, the feeling of “joy” on the toes is extremely wonderful, but now is lost, except to small boys who do not possess sandals or shoes as yet.
Ose Lasois said the fresh cow dung contained tannic acid which is good for the feet especially for thorn punctures and for hardening the soles. At the birth of a new baby, fresh cow dung is placed on the soles of the feet because God gave us cattle and water is poured on the umbilical cord because God gave us Water for our Cattle. This practice was reversed when the Maasai Grandmothers were taught and convinced that the cow dung was in fact “infecting” the umbilical cords of the newborn by attracting diseased manure flies.
There are other modern losses of joy but the odour of fresh cow dung in Maasailand this summer brought back the memories of childhood. Small boys all over the world know the warmth of this toe tickle joy.
©Copyright August 30, 2004 by William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD