Episode 5: Bail Ya Goat
Read all Episodes of Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito Here
There are many advantages of living in the barracks; or let me say, growing up in the barracks. One was the fact that it was a perfect representation of what the country is. That is you have
people from every part of the nation in one single community. So it was easy to come across diverse culture, language, religion, and belief system. It was one of the best things that happened to us as children. Even though we never traveled to many parts of the country, we knew how someone from any part of country would act or react to things. It afforded us the luxury of understanding the very commonly used words of most languages. And if you easily ‘slide into the matter’, you already know what I meant when I say ‘commonly used words’. Unfortunately, this episode is not about words, or most used slangs in the barracks. It’s about the relationships and fun we had together as not just children, but barrack shildren.
Leggo, our closest neighbor who was the Chief Medical Officer of the division had (and still has, I think) two wives. We sometimes called him Doctor. The two women did not live under the same roof, or the same city for that matter, but all his children lived in the same house with him. So, ‘many’ wasn’t a word that was used to say the number of children that lived in that three
bedroom duplex of our neighbor’s house. We used ‘plenty’ and sometimes ‘numerous’, though the only difference between them and us was that they were all siblings, and we were a mixture
of siblings, cousins, nephews, and house helps. And because we shared a very large compound we had many things in common.
We shared two hectares of cassava and maize farm; we shared security; we shared a plot of green lawn turned soccer pitch, plus a few other luxuries. And responsibilities.
Because of what we got from farm and vegetable gardens, we didn’t visit the market everyday just to prepare a pot of soup. Remember we had a poultry. But with all these came a huge challenge: securing the farm.
We were on holidays at the time and we took on the
task of building bamboo fence around the farm. As soon as Doctor saw our little initiative, he made it a law. A rule. So with the help of a few friends and tenants, we drove the stakes deeper,
and raised the fence higher. What we intended to do as fun became work as soon as Doctor got involved. All our effort though didn’t stop the goats and other ruminants from breaking in and destroying
the cassava and maize stems. So we thought of what to do: we set traps, and built cells to keep any goat and sheep caught within our farm.
So once again we had some fun to wake up to, apart from the morning and evening sessions of playing football. We took shifts at the ‘gate house’- the entrance of the farm; we patrolled
round to check for any break-in of some sort. Even our dogs, Whiskey and Motty had some chasing to do. Trust me, we caught many goats. Many-many goats. That made Doctor feel good
that we were busy doing something worthwhile during the holiday. Soon, our cells were full, which resulted in another problem. We hadn’t really thought of what to do with the goats except to
starve them to death. But after a little over a week, we had over fifty goats, and of course an awesome idea.
People started coming to our house to beg for the release of their goats. After our parents were gone to work, we would host and receive a number of pleas from the barrack
men and women alike. “Come back when Doctor is back from work,” was always our respond. It was just fun seeing people come to our balcony every morning and afternoon. Some begged, some cursed, some cried, and some just stood there looking straight into our eyes like they wanted to hypnotize us. Of course, we were afraid that some of those women were witches, but my cousin Mudiaga and one of our neighbor’s son, Ochuko gave the rest of us the boldness to continue with our mission.
To create more fun we asked some of them to write guarantor’s letter promising that their goats would never stray to this part of the barrack again. It was a whole load of fun reading requests
and appeals from these wonderful women. We would laugh over grammatical blunders, and ask them to come back later in the evening when Doctor was back. Although many of them swore
to come back, but we never saw anyone come around when our neighbor’s father was home. We were sure their husbands warned them not to.
I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was Mudiaga, my cousin who brought up the idea that we released the goats on bail. Four days down the line, we had made a little fortune for ourselves,
our parents not knowing exactly the details of what we did. As long as we told them that we were simply trying to guard our precious farm, they didn’t push for any major detail.
To spice the fun, we would take on ‘flogging sessions’, where we spend time beating the goats to the point of coma. Ochuko was particular with breaking the horns, or one of the legs of
the animals. It was a brutally enjoyable experience for us. Sometimes, we would deliberately release one of the goats and let it run around the compound, then we would chase it as a form
game – The Arena? Anyone?.
In the space of three weeks our notoriety had spread around the barrack, and we were beginning to have enemies and fans alike. After the fourth week, the little group had become a
club where membership was extended to other ‘quarters’ boys and privileged fine barrack babes. Our effort at chasing and stopping the goats from entering into our farm was hugely appreciated by Doctor, who one day bought everyone of us catapults. But even the few goats that remained in the barracks had stopped coming anywhere close to a fifty metre radius of our compound. Soon splinter groups came out, and before we knew it there were no more goats in the barrack again.
But the game had to continue, the rave dared not cease. At this point, we resulted to go hunting for goats wherever the goats hid and brought them into our compound. We marked their bodies with paint so that should the goats find their way to the hands of the opposition, we would have a just cause to embark on an invasion of our opponent’s territory. It all got to the stage where we organized goat-fighting competitions within the barrack. There
were the feather weight, middle weight, and heavy weight categories; which resulted in us giving the goats names like Idiamin, Babangida, Maradona, Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, etc.
But it all came crashing down when schools started resuming from the long holidays, and our siblings and friends who attended federal schools started returning one after the other. I remember vividly the face of our special goat, Otegi, which got to the semi-finals of the competition… That was the first and only time I ever saw a goat smile.
It was a holiday well spent but one which did not make it to the pages of our English Language notebooks. Hehehe
Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.