My dad used to urge us to write a book about his life. I guess he wanted people to learn from his life, or be immortalized. It is something I kept postponing. Now I can only write from the stories I can remember.
My father was born somewhere in Lesson-Nandi county in the early 1940s. He however spent the better part of his young life in Laikipia –Tamson, Rumuruti. He was a boy and teenager during colonization. He told us stories of how his parents abandoned the lush productive Lessos to follow a product called masacheg, which I assume is milk whose cream has been removed.
He was primarily a herdsboy for his parents but at some point he became a houseboy for a memsahib (A white lady). Here he learnt to cook and serve course meals and eating etiquette. He is the one who taught me you hold a fork with the left hand and knife with the right. I guess it is here he also learnt to really cook. He was a good cook. No, he did not cook for us at home. The meals he cooked I got to enjoy when we could visit him. I do not remember the story very well, but at some point he annoyed the memsahib enough to be slapped.
He loved reading. And while his elder brother got the chance to go to school, he used to tell us “mimi nilisomea kwa dirisha”. He never had any formal education but with his zeal to learn, he taught himself to read and write. The how, I never got to learn.
He had some adventures in his early life that were hilarious.
The Bull Milking
Masacheg was not a very delicious product for young kalenjin men. So one day, he, together with his friends, decided to milk the colonizers cows at night. The story goes that one of the guys tried to milk a bull since he could not really differentiate the mammary glands from the bulls nethers. That apparently earned him a nickname “Kipkei girgit“- The bull milker.
The Burnt Leso
In his time, they used to wear goatskin. However with “civilization”, my grandmother bought him his first leso. The lesos were worn cross shoulder. One day, as they were alleviating the cold by an outdoor fire, one of the homesteads needed some hot coal to start a fire. Or is it they needed hot coal from the kitchen to start a fire outside. Out of his generosity, he offered to carry the hot coal with his new leso. And that was the end of the new leso. Of course he faced the consequences from my disciplinarian grandmother.
The guitar player
While I never saw him play an instrument, he told us he used to play a guitar and he was really good at it. None of his direct offspring inherited this talent. This apparently earned him the “bad boy” title. It was not an activity that invited admiration. It earned him scorn. He still played his instrument though, and he was good at it and as the story goes, he entertained during those campfires.
Drugs and alcohol
My father hated alcohol. He never tasted alcohol in his entire life. But until early 1970s, I think, he used to smoke. It was about the time he was diagnosed with asthma. So he quit smoking and never looked back.
My father made the best out of the things the environment offered him. I never interacted with this part of him, but the person I met was far from the herdsboy, guitar player, looked upon with scorn. The man I met was a civil servant. Respectable. Dignified. A no nonsense person. He lived his youth and with the same zeal he sought to learn, he looked for opportunities in life that would make him become someone (Koek Chi), a great person. Different from the life he grew up from.