July 15, 2024

No Spring Chicken

I admire and respect Joseph. He has worked hard, all of his life; man and boy, until he retired a few years back. Like most men of his generation he started off with a two room council property and added on as his family grew and when he could afford it. He now has a substantial corner property. This is just as well, as he and his supportive wife, Blessing, had several children who still visit, as well as their tribe of grandchildren and other members of the extended family.

Joseph is to be my future father in law; I am hoping to marry his daughter, Mercy. Although a date for the marriage has not yet been set, as I am still trying to negotiate the Lobola price. I had in good faith, offered to do things in the traditional way, assuming that the bride price would be symbolic: Poshi mombe. But, Joseph is holding out for a herd. Actually, this is a longstanding running joke, between us. At least, I think he’s joking.

Obviously, Joseph is not as young as he used to be. He’s no spring chicken, as the saying goes. However, he still regularly works hard on his plot, which is a good two hours east of Harare and not easily accessible on single-track back roads. I can confirm this, as I have driven there. He grows enough maize to enable him to be self sufficient and anything spare is shared locally. Joseph is also really active with his local church and I get the impression that he is a well respected senior among his community. He is an old fashioned gentleman, always smart and well presented.

And then there are the chickens. Joseph and Blessing regularly buy chicks and raise them in a pen within their yard, for a little income. Once they are ready they put a simple sign on the gate, informing the locality that they are now for sale.


I’ve been there when customers arrive at the gates, knock and enter and are shown around the back of the house to make their choice. Sometimes, they enter the pen themselves and it is amusing to watch them chase a particular bird, as they all looked the same to me. The chickens are generally taken live, usually carried upside down held by their legs or carried off in black refuse sacks.

Now previously, Joseph had not allowed strangers into the yard and would have made them wait at the gate and he would have selected their chickens for them. Always security conscious from previous experiences, he had suffered robberies in the past. On the most disturbing occasion, burglars had entered his home while he, his wife and children slept. As soon as he could afford it he built a durawall on the outer sides of the plot, up to a certain height. A few years later he extended it to a greater height and trained two yard dogs which patrolled around their territory at night

In more recent times, since I have been visiting, only one dog remains; and he’s no spring chicken either. He’s a working dog, not a pet. He never enters the house and does not even have a name. He is a cross breed of indeterminate parentage and generally performs admirably. Its bark is loud and has woken me on many occasions, when he has been disturbed by something during the night. Unfortunately, someone or something passing on the road outside, the tiniest sound, a rat passing through the yard on tip-toe and of course, other dogs barking, all set him off. However, his bark is not as loud as the damned Jongwe that wakes me up every morning.

If someone strange managed to get into the yard he would be there like a shot and alert Joseph or Blessing. However, once he knows you and is aware that you are in the yard with Joseph or Blessing’s permission, he will accept you. The dog is not used to being given much affection, so when I, a Murungu Englishman came along and started to make a fuss of him, it was love at first sight. Now when he sees me, he lies down, rolls onto his back and waits to be stroked and tickled. I’ve even named him – No-name, which is a contradiction which amuses me. However, I’m not so sure that Joseph is too amused with me for softening up his guard dog. And I suppose I can accept this, because if an English Murungu Tsotsi did happen to get into the yard, No-name would almost certainly sniff him, lie down and roll over.

I’ve mentioned the security at Joseph’s place, as it was recently breached. Thieves had gone into the next door neighbour’s yard and were able to climb over their wall, which is not quite so high, and drop into Joseph’s yard. The dog had inevitably barked, but not enough to raise Joseph or Blessing, and not before being drugged or poisoned. Razor wire is now on order. So, what did the thieves manage to steal? Well, they could not get into the house due to the sufficient and efficient burglar bars on the windows, doors and on the outhouse. But they did not leave empty handed. They took fourteen chickens from the pen; young ones at that. I’m not certain whether Joseph had considered putting a sign on the gate at the time:



- No spring chicken here (other than Joseph, of course!) 

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