Written by Ty
Who would'a thunk? Apparently you can teach a cow not to eat out of your garden. Just now I was chastising some of the boys for letting a cow eat in their garden. I told them I did not want them to become skinny (they are skinny enough) because they let the cow eat their sukuma (it's like kale and they eat it pretty much every day).
Two of the eldest turned to me and said "That one doesn't eat sukuma." As a refutation I pointed to it eating in the garden.
They exchanged words I couldn't catch and then announced, "That one doesn't eat sukuma--just grass."
"How do you know it doesn't eat sukuma?" I queried.
"We taught it," they countered.
"You can teach it to just eat the grass and not the sukuma?" I was a little incredulous.
"Yes," they insisted, "but you have to start when it's a calf."
"How do you teach it?"
"With a stick!" they cried in unison.
I guess you could say that the cow is "weeding the garden."
I would still be tempted to disbelieve them except I've had enough experience with these boys to know that they are really quite clever. Yesterday, in preparation for some guests arriving to day, we had a "compound day," which means we spent a lot of time cleaning up and doing yardwork. An American lawnmower that had not been used in two years materialized out of a storage shed. Of course the boys couldn't get it to start. But they were motivated because usually they cut all the grass with pangas (like machetes) and we have several acres of grass. I told them I could probably get it to run. About ten of them came along to discover how to resurrect this machine. I got out my tools and removed and rebuilt the carburetor and cleaned the gas tank and lines. A tank of new gas and little fiddling with the choke and throttle and it started right up. While I tinkered with it, I explained to them all about how a combustion engine works: how it needs fuel, oxygen, heat, and a spark--just like a fire does (they all know how to do that) and just like their bodies do. And how the fuel and air have to be mixed in the right proportion (like building a fire). This comparison was lost on a few of them but others latched right on to it.
They spent the whole afternoon mowing in turns. They took turns because it was a privilege, not because they didn't want to work. A few hours later I stopped them and quizzed them. "What does the carburetor do?" I asked. "It mixes the petrol and the air so that the fuel can burn!" they shouted with glee. In no time they were experts at the choke and throttle and the nuances of running a lawnmower--including how to bypass the safety features. They figured that out all on their own from watching me and from experimenting. They're really clever kids. They may be from the bush and not yet educated, but they are not dumb. They were at it again at dawn this morning. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that they were standing out there at 5AM with the lawnmower waiting for the sun to lighten the eastern sky. They love the thing. I can hear it running out there right now. Maybe if they finish all our grass here I'll send the over to the hospital which has another 5 acres of tall grass...
By the way, if I can teach them about a carburetor and how to revive an unresponsive lawnmower, I can teach them about a metabolism and how to resuscitate a sick patient.