My old man insists I owe him bull-service fees

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But my old man doesn’t agree. He says I owe him Sh300, from a prospective business deal he had that I messed up at the last minute, due to what he categorically dismissed as ‘poking your long ugly nose in other people’s affairs’. It’s comical in a way, but I know my old man - he has a hard outer case - but all mushy inside.

I can bet that he’s secretly proud of me.

I am in the village for my annual leave. Its over rated, when they say ‘go home and rest’ - it’s a scam. The villagers see me as a Messiah of sorts, someone who’s travelled and seen the world and its ways. In that regard, they drop into our home unannounced, with all sorts of problems.

“My daughter has secured a place at the university, assist her, she’s new in the city.” “My son needs an internship at this and this hospital.” I always try to assist.  A lot of times, it’s about reaching and sharing information, not about an illusion of my supposed knowledge of the city. It usually ends up as a crash session on the usage of the browser on a basic Android phone.

My knowledge of the city isn’t grounded on campus registration issues - perhaps, maybe, the clubbing scene.

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My village is largely a farming area, with a blooming interest in commercial dairy farming. It’s picking up steadily, albeit the greatest handicap being the unavailability of information relevant to dairy farming. I have been extolling all our new farmers to embrace digital platforms.

This antagonism my old man currently radiates befell me one early morning, in my last week of vacation. So, am roasting green maize on an open fireplace behind my simba. I hear a commotion around the gate, and I spot a black and white heifer in full gallop shoot past the main house to my direction.  She’s excited, obviously on heat and the owner, our neighbor is bringing her to be served by one of my old man’s bulls.

A few minutes later, the owner, Mzee Wambua, comes charging along, obviously out of breath.

Achana naye, Mzee”. I tell him. “Compound iko fenced, itatulia tu”.

Amezoea Zero Grazing. Leo amepata freedom lazima kieleweke mapema” Wambua says, panting.

Soon enough, the heifer calms down and starts nibbling on some creepers on the perimeter fence. She’s beautiful, and I know she’s a Friesian, pure breed. Am at a loss - why would Mzee Wambua use a bull to serve a heifer at this level? My old man’s bulls are prize-winning, but definitely inferior to this breed.

“Mzee Wambua, mbona unatumia service ya kienyeji kwa ng’ombe mzuri kama huyu?” I ask him, patting a spot on the gnarled log that goes for a seat.

He accepts to sit, and gazes at the heifer like Jesus would gaze at His Disciples. She’s sniffing and nibbling on the fence. These farmers genuinely love their animals.

Ni hali mbaya, Junior” He laments. “Nilipewa huyu Friesian na shemeji yangu last year”.

My childhood nickname has stuck all these years, especially with the older generation. My old man is yet to arise - he brags of enjoying his retirement. Sleeping in every morning is one of his ways. We have to wait, as his favorite bull is a wild one. He was already pawing the ground in his kraal. We get some minutes to catch up, with Mzee Wambua.

In a few minutes, I get the dilemma Mzee Wambua is facing. His heifer has got into the heat cycle at a most inopportune time for him. Just a week before, the schools in the county had been on midterm, and he had to clear school fees for his sons in high school. He was flat broke.

Cash flow in the rural is erratic. However, Mzee Wambua is a reputable tea farmer, besides other agricultural activities. Notably, Macadamia Nuts, the latest craze in the region. The catch, though, is that payment for nuts delivered is done a week after. He had done some deliveries, but payment was yet due.

“Wanakulipa kupitia bank gani?” I ask him.

“Co-Op Bank” He says, gnawing at a cob. It’s partly burnt, on one side. Roasting maize is neither a favorite, nor a well-practiced pastime.

“Itisha temporary loan kwa simu za kulipa daktari. Watakata kwa pesa ya Macadamia ikilipwa”. I suggest.

The area veterinary doctor has some fees, thrice higher than the Sh300 my old man charges for the services of his bull. Its superior seed, though. It’s Saturday, and a heifer’s heat cycle lasts only 36 hours, and if service is not done, goes on heat again after 21 days.

“Tumia simu. Unaweza tumia simu kupata hio mkopo kwa urahisi” I tell Wambua.

He whips out his phone. Luckily, it’s an Android smartphone. I check it out, it’s gnarled and full of scratches, but works well. I buy him some data from my phone and hand it back.

I look at my watch. It’s little past 8am. On Saturdays, the local Co-op Bank branch is open up to midday. There’s enough time to walk the short distance to the Nkubu Town branch and make the necessary mobile money registration.

Well, it takes some resolve to leave the little roast maize fiesta. The sacrifice and self-discipline it summons - I feel a little like a soldier going to war. Thankfully, it’s a slow day at the bank, no long queues. A pleasant, smiling lady at the desk patiently takes Mzee Wambua through the process. I keep jumping in, adding little tidbits to the conversation. I have to seem important, you know.

The lady assists us download the MCo-op Cash App, and install it. Then shows him how to navigate the App, though he keeps asking her how long the loan takes to be approved.

“Sasa hivi, Mzee” She tells him. “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you”.

Interestingly, we find out Mzee Wambua qualifies for quite a large amount based on his account’s activity. He keys in a request for Sh10,000.00 and in a few moments, the money rings in his M-Pesa account.

He’s amazed, that the App qualifies clients for salary loans up to an incredible Sh200,000.00. More appealing, is the low interest rates involved.

“Kumbe hii simu za kisasa ziko na maneno!” He smiles, with his characteristic missing tooth on the upper row.

He makes a call to the vet, and gets assurance of service in less than an hour. We walk back home, just on time to meet my old man getting out of the house, a smoky home-made cigar dangling from his lips.

It wasn’t at all amusing for my old man seeing the neighbor drive his heifer out of the compound.

Since then, my old man’s morning greetings are restricted to a grunt, and a snort.

“Pesa yangu unanilipa lini Junior?” He snarls.

“Anza kuamka mapema mzee” I tease him back.

I hope I don’t get kicked out of his will.

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