It was humid and rainy yet an average dweller in the community was so determined to go to the farmyard towards ensuring that the barn wouldn’t seem pathetic during the harvest period.
That was how the people of Umude were groomed; they were bred to see farming as the bedrock of human existence. None could spend a whole day without nurturing interest to embrace his or her ancestral farm with a view to participating actively in what they considered as the ‘most needful’.
On his part, Mr. Uka Okorie who stood aloof right on the premises of his marital home, fixed his gaze on the unfriendly atmosphere that was apparently a hindrance to the anticipated cultural exercise, as he unwittingly murmured to the hearing of his three daughters who were seated within.
Aside Umude’s unrelenting passion for farming, which was regarded as a daily ritual, Okorie’s in particular was conspicuously unparalleled. This was the reason even though the 54-year-old Mr. Uka had at the moment only female children, he remained a farmer to reckon with in the whole of Umude and beyond.
His second daughter, Chinasa who was ostensibly touched by the unending murmurs, walked up to him. “Papa, why are you restless?” she inquired. “You have been talking to yourself for several minutes now.”
“What kind of stupid question is that?” he vented the anger on her. “Can’t you see that the rain is keeping me off from the farm?”
“But papa,” his 25-year-old first child, Oge interrupted as she joined them leaving the third girl behind. “You shouldn’t forget that we also need the rain for our crops to do well.” She reminded maturely.
As Mr. Uka stood in his rain-booth, determined to embrace his farming empire, he apparently became pleased by Oge’s assertion, thus became more attracted to her person. “There is wisdom in your words, my daughter.” he concurred. “We really need the rain for our crops to flourish.” He said, paused. “But, just that I can’t wait to see how those crops are doing.” He added in a jiffy.
“But we were there yesterday, papa.” The 22-year-old Chinasa chipped in.
“Yes papa.” Oge supplemented, nodding. “And as at yesterday we saw them, they were doing very well.”
Mr. Uka walked to one of the benches positioned at the balcony where they were having the conversation and sat down. “Please, my daughters,” he uttered. “Come…” he quickly urged, gesticulating, and then paused. “I have something very important to tell you.” He landed.
The three of them, including Chioma his third child, walked to the point where he was seated and calmly sat on three separate chairs sited within. Mr. Uka was flanked by the three.
“You see,” he began, cleared his throat. “A farmer must be dedicated to his duties at all times…” He hinted, took a breath.
The three respectively adjusted themselves as they could not wait to absorb every bit of the awaited story, or whatever.
“Since I got married to your mother,’ he rode on. “There was never a day we missed our farmyard.” He informed with alacrity. “This is why we remain the most prosperous family in the entire Umude when it calls for farming business.”
Before he could finish the last word, his loving and lovely wife Uloma stepped out from the house in her night gown; it was 6:25am. She walked towards them. “Good morning, dear.’ She greeted her hubby, standing.
“Good morning nwanyi oma.” He responded cheerily.
“Good morning, mama.” the children chorused.
“Good morning, umu oma.” quoth Uloma. “How are you all?”
“We are fine, ma.” Oge replied on their behalf as if it was planned.
Uloma walked to her hubby, sat quietly on the same seat with him, and became attentive.
“As I was saying,” Mr. Uka continued. “I and your mother here had been so industrious in our family business right before you were born.” He notified frankly, paused. “That is the only reason we remain number one in this community.”
Uloma nodded, graciously glanced at each of her daughters. “What your father is saying is true.” she cleared the air. “We have been a wonderful pair in this.” She said, referring to the said venture. “And God has been so wonderful.” She added.
Mr. Uka nodded, twisted his head and remained calm.
“But even at that,” Oge chipped in. “There is still need for one to take a good rest sometime in his or her life.” she thought aloud.
“My daughter,” Mr. Uka called Oge tenderly, touching her right shoulder. “If we have rested all these while,” he said, paused. “We wouldn’t have gone this far.”
“I know, papa.” quoth Oge. “But, I am only talking of resting at least once in a week.”
Her mum was speechless as she tried to read meaning in her words.
“My dear,” quoth Mr. Uka. “There is no resting time for a man.” He hinted, inhaled air. “Unless he dies.”
“Really..?” said Oge, surprised.
“Yes.” Mr. Uka answered, nodding.
At this time, the rain became heavier, never minded that someone could not wait to see it fade away.
“Oh my God!” exclaimed Mr. Uka.
“What is it, papa?” Chinasa tendered.
“Can’t you see the rain is becoming endless?”
“That is nice, papa.” Chinasa teased. “At least, it would enable you take a rest.” She thought aloud.
“Will you shut up!” he angrily urged at the top of his voice, stood up. “Don’t you know heavy rain could be harmful to our farm?”
Everyone, including his wife, was so marveled over the uncalled response as they watched him in silent awe.
“I must leave now.” He said, stepped out, and bitterly set for the farm.
They all stood up simultaneously. “Papa,” Oge called in a loud voice as he takes some steps towards the farmyard. “What are you up to?”
He ignored the query, kept moving forward.
“Nnayi,” Uloma called. “Papa Oge.” She repeated, attempted to step into the downpour with the intent of getting hold of him but she was resisted by her daughters who held her firmly.
He overlooked every bit of their worry and insisted in going to the foreseen arena. On his way to the place, something unspeakable befell his person; a very tall palm-tree collapsed on him owing to the intense wind that ensued thereof, thereby claiming his life at the spot.
When the rain became lessened, his family went as a group to the farmyard. On their way, they encountered the bad omen that seemed not unlike a mere daydream. The incident threw the overall Okorie family and the entire people of Umude into uncontrollable anguish.
The first daughter of the deceased, Miss Oge took over from him thereafter and was in the long run reckoned to be the most foremost farmer not just in the land of Umude but in the Diaspora. She thought it wise that the only way she could make her late father proud in the grave was to commence exactly from where he stopped, though she vowed never to work without observing holidays.
- Nwaozor – novelist, playwright and poet, is Chief Executive Director, Centre for Counselling, Research & Career Development – Owerri
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