It was during the September of the year 1996, few months after the Ashondong forceful Conscription and when we had settled in at the triangle of Talimat-Gompok-Benye cattle camps when we revived our night games including the famous and endeared Kuormuong.
To the elders, the game was always considered dangerous because when a boy from the wild group (standing gamers) is caught, he remains in pain for days, at times, even for weeks. The body of such a boy would always be seen covered with wounds resulting from excessive scratching with nails as that victim always acquires some hurtful internal injuries from punches and blows hammered by the big boys among the players.
If standing gamers managed to pull one boy from the seated tame group, the one pulled is considered wild and has to help in the pulling process of the seated ones.
The bottomline was, a player is considered wild if the standing gamers pulled him off the sitting group that can too protect any of them that has been targeted and if the sitting group managed to catch the wild gamer, then the caught gamer is subjected to punishment as stated above.
In most of the said rascal games, bones reloading occurs and strength and skills are acquired including one Alueeth that involves too much sprinting.
Heavy boys like Maluak Makur Akech cannot make it to such a game but the light ones such as Machiek Nhial Makeny, Makor Imen and other boys such as Bilpam Madul remained untouchable due to their sprinting abilities.
It becomes even more colorful when the said games were to be practiced at the level of villages including Geng-Geng, Makur Panalang, Aninthok, Panekar and elsewhere due to the fact that boys can now have all varieties of foods and when boys have eaten to satisfaction, it is something else.
The said villages were characteristically the richest in all sorts of produce. Farming was at its peak with villagers and villages competing among themselves. Lazy men or women in our society then were symbols of dishonor.
Strong boys were always accorded respect and in the said triangle, Ichut Malel the grandson of Majur Tok with prominent uncle, Juek Majur Tok, a youth leader who later owned KGK modern machine-gun after the capture of Yirol from Arabs was of note, Marou Abelieny and I the Nephew of Manoah Mamol, one of the lead Civil and Military Administrators (CMA) were popular among many young herders. We were building impeccable reputations as our characters were noble or magnanimous and activities that we performed were resounding and subject to respect.
We undertook our duties with passion. We all look after calves with commitment. We used to keep the byres or Kraals clean and always well lit at night. We conferred good cattle hygiene and even food hygiene because young men desired to drink milk milked by us or some beautiful young girls of those days because of our exhibition of cleanliness.
When it comes to what we were known for, the “strength and fame”, we were almost of equal wavelengths but I was a little bit ahead of the duos and this was only enhanced by my town background.
I was even a court clerk to several local courts. In the said cattle camps, cases of varied origins were always handled. The likes of Majok Akech the substitute of his father Gai Nhial aka Arialdeu of the then Chieng Chuanga Branch Court (Rieer, Lualrioi and Herrial including jekdiet), Majak Tut of the then Rialkuei Branch Court, Makuei Amuom and Makeny Ichut the father of Abang Marial were also handling cases on behalf of Bahon Mabor the President of Luach Regional Court, other courts such as Jelek Regional Court under my cousin Degur Gaac, another Branch court by Akech Marial Takpiny and other several adhoc courts including the ones which were headed by Apugi Makeny and Mayor Imen Achieny respectively were all providing me with ready jobs to perform especially during school short holidays after the first term.
When village elders and youth saw me doing my clerical work, especially during the afternoon hours, they feel like they have to send their children to schools to be like Gad Imaan Manoah (Manoah’s Nephew).
It was when I left Mapuordit temporarily on my grandmother Ayor Mayen’s request because we her grandchildren(my cousin-Pilot Jurkuch,and I) spent long time without being with her since we left for Ethiopia in our tender ages in late 1980s.
Like all the herding boys, we were always clean in a special way, after showering we do blotched with ashes from the cows’ dungs but I was also exceptional in that I always worn clothes.
I had unfettered access to clothes because my uncle Kot James Mamol was working for the International Committee of the Red Cross( ICRC) in Lopiding Hospital, Lokichogio as a field Officer and he travelled frequently to territories inside the then liberated areas now South Sudan and on several occasions, he picks patients at Adior Airstrip and on such occasions he brings me clothes.
Also, one of my guardians, a father to my cousins, Bol Marial Machot was working as a Medical Assistant and Physiotherapist for the same ICRC initially at Akot and later in Yirol, he as well owned a shop that sold mixed goods and he too was my source of clothings and I could even ride a white ICRC bicycle and other bicycles; such means of transportation could be regarded as the Mercedes of those days. That too boosted my odds.
When holidays end, we always returned to the villages to attend schools. The Bush schools of those days were always far from wider villages but we had a closer school at Pul-Mager where I inspired majority of boys from Abanpoor suburb of Makur Panalang to eventually accept and attend school.
I was an inspirer, a dancer and a jovial friend to depend on. Several of my junior colleagues and especially those who were under my close association are today wonderful government cadres in South Sudan and some of them have taken lead in educating others.
While continuing with learning we do dance at night and sometimes during the day. I was a good songs’ composer especially the ones called Awaan. Those that operated with me are the likes of Ajiemtok Amuom and his younger brother Relwaak Amuom, I used to referred to them as sons of Nyanagook. Their mother loved us so much and she would always direct her sons not to part ways with me and that they should take my uncle as their father and learn from him. Relwaak was schooling with me and Ajiemtok was then keeping their cows and the ones of his auntie Ibol the mother of late Kei Ring. Other gentlemen who never parted ways with me were Tok Maker aka Mawuou, I learned that he died. Maluach Awuou, Makor Imen the youngest, Tong Luk Aping, Ader Marial Ngong and his brother Mapet, Lat Mayor Pawer and his brother Bec, Dhuor Dejau Bec, Majuong Gai, Madit Telar, Tong Telar, Mabor Mayor Akech aka Ayakgaan, Taban Mayor Akech, Puorchien Makuei Mawak and several others including Makogo Amukdut.
I actually had a big playground in our house organized and always kept clean by my uncle Adut Achiek Aguenhkok Bakkueinyin and I also had a well-known drum provided to me by one Ayokdeer who was given a bull by my uncle. Those night dances were usually filled with young beautiful ladies and senior youth would flock to our house for a brilliant catch. If that drum is not sounded, youth usually feel demoralized and unmotivated. I was popular for that and well-loved too.
After school period, always in November, we keep ourselves busy with the harvesting of crops of different varieties before summer comes. While doing such jobs we also do hunting with firearms and dogs. We then had guns. I actually had a gun when I was a boy.
My uncles (Gen. Thon Abraham and Manoah James) allowed me to possess one especially after the attack of Lieny and Pajot villages by Arab forces from Yirol town then led by disgruntled Makal Mabet Ater after his comrade Cin-bit-nyaath was blown off in Nyan via a firing squad. I was allowed to possess a gun because I was a trained child soldier during my time in Ethiopia and the trust bestowed upon me was due to the fact that I can handle the rifle with caution and utmost responsibility.
The gun in my possession was for protection of our household since we used to have numerous goats and sheep kept at home during wet season and hyenas were ravenous in that village and were even killing humans and in case of self-defense from the neighboring communities that attacked villages including Manhiany and Dharai.
However, while I knew how to use the firearm, I wasn’t a sharp shooter until when I was trained jointly with Mayor Makur Dakbaai by my cousin Mangar Kot Nyilueth popularly known in his maternal uncles territory as Machum Nyarong.
When I learnt the art of hunting, there was now a leeway because I was eventually a sharp shooter that hunts and kills animals that I chose to aim at including birds such as guineafowls.
That ability was later exploited by my older relatives and friends, the likes of Pudo Akolkuoi, my other best trainer in the wrestling arena and Koc Aleth Anin when they benefited from my sharp shooting ability, this was when I later got initiated to adulthood in Them-Bec cattle camp in 1998. I used to hunt for them, killed waterbucks and on several occasions, gazelles, warthogs, duikers and impalas among others.
I was also a hunter of smaller animals including Squirrels of all types, mangooses/Mangeese and birds such as hornbills, pigeons, doves, particularly palm doves and guineafowls. This hunting is junior and motives are all about prestige and practice for effective skills. I was later skilled to the extend that I could kill the smaller birds with fishing spear. My uncle’s wife Ayor Maker, the mother of young Gai Manoah was once surprised by my skills when I used the fishing spear (Bith) to spear at a distance the tiniest bird(Atoc-guenic) and pinned it on the ground at Akueei in the house of Ayew Maker when we were waiting for the sunset so as to travel in the absence of the scorching day heat through Pam-Adhiak-Yepliep route to Makur-Panalang via Nyang and Pajot.
This time, we used bows and arrows and dogs. I used to obtain my arrows from either Panekar or Akueei, one Bol Ibol, a brother to Amb. Dut Kuoi was my buddy in arrows making and we had a unique brand of arrows known for us across villages, other brands I obtained in Akueei from a blacksmith called Majongngaar but his boys were my trainers and providers.I later learned how to make arrows, Spears and fishing spears, spoons locally known as tung, local hoes and local axes and smoking pipes at Makur Panalang under one Ngeth Ayiei whose blacksmithing firm was located under Aradep or (tamarin) tree in the house of Nhial Achieny and some guys from Pan-Laak and particularly one Chaath-ce-lo.
I actually had skills for survival at that time and I can survive even as a fisherman. I was too trained on how to swim and fish properly by a cousin, Dominic Mayor Dholic also known as Kapoeta Mayor at Wanhlang during our time at Rorgou or Panekar. This will be for another day including how Makuenpuor Nhial Koryom blew off numerous boys including Achol Buny with landmine that I used as my toy for nearly a year at our house near School in Ageynhom. For purposes of security and hunting, I raised 14 strong dogs but Pinylotueng was the strongest of all. My buddies too had the strongest dogs in the village. One lad whose dog was the fastest of all was a guy called Maluach Gai Awuou, his dog was a bitch called Nyanekuei that exhibited the unmatched beauty amongst all our dogs.
I too had a dog named Kongdaai that I stole in Domjiel cattle camp from my uncle Maguang Alier when we were at Pateny cattle camp during the summer of 1997. Kongdaai was a popular bitch that nearly supplied the entire village with puppies. But a son of one Chiec Achuoth called Maruor had the toughest dogs. They never failed to catch an impala or a duiker, those dogs were named Talimat and Tarir respectively but due to their love of goats’ placentas, they were almost considered for mine because they lived with my dogs always as they were attracted to goats. I also used to cunningly killed disobedient goats by throttling them on occasions of organizing them inside their house and we do have meat at shorter intervals and that attracted dogs to our house. I liked their vigilance though.
The said dogs together with the team of my dogs can ward off a huge crowd of hyenas. Certain nights used to be bad, we lived near a pond and an open ground with several bushes, that is Abang Gai Awuou, that place was a good hunting ground for several animals at night but was also popular for harboring a dark leopard that kills goats frequently; the said leopard then thought that it would be easier for it to feast on my goats and dogs as it wishes, however, that didn’t become the case.
In essence it wasn’t that easy as it thought. The dogs disciplined it on several occasions as they attacked it in fours and twos and we eventually ambushed it with Nyachut, a son of Khamis Malong Nureen our uncle and we eventually killed it with Nyachut’s long rifle; then gave it to one Deng Dhaal from Ajuong clan who was tasked with skinning or peeling off of the skin given his expertise, he later didn’t give it back to us on claims that certain unnamed soldier took it from him but he was later pressurized to pay us for it and he gave us a good bull. I kept the bull until Nyachut returned from Atit near Tali and we sold the bull at a cost of 500 dinars to one Mayen Ayaak and then Nyachut gave me some 200 dinars that I bought a goat with and Nyachut kept his money. I didn’t follow up how he later used it.
The said leopard killed a dog belonging to a son of Majak Mading, a nephew of my good friends Madit and Tong Telar. Madit and his sisters were popular in our village too because they were ten brothers and sisters in only six deliveries.
The first one was Akuei the mother of Ilualthiep whose dog was killed by a leopard and hanged it on a tree near our house. The last born is called Tong or Bol. The rest were four pairs of twins and they were either Adit, Madit, Chien or so. May God bless them.
While hunting was our best winter hobby, we too love common September-October-November upto December wrestling and dancing scenes, particularly the wrestling conducted at Lieny at the house of popular Abiel Pec another in Biling or Mamer. Those wrestling grounds were popular and the dominant forces then were those of Koc Aleth, Akecraan, Manuer Mangui, Matueny Butic, Yak Matueny, Mabok Dhuor, Kuer Dhuor, Adut Pudo, Mawut Dhuor, Machekdhony Marial, Angothjath Kulang, Majur Bol, Aguek Jok, Adut Majur Kacbenyliel, Malou Jongdit, Mayen Let, Bekrial Wutchok and Malong Wutchok his brother among multitudes of wrestlers gifted in different ways.
Nevertheless, another unforgettable scene is that of Kudung or Bulpuony dancing, it was in Aninthook at the house or Mangar Beny. That is were you can spot true dancers but Ayor from Kuek section a wife to Majak Yuol brother of Marial Manyiel was exceptional. She showcased her brand type of dance as many young ladies were admiring and imitating her.
Kudung was real. It wasn’t a matter of challenge but one of qualities desired of a good wife. I can recall the likes of Ayor Aliang, Nyachut Dol, Nyantet Mayor Pawer, Acholdit Anhiem Chagai aka Chuolanyaar, Iniong Juelang Marier and Nyarier Marial Bahon terrorizing the societies around with amazing beauty and a gift of dancing.
Life was easy, rains were regular and the gods didn’t give up. The dirty cattle boys were actually not dirty but leading a better life.
By Dr. Sunday de John