The Adventure Boys (a self-proclaimed band of “mighty hunters”) have been occupied with constructing traps (tin cans, rubber straps, wooden boards), prowling late nights and early mornings through the neighbors’ bushes, and catching rats.
The Adventure Boys roam the denizens of my small neighborhood of Sankor, in the town of Winneba, on the coast of Ghana. The oldest is 15; the youngest is 9. They use the rats to fill the family coffers by selling them to chop bars. Sometimes, they use them to fill their own stomachs (after frying them on my electric stove!).
The latter, by the way, is how you know I love my boys. Any vegetarian who lets someone bring freshly butchered meat into her room and use her salt and oil to fry it before consuming it all before her horrified eyes is either insane or in love. I am not insane. (I did draw the line at using my pots, though).
Attipoe, The Heartbreaker, The Stomach, and his brother form the core of this fearless band of trappers. They recently bestowed upon me the privilege of accompanying them on one of their late evening forays into the wilds of Winneba. After my trapping uniform of skinny jeans, tank top, and fair-trade sneakers was met with universal approval, we were on our way
We lied in Fantse (the local language) to one lady about where we were going and hid in the bushes from another until she was out of sight.
I was made fully aware at every turn of the great honor being afforded to me – apparently mere mortals are not often given the priviledge to view these proceedings
John, The Stomach’s brother, stayed back as my bodyguard while the others penetrated the tumbled-down walls and waist-high grasses that hid their prey. There they set the traps that would catch the rats — alive and unharmed until they returned the following morning to check their lines.
“Allow me to pause here and give you a piece of advice: it is NOT a good idea to automatically accept objects from children, even those with engaging smiles.”
As I think back upon that memorable night, it strikes me that my cell phone saw far more of the action than I did. Its flashlight brought me comfort but the boys were not as pleased; my white skin was drawing much attention to their top-secret locations and they very emphatically declared, “Madam, you must not to come again, oh!” No matter.
Two days later, I had just finished hanging up my laundry when Timothy (from a rival, not-to-be-trusted clan of hunters) came up and said, “Here, Madam Sarah!”
Allow me to pause here and give you a piece of advice: it is NOT a good idea to automatically accept objects from children, even those with engaging smiles. Once, while walking home from the market, a little boy I had never met before came toward me and said, “Here, chop!” He popped a small piece of whatever he was eating into my mouth and I swallowed before I had time to think and ask what it was. I later found out that it was chicken.
This time may have been far, far more traumatic.
When I looked down at Timothy I found myself grasping the severed tail of a rat-possum. I gasped and dropped it and started hyperventilating. I extended my hand as far from my body as it would go.
Timothy started laughing and picked the tail back up. At the same time he dodged young Ema, who had come to give him blows when he saw how freaked out I was (though I’m pretty sure Ema was kind of laughing too).
One day later I was at Sister Mary’s store buying FanYogo when Gideon came up and hit the back of my right hand with something. I looked down and saw the you-know-what again.
This time I didn’t hyperventilate. I was getting used to severed tails. I did threaten not to let him watch cartoons on my laptop any more, though.
When I passed by Timothy’s house shortly thereafter, he was sitting on the block wall casually swinging the tail back and forth while gazing off into space.
Rubber snakes? I’m down with that. Dirty bits of rope picked up off the road? It’s all good. The occasional worm (dead or alive)? Fine, fine.
But Mother Ghana, why-oh-why do you let your sons play with severed rats’ tails!?
Words and photos: Sarah Morbitzer