The Generosity of Poor Farmers

On the road...again!!! 
Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams 
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester  
By Dick Pellek 


The Generosity of Poor Farmers 


Mental images of generous people often appear in the dreams of the Footloose Forester.  As it happens, they were all poor farmers or shopkeepers who were framed in the sunlight and real time of their rural surroundings.  Just like the Bible account of the poor woman who gave a tithe from her own need, you knew they were poor by their simple clothing and shoeless appearance. 


The first mental image was of a shirtless and shoeless farmer who we spotted attending his small plot of crops along the banks of one of the marabou branches of the Senegal River.  The soil was softer nearer to the water line and when he saw we researchers approaching in a Land Rover, he went to the manioc plant closest to the water, reached down, and pulled the whole plant up by the roots.  He promptly broke off the largest of the tubers and offered it to us.  The sun-lit frame of that mental image also included the sweep of the agricultural plot itself, which contained no more than four other manioc plants.    


A second mental image of a poor farmer, also shoeless, came out of a dream about Cape Verde.  The Footloose Forester had given him a ride for several miles and when the man asked to stop at the side of a road junction, he emerged and put two ears of maize on the passenger's seat, without comment.  It was a gesture in body language.  The farmer knew that the well-fed Footloose Forester didn’t need the ears of maize, but it was his token of thanks for the ride.  There is generosity in poor people, even though there are not too many opportunities to share it. 


Most maize fields in Cape Verde did not look this good 


Two adolescent girls who asked for a ride in rural Mali, returned the favor by giving the Footloose Forester a small sachet of tea leaves taken from one of the trees growing along the Senegal River.  The girls identified the tree and its tea as kenkilibaa. As far as tea goes, it was not high on the flavor list and when the few people who the Footloose Forester offered to share with declined, he presumed that the large entirely formed leaves were a bit too unappealing.  But it was a small gift given by someone poor and the memory remained in the brain of the Footloose Forester for many decades. 


Finally, there was the gift of a whole kilo of Ceylonese tea, given by a modest shopkeeper in Sri Lanka who saw the Footloose Forester walking along the road to Kandy.  As he approached the small village after he emerged from inspecting a small stand of huge bamboo trees, the Footloose Forester must have presented a curious situation to those who watched him approaching.  They probably wanted to know how this stranger happened to be walking alone in the middle of the countryside.   So, they invited him into their shop to chat a while, and to present him with a bag of their superior Ceylonese tea leaves.  Poor people in The Third World.  Generous people, people with real empathy.  No wonder that the Footloose Forester chose to seek them out during his many sojourns, On the road...again!!!       

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