Election ceremony / Snow fall

(The Saga of Caveman Hom, Episode 5)

[Index]

[Previous Episode]

Last time, me tell how Chief Boz drop rock on foot, get hurt very bad. Me fetch mother, name Krone – she wise woman of tribe. When Krone see foot, she shake head. She use healing herbs, but she say Boz not walk again. 

Krone say tribe need new Chief. She call election ceremony. Then night fall. 

Long time pass since ceremony. Much happen, great hardship! But at last me ready tell more. Now story continue:

Next morning Buz, son of Boz, beat drum. Drum summon tribe to meeting place. Everybody come, men, women and children. This important event for tribe. Nobody want miss election.

Boz there already. Foot still broken. It wrapped in leaves and mud for healing. Boz face show pain, he very pale. But he still Chief. He look around at tribe. He hold up hand for quiet. And all talking stop.

Boz sip water from coconut, then he speak quiet. ‘Me thank tribe for come see Chief. This important day. For seven years me Chief, tribe prosper. But now foot broken, me useless! So Krone call election ceremony.’ Boz pause. He cough. He sip more water.

‘This good, it fit with ancient rites. Me thank Krone for healing poultice. Krone know magic, so maybe me not die. But reign over. Me hereby relinquish position of Chief. But me have right to nominate successor. So me nominate son, Buz.’ 

Now Krone rise to speak: ‘Me thank Boz for kind words. Tribe grateful for long service of Boz. He no longer Chief, but he nominate successor – son Buz!’ Krone point Buz; Buz stand. 

Krone continue: ‘Now election begin. It simple. If everyone want Buz for Chief, then finished – Buz Chief. But if anyone not want, now is chance to speak! You name own choice successor. This not problem, this important part of ritual. After this is vote. Winner become Chief.’

Tribe chatter, much excitement! Then someone shout: ‘Me want be Chief!’. Everybody look – it man who say he woman, name Tra. He say, ‘Why always man is Chief? Why not woman? Tribe sexist! This bad.’

Krone reply, ‘Tra want be Chief, but need nomination! Not allowed nominate self – ritual important! Who else want Tra be Chief?’ Soon Foo step forward, he big expert on worm. ‘Me not sexist. So me nominate Tra. He woman, but he clever! He make good Chief. Who second Tra?’

‘Me second,’ say Min. Me surprise! Min is wife of Boz. She also mother of Buz. Why she want election? Why she support Tra? This fishy. Me look at Krone. She say, ‘Foo nominate Tra; Min second. So now Tra stand against Buz!’

Then Mat walk forward; he official Counting Man. Mat hold Bag of Voting. 

Mat begin speak, but Gel interrupt. She say, ‘Me nominate Fem!’ This cause much argument. Some men laughing. They say, ‘You Hom! Control your woman!’ 

But me not want control my woman.

Me say, ‘Gel is member of tribe. She have right to speak! Me not interfere.’

Men jeer at Hom, say, ‘Hom weak. In cave of Hom, it Gel who wear short loincloth. She make Hom cook food. Hom dance like woman! Gel hunt pig, not Hom!’

Me reply ‘Me cook. It true. Me dance too. But me not woman. Me man.’ 

Men laugh. ‘But Gel nominate Fem for Chief! This stupid! Fem is woman! How can woman be Chief?’

Now me angry. Me shout, ’No, you stupid! Why not woman be Chief? What wrong with woman?’

‘Woman not hunt pig,’ say Foo. ‘Woman not catch fish. Woman soft, good only for make babies. If man follow woman, he no longer man. If make woman Chief, it big trouble for tribe.’

Now Gel say, ‘But Foo nominate Tra! Min second! Tra stand in election; he oppose Buz. But now Foo say woman make only trouble? Foo think Tra is woman. But me think Foo scared of real woman!’

Tra now angry, he shout at Gel, ‘What you say? You say me not real woman! Pah!’ Tra spit on ground. ‘Me more woman than you, Gel. You ugly.’

Me shout, ’What? You dare insult wife of Hom? You want fight?’

‘No need fight,’ Foo say, ‘Of course Tra is woman. Look coconut! He use coconut to cover boobies. Only woman have boobies. You, Gel – why you not wear coconut? You want other men see boobies? You not like sex with Hom? You want real man?’ 

‘Right!’ me scream. ‘That it, Foo! You ask for it! Now me kick your arse!’

But Krone raise voice. ‘Enough!’ she say. Her voice ring out, and all argument stop. Me feel shame. Me whisper, ‘Sorry mum.’

Krone ignore me. ‘Foo say Tra is woman. Foo nominate Tra. Min second. Nobody complain. So woman is allowed. Debate finished. Now where Fem?’

‘Me here,’ say Fem.

‘You, Fem – you recieve nomination. You want be Chief?’

Fem nod. ‘Me want,’ she say.

‘Very well,’ say Krone. ‘Who second Fem for Chief?’

Now friend Gai raise hand. ‘Me second,’ he say. ‘Fem make good Chief. She very skilled at hunting pig.’

‘Fine,’ say Krone. ‘Foo nominate Fem, and Gai second. So Fem also stand for election.’ She pause, look around at tribe. ‘Any more?’ she ask. But no-one come forward. ‘Where Counting Man, Mat?’ say Krone. ‘Where stones?’

‘Me here,’ say Mat. ‘Me have stones.’

‘And Bag of Voting?’

‘Me have bag too,’ say Mat. He hold up bag for tribe to see. ‘It made from bladder of pig,’ he add. ‘Best quality.’

‘It fine bag,’ say Krone. ‘It perfect for voting. Me give thanks.’

Mat bow.

‘Now,’ say Krone, ‘Official counting man will please hand out stones.’

Mat give stones to every member of tribe. He give out black, white, and red stones, one each. Then he explain: ‘White stone mean Buz. Black mean Tra. And red mean Fem.’

‘That bad!’ shout Tra. ‘Why Fem get red? Me want red!’

‘What matter?’ ask Mat. ‘What wrong with black?’

‘Don’t pretend you not know! You insult me!’

‘Me not understand,’ say Mat. ‘What is problem?’

‘Me know,’ say Gel. ‘Tra think red mean blood. Women bleed with moon, so he think red mean woman. He think if he get red stone it mean he woman. But you not give him red stone. He think this mean he man.’

Mat shake head. ‘But colour mean nothing. It just for counting.’

‘Me want red!’ shout Tra. ‘Me woman! Me exist!’

‘You stupid,’ say Mat. ‘You not make good Chief.’

’Stop it!’ shout Krone. ‘No need more nonsense. You, Counting Man – can you make red stone mean Tra?’

Mat scratch head. ‘Of course. But me not see—’

‘Then me decide,’ say Krone. ‘Red mean Tra.’

Mat shrug. ‘No problem. Now red mean Tra. Black mean Fem. And white mean Buz. It simple,’ he say. ‘To vote, everybody put one stone in bag. Make sure you pick right colour. One stone only. After everyone vote, me count coloured stones. Me compare. Most stones decide winner.’

Krone say, ‘This clear? Any question? No? Good. Then we vote now.’

One by one, everybody walk up, put stone in bag of voting. Krone watch close, make sure no cheating. Everybody watch. Election important – decide future of tribe.

After vote come count. Mat take stick, draw circle on ground. Then he tip stones from bag of voting. He very careful – he not let stones escape. He shake bag, make sure no more stones inside. Then he count. 

Mat big expert on counting. He count slow, but careful. Rest of tribe watch close, but we not know counting – we leave that to expert. Mat count stones twice. Then he count again. He very careful. He want get count right.

Finally, Mat stand up to announce vote. ‘Me count stones,’ he say. ‘Me very careful. Me count stones twice, then me count again. And now me know answer: Black stones is more. Black mean Fem, so Fem win election. This is official result.’

Krone cry out, ‘Election finished. Ritual complete! All hail Chief Fem!’

Much noise errupt! Much cheering, but me hear men grumbling; they not want woman for Chief! Children dancing – they happy. 

But when me look at Tra, me see he crying. But me not see sadness – me see rage. Tra stare at Fem with face of hatred. He sore loser. Me look away. Me not want see his face.

Soon tribe leave meeting place. Krone go with Boz, make fresh poultice for foot. Me return to cave for fetch spear. Me go hunt pig.

Hunt successful! Me return to cave with much meat.

Gel see me coming, she run out! She throw arms around Hom. She crying!

‘What matter?’ me ask. 

‘Big trouble!’ sob Gel. ’Fem overthrown! She captured!’

‘What?’

‘It true!’ say Gel. ‘We just talking, but men come with spear!’

‘Who come? What men?’

‘Many men! Buz, Foo, Pev, plenty others. But leader is Tra.’

‘Tra? What he want?’

‘He take power. He say he Chief now.’

’This treason,’ me say. ‘It very bad.’ 

‘Yes,’ say Gel. ‘Tra crazy! Me scared for Fem. Me think maybe Tra… Tra…’

‘Ssshh,’ me say. ‘Me not let that happen.’

‘Me love you,’ say Gel. 

‘Me know.’ 

She kiss me long time. It nice, but now me cry too.

‘Where children?’ me ask.

‘Children fine,’ say Gel. ‘They hiding in cave. They scared.’

‘Me scared too,’ me admit. ‘It no shame. But what do?’

‘Me make soup,’ say Gel. ‘We talk while eat.’

Me nod. ‘That good idea,’ me say. Then bad thought come. ‘What about Krone? Where she?’ 

But Gel shake head. She not know.

In cave me find children hiding with friends of Gel, name Ruti and Cal. Everybody scared. But we hungry too, and soup ready, so eat. Ruti say she there when men come with spears for capture Fem. She tell whole story. 

Then me ask questions – who there? What about Gai and Fab? Ruti say they not with men. Ali not there either, she say. This good, me think. Friends loyal. After eat me give hug all round. Then me take spear, me go to cave of Gai and Fab. 

Me explain what happen, then together we go find Ali. He in cave with wife Nizzi and son Cul. We talk fast, then Ali tell Cul fetch spear and two big stick. He tell Nizzi go, join others at cave of Hom and Gel. Nizzi run. Then friends pick up weapons. 

We walk quick to cave of Boz, but when we close we go slow, we go quiet. There we find band of traitors led by Tra. They talking to Boz. We stay quiet. We hide in trees. We listen.

Boz speak quiet. He in pain. He sound weak, but he angry! ‘This wrong!’ he say. ‘This treachery! Fem win fair election – she Chief, that that!’ 

‘But she woman!’ shout Foo. ‘Me not take orders from woman!’

‘Oh? You not take orders from woman?’ Me recognise voice – it mother, Krone! She safe! Me glad.

Now Krone laugh. ‘What about Tra? Is he not woman, too?’

‘That different,’ say Foo. ‘He special kind woman. He man.’

This make Tra furious! ’Me not man,’ he scream. ‘Me woman! Me all woman!’

‘That right!’ laugh Krone. ‘Tra is King of Women! It no problem take orders from King of Women.’

Boz groan. ‘What happen to tribe? Why we go so crazy?’

‘We human,’ say Krone. ‘We all fools. But it not your fault.’

‘Of course it my fault!’ snap Boz. Then he cough bad. 

‘Sssh,’ say Krone. ‘No need talk, Boz. You rest.’

Me give signal, and suddenly all friends run towards cave. Ali hit two men with big stick, they fall! Gai jump Tra, hold him to ground; Fab point spear at chest – he captured! Cul catch Foo same way, and me catch Buz. 

Ali stand by with stick in both hands. It standoff! Me thrust spear at Buz. ‘Where Chief Fem?’ me shout. Buz point at corner. Fem there, she tied up in net, unconscious. She look bruised, but she alive. 

Me glance at Krone, ‘How you, mum?’ me ask.

‘Me good.’

‘How Boz?’

‘He not so good. He need medicine, but me not allowed gather herbs.’

‘What this?’ me say to Buz. ‘You want Boz die?’

‘Not me! Me only follow orders!’ say Buz. ‘It Tra in charge.’

’That right,’ say Tra. ‘This my tribe now.’

Me look around. Friends still outnumbered. We lucky with sneak attack, we take good hostages. But on other side is too many men. If fight break out, we lose.

‘We not want violence,’ me say. ‘We want negotiate.’

‘What you want?’ ask Tra. 

‘We want leave tribe,’ me say. ‘We take Chief Fem. We take Krone. We take whoever want come, and we go. We go over mountains, far away. We form new tribe. We not bother you again. That all we want. And in return, we not kill anyone.’

‘This good deal, King Tra,’ say Krone. ‘Me suggest you take it.’ 

“Hmmph,’ say Tra. ‘Maybe.’

Krone smile at me. ‘Me proud of you, son Hom. But me not come with you. Me too old for mountains. And me needed here, with Boz.’

‘But you wise woman,’ me say. ‘Tribe need wise woman.’

’That right,’ say Krone, ‘But me needed here, in this tribe. You have other wise woman, she young one.’

‘Who that?’

‘You not know?’ Krone laugh. ‘Men so stupid! But all women know – it obvious! So no problem; you ask wife.’

Me not understand, but not argue with Krone – that always bad idea. 

Negotiations continue – Tra resist, but Fab thrust spear at face and soon he give in. Cul untie Chief Fem and sling across back, and we leave. We happy avoid bloodshed, but we still nervous; we not trust King Tra and his men. So we walk quiet, watch out for ambush. 

After while we hear footsteps – someone coming! They running fast. We stop, turn to face sound – we ready for attack! But then we hear voice: ‘Wait! Me want come with you!’ Me recognise voice – it Min, wife of Boz! 

‘Me want leave tribe,’ she say, ‘there nothing for me here. Tra hate me – he think me traitor! And Boz think me plot against him with boozy plums. Me not want stay here! Me want see mountains!’

Me not understand about plums, but me not care; me always like Min. ‘No problem,’ me say. ‘Please come.’

When arrive at cave, everbody happy we back safe with Chief Fem. Cul put Fem down on soft fur. She still unconscious. Gel concerned. She boil water. She send Nizzi get special herbs, put in water. 

Gel dip moss in water, wipe Fem face clean. She see bruise on head, look close. It look like mark of big stick.

She say, ’Chief sleeping, but soon she wake.’

‘This good,’ me say. ‘When she wake, we go. We not wait for morning.’ 

Me look around. Me see more women come, many children. Mat also come. Me say, ‘We leave tribe. We go over mountain where safe. We not return. We go soon, get ready! Bring food, water, animal skins for keep warm.’

Me think more, then me add: ’Bring spear and stick. Bring net for fish. Bring bow and arrow. Bring kindling, and stone for make fire. Bring plenty twine. Bring shoe. Bring all – but quick! When Chief wake up, we go. We not wait for you. Me not trust Tra. Maybe he attack.’

People hurry, fetch supplies. Everybody move fast. Me stay behind, butcher pig and rabbits from today hunt. While me work me look Gel. She still tending Chief Fem. 

‘When you learn medicine?’ me ask. ‘Who teach?’ 

Gel laugh. ‘You so silly,’ she say, ‘Where you think? Me learn from Krone many year. She say me have gift.’

‘So you wise woman now?’ Me laugh. ’That make sense, but how me not know? Mother right – me stupid!’ 

Gel say, ‘Husband not stupid. He cunning! He brave. But medicine women’s business. We not share secret with men.’

Now Chief Fem wake up. She groan. Gel feed Chief soup with herbs. Me ask Fem what happen. She not remember much, only hit with stick. 

Gel explain what happen, Chief Fem listen. Me think Chief cry, but no, she strong. She say, ‘It shame, but Hom right – we run to mountains, find safe place. Then we make new tribe. We find new way of living, better way. We find peace.’

Soon everybody return to cave with supplies. More children come. Someone bring dog. Me not like dog, but not complain. Chief awake now – she wise. Me follow orders.

We share out last of soup. We put out fire. We go.

When morning come we already at foot of mountain. We rest few hours, then begin climb. Mountain pretty – me like! But it steep too. Footing treacherous! We go slow, cautious. 

We not know way, but we trust in Fem – she Chief. She trust in good luck. Along way much talking. Ruti, Cal, Fem, Min and Nizzi – these women clever, make big plan for tribe.

Mountain high. It higher than look. It take days to climb. High up it get cold. We go slower, keep stop for make fire and eat. Wind blow hard, make cheeks red. Still we climb, but now food get scarce. We think we bring plenty, but we not expect journey so long, so hard. 

Men try catch prey – we see rabbit, but they too clever for us. We see goat, but they see us first. We not catch prey. We see big mountain cat, but we lucky – she ignore us. We find only small berries, very bitter – not good for eat. 

Everybody hungry. Children cry. Even dog sad, he howl. Me think maybe we eat dog one day. But me not want eat dog. He friend of tribe. It bad luck eat friend.

Then snow come. It pretty at first. Everybody laugh! Children play. But snow keep coming. It very cold now. Me feel freeze in feet. It hard to walk, but me walk. And at last we reach peak of mountain, we find narrow pass through rocks. We clear snow, make it through. 

Me exhausted. Me need sleep. More snow fall. Me hear noise in head, like buzz of bee. Me not understand. Me see only white. Me not see friends, only snow, falling falling. Feet slip on rock. Now me falling too. Me feel peace. Me dead. 

But then me wake! Me feel pain in legs, shoulders. Me not dead. Me warm. Me smell food. Me hear voices, talking soft. Me hear Gel! Me hear children. Me open eyes. Me see cave; me inside. Me lie on soft furs. Me safe.

Me try sit up, but back hurt. Much pain! Me groan.

‘You awake!’ say Gel. ‘This good. But you not move, you hurt.’

‘What happen?’ me croak. “Me think me fall.’

‘Not talk,’ say Gel. ‘Keep still. Me fetch Chief Fem.’

Chief come. She kiss Hom on head. She smile. ‘You big hero’, she say, ‘You save us all!’

‘Me not understand,’ me say. ‘What happen? Me think me fall in snow. Me think me die on mountain. But me not die. Me live! How possible?’

Fem laugh. ’You fall,’ she say. ‘That true. You fall long way, get lost in snow. You nearly die. But tribe search for Hom. We search long time, we never give up! We find marks in snow from falling. We follow marks – find Hom! You half frozen, but heart still beat.’ 

‘Tribe have hope,’ continue Fem. ‘We decide gather firewood. We look around – we find cave! It right there, where Hom fall. Without Hom, we not find shelter. We all die on mountain. You fall, you find cave. It good luck! You save us all!’

‘What?’ me say. ‘Me do what?’

‘It true,’ say Gel. ‘You hero.’

Me smile. ‘Me hurt. How bad?’

‘You live. Here, me help you sit. Me make porridge. You need eat.’

Next day me still hurt, but me feel better. Me manage walk to cave entrance, me look out. 

All land covered in snow. Me see valley below, many trees. It very beautiful landscape. It good place for hunt pig. 

Me see children, they play in snow. They wrapped in warm fur. They laughing, singing. Children see me, come running. Someone throw snowball! Me duck but too slow! Snowball hit me in head. Me laugh, wipe face. 

Me hug children tight. Then they run off, play more in snow. Me smile. Life good. Tribe continue. Me cry, but me very happy. 

[Next Episode]