Hunting the Hornet and Looking for Nestlings

Summer is rainy in the mountain. It’s a lot of fun.

But very hard time for farmers to plant rice in the fields because of airy climate where farming is totally dependent on rain water and springs that only sprout after long heavy rain. It’s also the time to harvest corn and plant millet.

For the kids it was amazing. Floating paper boats in the yard, eating fig fruit (khanayo) and playing in the puddle and rain are so great works we did. In this season, as parents were mostly in the field in the light and we used to have two months long holiday, we children enjoyed so many things at home; stealing sugar, making dolls of rags, making different shapes of clay, gathering in one’s home and play hide and seek and so on.

But we also had a main duty to separate   maize kernel from maize ear. It was hard and we used to get bristle on palm however there used to be competition among us and we enjoyed it. Our task was also to dry the maize in the sun which might disappear all of sudden and rain could start from nowhere. So every children of the mountain must learn this game of hide and seek with the sun and the rain. Not only the rain but the escaped chickens and goats were enemy of maize kernel. Along with this task we had to feed the cattle during the day; it is not a big deal as parents would bring fodder in the morning enough for all day; we only give it to animals on time. Though goats were stubborn sometimes that they didn’t eat everything and we might find something special for them.

Parents always wanted to take care of kernel and the cattle and do homework but they knew we may escape from home anytime. That’s why they used to provide us keys of home to lock it properly in case we went away. And they were right! Many times we escaped.

Sometimes I went for bird hunting using slingshot. I never had my own slingshot as that would be a great trouble if mummy saw. She never allowed me to have a slingshot or a pet bird. But I burrowed it from someone and went for bird hunting all day long when mummy and daddy were not home in summer. I never captured a bird but my friend Manjeet was sniper! He used to have at least one every day. Dove was famous and was a matter of pride to kill a dove which I never could do. But I could find nests, sometimes eggs or nestlings. If it was egg we would never touch it because it was said that if we touch the eggs the birds would leave the nest forever. But if there was nestling we would look whether it was good enough to take home. All the birds were not eaten by everyone. Nightingales, blackbirds and parrots nestlings were kept as pet for they would speak one day. Some birds were good watcher of eagle and other preying birds. They would inform by making sound when eagles fly over the hill looking for chickens. And some birds like dove and woodcock were famous meat. In the village there were many tamed birds which didn’t run away from home. Some were kept in the cage. I had once convinced my mummy to keep a Nightingale nestling. It was well cared in the cage till it could fly well. But one day it disappeared.

Sometimes Manjeet and I went to look for the hive of hornet/wasps. Dangerous! Quite often they sting at us and which is so poisonous; the part would swell and be so painful. But we wouldn’t give up! Why? – Babies in their hive-they are so tasty!!  We used to shallow fry or roast the babies and make a delicious snack. This needed skill and a lot of patience. We would make a smoky torch with long handle and put near the hive so that the hornet would go away because of the smoke. We would hide ourselves so carefully by the tree or grass or wall and wait till all the hornets are flown away or dead. If we are quicker or careless during this we may get poisonous sting. If the hive was small we would just hit it with stone from far away or go near with handful of wet soil and cover it. And finally collect the babies and dead hornet. If we get stung parents would know it, but I would tell lie that I was cutting grass and didn’t notice the hive etc. Some few wouldn’t like this dangerous prey but I did.

Whatever done in the day, in the evening we would be so careful. We would collect some fodder or grass and feed the goats and buffalo, tidy up the buffalo shed, fetch water and fire the oven before mummy came. If sometimes mummy or daddy was faster than us to reach home that would be a day of trouble.

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