Saturday, December 13, 2008

Patrick Garlough

photo to left: Susan, Patrick, Wiggle (our dog), and me

Patrick came from near Kailahun which was a town to the east of Kenema and relatively near the Liberian border. Patrick was in some way related to Sabina and Pa Garlough - he said that they were his aunt and uncle. In Kenema he lived across from us on Dama Road. Patrick had finished primary education most likely in Kenema but when school fees dried up he turned to becoming a laborer. I assume that Patrick was
about my age although he might have been older. Patrick became our trusted friend while we lived in Kenema. He and I traveled many a bush road together traveling the back country of the Kenema area. From Vaama, to the River Moa, to Foindu, to visits to weavers, carvers, Patrick became my guide to Mende culture as we traveled about. In our treks he taught me Mende, taught me about Mende farming, introduced me to Limba palm-wine dealers, showed me where they were still making cotton country clothes, and in the process we spent a good deal of time walking about and learning about the area. It was common on a free weekend for us to take off on one of the many narrow bush trails to visit a farm or to visit one of the many small villages. It was not unusual for us to walk 14 miles in a day as we hiked about. I think Patrick was amused that I always had my camera with me and that I was so intent on, "learning all the Mende secrets to take home to America." However he knew my respect for him and for the people that I met on the way, and thus he never seemed to tire showing me what was out there. In fact, Patrick took great pleasure in pointing out interesting things which he felt needed explaining. But unfortunately in this 2 years of guidance I never was able to learn much about him and this I regret. He always held his cards close and although I did learn that a grandfather of his had been a great warrior in the Hut Tax wars early in the century, I knew very little about his siblings or his parents. I do know that he seemed to be on his own, as many young men were in Kenema. He seemed closest to the Garloughs but was for the most part quite aloof. Yet he was my friend still. He called me Mr. Finer despite my repeated requests to be less formal. He never asked me for anything in return for his wonderful teaching. I was able to find him a job at the school compound cutting grass. I gave him my machete that I had had made by a local blacksmith in Tokpombu - a village nearby our house. From time to time he would eat "chop" with us at our house (usually cooked by his "auntie" Sabina). I have wonderful memories of Patrick. It was toward the end of our service - in the last month - when he gave us a cherished possession he had from his warrior grandfather. This was an ivory carved container with hammered silver spoon - used for holding snuff. This was such a prized and cherished possession that he gave us. For Susan and I saying good-bye was very difficult. I have been unable to find out whether he is still alive.

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