In The Land Of Braves, Carry A Big Stick

Do one brave thing today…then run like hell

Bravery is a word only associated with special forces and male marital confessions. Confessing to your wife about an illicit affair is an act of bravery. Spontaneous bravery, where random men save elderly citizens from burning buildings are rarely heard of in the city.

One has to venture into the countryside where acts of bravery are an everyday affair. Fearless men still prowl the rural thickets. Acts that would be deemed literally foolish in the city are regular fare as a result of an uneasy relationship between man and wildlife.

In the country side,  men are expected to defend their homesteads against any dangers. From lurking cattle thieves, granary plunderers, pesky night runners to wild animals. Real men sleep with weapons besides their beds because when the family faces danger, they are expected to be the first responders and usually the only, line of defense.

Two months ago, I heard a loud scream at midday. It emerged from the direction of a cousins’ homestead. I reached for a club and rushed to the toward the source of the noise. It was a 5 minute run up an incline that left me out of breath.

When I arrived, the sight, I stumbled upon scared the living daylights out of me.

Lying on the ground was a 12ft python. The head was not visible but the cuts on the body assured me that it was dead. Flies were swarming as an army of ants dug into the bright red, ugly wound where fresh body cuts had been made. Its head had been practically smashed. I could only imagine the size of the serpent at the height of confrontation. It was imposing as it were.

I kept my distance. Python trigger my flight response.  Where in my self defense manual did it read, “python emergency evacuation routine”. I clearly lived in a sheltered middle class existence.

The back story had me racking my brain for logic. Apparently, it had been a nice sunny day. My cousin’s wife was sun-drying beans on the earthen front yard as her man hacked at an overgrown hedge with a slasher. When out of the blue the mongrel barked once and fell silent. The chickens cackled in fright and froze.

Out in full view, on their front yard, was an enormous python squeezing the life out the resident hound. The dog was in such a state of fright that its bowels went loose. They pointed out the scruffy looking mongrel who made necessary this desperate act of heroism.

A dog is still truly man’s best friend. I am certain, I would never be able to sermon the courage to wrestle a python to save a girlfriend and I am sure, her family would understand.

His wife glowed in her man’s presence. What bravery, she must have been thinking. He risked his life for me. The majority of women will go through life, never knowing this privilege.

The python had made several visits to their home and on one occasion killed a dog.  So this bizarre response was prompted by revenge and self defense. When my cousin Omondi, spotted the python squashing the life out his dog he just launched himself at it, in a display of guts that would be considered reckless in everyday society.

He told me that he did not have time to think of the consequences. He also added that he was sober. Joined by his brother Ken and with adrenaline surging, they hacked the python to death. The evidence was the dead snake at his feet. No, they did not have shotguns. They had pangas!

His wife glowed in her man’s presence. What bravery she must have been thinking. He risked his life for me. The majority of women will go through life, never knowing this privilege. The guy was bare-chested, his shirt lay on the bench drenched and as he blabbered on, the gallant warrior he was.

Human animal conflict takes many forms, we generally do not think about the farmers response to imminent danger from hostile stray wildlife. The Kenya Wildlife Service only offers compensation for death, which brings up ethical questions about the value of human life.

In the rural villages, with no walled in barricades, security surveillance and paid guards, the man of the house has to be prompt in defending his family against any harm.

It is just what men do and the women expect nothing less.

Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan writer, curator and editor. This blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan and African life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. Hahaha! Hilarious

  2. this story has really touched and made me think am brave …nice one

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