“4:00AM. Haunting, eerie howls flood the air from every corner of the sleeping village. The dogs of the desert are singing and signaling the oncoming rain. Donkeys bray and begin to sprint, their hooves storming the dry, cracked ground, cause the whole earth to tremble. In unison. Everybody knows to move inside, pack up what shouldn’t get wet. Close the windows. Set up the buckets to collect the drips. Wait. The winds whip through. The dust fills our lungs. Thunder cuts the sky. The rain pounds the tin roof like the last song you’ll ever hear. Will we still be here tomorrow? We’re scared. Not because we’re worried about being washed away but because rainy season’s anthem is two months late and we’ve lost so much already.”
August 12, 2015. Dog Song howled over nature’s speakers and we had our first rain. I thought it would never come. The most difficult part was watching my counterpart and many other families struggle to feed there livestock for the months leading up to it. Even then, it takes some time after the first rains for the grasses to be sufficient enough to feed livestock. Amadou would head out early in the morning, venturing far into the bush to cut branches of select trees to bring back for his cows. I didn’t see him much those days.
My family had 20 cows. Now we have 13. The hot season was so long, many more animals died this year than usual. And with the change in diet comes new illnesses. Lots of animals get sick transitioning to a wet diet. So we always lose a second wave of animals to that. But on a positive note, its baby cow season! It also means cow dung land mines everywhere. Don’t go anywhere at night without a flashlight.
With the first rains the ground becomes soft and malleable and tells us where we need to start our earthworks. What was once the road to my sister village now leads to a six foot drop. Detour. We can’t get back the animals, the roads, or the time we’ve lost but we can start to grow some crops. Fingers crossed the dogs keep singing.