This is a true story about Olelo Coo-roc, one of the Okere elderly icons.
Once upon time, three lions (a lion, lioness and their little cub) escaped from the jungle and roamed Okere and neighboring villages. Soon, the wildlings became a nightmare to the entire village. They scavenged and devoured dozens of cows and goats.
For weeks, warnings about the wandering wildings filled all village spaces – from markets, to churches, schools and even homes.
‘’You walk alone at sundown at your own peril’’ warned the village chief during an extra-ordinary community meeting organized to discuss plans for staying away from a wandering lions.
‘’If you must walk in the dark, make sure you have a piece of burning stick in your hands’’ the village chief emphasized.
‘’Why should I carry a burning stick?’’ a village youth asked.
‘’Lions dread fire. Fire freaks the hell out of them’’ answered the village chief.
“From now on, all able bodied men will assemble in my compound very early every morning to trace and kill the lions” the village chief ordered.
“Sharpen your arrows and spears. I do not have to remind you how significant these arms are at this moment”, he re-echoed.
“I also suggest we blow bilo (local flute) as we trace the lions” Olelo suggested.
“Why?” the village chief asked.
“Lions love the strident sound of bilo. When they hear it, they always want to know where the sound is coming from. This will make them come out of the wild for us to easily trace and kill them” Olelo replied.
“Well then, I will bring my bilo and will be blowing it in in our trace and kill mission” said the village chief.
Because of the wandering animals, there was a voluntary curfew and a strange kind of order in the village. Particularly, drunkenness plummeted. For to be drunk was to put your life at risk because you wouldn’t be able to recognize a wild predator just about to tear your flesh apart. Or, if you can recognize it, you wouldn’t be strong to run fast enough for your dear life, especially if that predator is one of the fastest animals in the wild.
For village drunkards who often went back home late in the night, returning home early soon became the norm. For once, but only for a short time, the village women whose husbands often returned home late drunk were elated.
The children, too were joyful that their fathers would return home early enough to recite for them poems and tell them riddles and folktales at fire side before they could go to sleep.
Similarly, the wandering lions ushered in a strange kind of calmness in the village. Unlike in the past when sounds of drum beats thumped the heart of the village, now, not anymore.
Okere was serene and tranquil, free from any lurid sounds that would awaken the new kings of the jungle – and now the new kings of Okere from their slumber. For a common saying in the village was that, you can wake-up your dog from a deep sleep but if you do that to a lion, then you will be a special feast.
One early morning as the village had just started their daily search for the lions and the high-pitched sound of the bilo penetrated the vast ends of the village, the lions started roaring. “Stop blowing the bilo! I can hear the lions’ roars across the swamp” Coo-roch shouted.
Armed with machetes, spears and arrows, the village youth marched towards the swamp in a relentless pursuit after the lions. Finally, across the swamp, stood three giant furry lions.
‘’There they are. There they are’’, shouted a young man.
Everyone looked to the direction of the lions. Unbothered, the lions walked about gently and mindlessly, perhaps demonstrating that Okere’s jungle was indeed their new found kingdom.
The lioness quickly climbed up the tree, perhaps to have a good glimpse of the people pursuing them. The cub and lion stayed down, unmoved by the presence of the village youth.
Fully equipped with his sharp spear, Olelo also climbed-up on top of another tree to aim and a take good shot at the lioness. But he couldn’t see the lion clearly. So he dangled his left hand foot as bait for the lion to see.
The lion saw Olelo’s dangling foot and started preparing to jump at him. In the process, the lioness’ movement gave Olelo room to take a perfect shot. Olelo closed one of his eyes, took a deep breath as if to gather enough energy and without any hesitation throw the sharp spear at the lion.
The spear penetrated the lioness’ stomach and like a wounded and helpless king who is about to be dethroned by a stronger enemy army, the lion fell down like with the spear stuck in her stomach and the intestines all exploding out.
At that moment, the cub and the lion scattered into a different direction, running away to save their own lives. As the giant lioness came crumbling down, she couldn’t get spared from other spears and arrows streaming in from all directions. Alas, the lioness lay dead on the ground. The villagers were jubilant and the whole village reverberated with drum-beats of victory.
The cold-blooded Olelo still stack-up on the tree where he made the first shot from couldn’t even believe what had just happened. The village youth ran and lifted him up from the tree branch he was still holding on to in disbelief.
For he wasn’t just a witness to the history that was made. He had fired the first shot that made the history. As people celebrated, other villagers flocked the scene to be witnesses and to have a good glimpse of the dead lioness that that had troubled their lives for weeks.
As they celebrated, the village chief made an executive announcement calling upon five strong village youth to come and carry the dead lion out of the swamp. One by one, many village youths who had gathered started vanish. For to even touch, leave alone carry a lion was one of the scariest of their experiences.
Olelo, now with a renewed energy and valor went to the lioness’ death spot, called upon Ereng, another fearless village youth to come and help him so that they can together carry the lion out of the swamp to the raised platform up on the valley.
Ereng joined Olelo without any hesitation and together, the two men defiantly lifted the bleeding lioness and carried it out of the swamp and took it to straight to the compound of the village chief with a large procession of villagers amidst jubilant ululations and ajira from the women of Okere village.
When the lioness was brought to the village compound, the village chief asked his wife to bring him his dagger which he used to smoothly remove the furry skin and the claws of the of the lioness.
“By the powers invested in me as the village chief, I take this honor and opportunity to hand over this skin and claws to Olelo for heartlessly piercing through the stomach of this lioness that had become a serious nightmare in our village” the village chief roared to the ecstatic crowd.
“You should keep these skin and claws safely and use them as a majestic memorabilia for your heroic action. May your name forever be ingrained in the memory of this village for your acts of valor and fortitude”, the village chief told Olelo.
“I have heard you very clearly. A hearty thanks to you in particular and to everyone else in general. This is our collective victory as a village”, Olelo triumphantly shouted.
The village chief also summoned the women in the village to collect firewood, bring local spices to prepare the special delicacy. That day, the whole village had a special feast. Just like the three lions had feasted on the goats and cows of some members of Okere village, this time, the lioness’ wild meat was the feast.
“Now, it’s payback time” one villager remarked. “Even your bones will not be spared” another villager shouted/
Olelo came back home with his precious rewards. He dried and smoked the lion’s skin to preserve it for eternity. He also pierced the lion’s claws and used a string cut from the lion’s skin to firmly hold them together. The memorabilia were hanged on one of the walls of Olelo’s grass-thatched mud hut.
Five years later, the cattle rustlers came from East and together with Olelo’s 50 herds of cattle, the lion’s skin and its claws were stolen. In a wink, a people’s victory over a fierce wild animal that wreaked havoc on them was erased from history. But certainly, not from Olelo’s memory who lived up to the age of 80 years old until 2022 when he died.
To date, Olelo is an iconic figure and his story continues to be told and taught to inspire children and the younger generation to solve local problems in their community.