TIN HINAN, Chapter 7, Part 1

Algerian Mountains in Winter

Algerian Mountains in Winter

Flying the birds in Morocco, Hooding is new, as birds usually have their eyes 'sewn' shut until launch.

Flying the birds in Morocco, Hooding is new, as birds usually have their eyes 'sewn' shut until launch. A fragment of a rug serves as a glove.

TIN HINAN,  Chapter 7

During the passage of two full moons, Takama and I worked in Immel’s house. Soon after dawn we rose from our pallet, walked into the woods on the mountain and gathered fallen limbs for the morning fire.

There were large, leafy trees, with broken limbs underneath we could bring back for the fire. I was told they were shrubs. Called ‘loki’ shrubs, when Latin scholars of centuries later came upon ‘loki’ they changed the name to Acacia  laeta. Regardless the name, it was a nourishing bush.  Livestock fed on its leaves, the women made a dye of its bark, and  sap was used to help tan sheep, goat and the occasional wolf hide. It was also a good wood to make charcoal.

We carried the bundled wood on our  backs to the small courtyard before the house.  There either Immel or his mother would build the fire and the day would begin. Three times a day we carried the heavy clay jars to the well and back up the stone stairs to the house. Our legs ached with the labor up and down those steps to the well and the steep inclines in the mountain woods.  We were desert women, sand dunes the only hills we climbed.  This mountain terrain was very different, but water more plentiful.  The river in the valley fed the well in the center courtyard.  There were springs on the mountain, and we found these with the help of other women.

Every morning we milked the goats and made the yoghurt from their rich milk.  Each batch of yoghurt had ancestors from the batch before, because it wouldn’t culture unless the new milk was mixed with the old.  Every family had their own kind of yoghurt, for it tasted of the goat’s diet.  Mother Leila fed her goats dates and barley porridge, the leftovers from our first meal of the day to start them out right. Our yoghurt was delicious and there was competition amongst the women in the ksar as to whose was best.

Winter was approaching.  Already the mornings were cold and our breath was smoke before us.  The mountain bushes were covered with frost and the trees dropped their leaves in preparation for the winter.  The mountain presented so many changes, things I would never have imagined in the desert.  Takama and I found rodents, rabbits and other small animals we did not have names for. We saw pigeons and other birds our desert men hunted with falcons, and just seeing familiar birds made me homesick.

My father loved his hawks and took me hunting when I was a child.  This was strange for a man to do, but I was spoiled, being my father’s favorite child. Older brothers had married and gone off to the tents of their wives, and my father treated me as a son with his companionship.  My mother at first raised many arguments why this was not proper for a young girl, but my father enjoyed teaching me the skills of our tribe.  The compromise was this: I would learn to weave the cloth and rugs, embroider and learn the womanly arts that would make me ‘marriageable’.  He could take me hunting and teach me archery, but I had to apply myself to womanly skills. I worked hard around the tent of my mother to be able to hunt with my father.

Mother Leila had a large rug loom set up in the communal room, and when it rained (which was rare) or when it didn’t, she could be found nimbly knotting the dyed wool and cutting the excess with her sharp little knife. I had been exempt from the rug loom for this was something that vassals like Takama and her kin would do.  I would be employed in fine embroidery and had done a lot of that. Mother Leila had us work in the front room, on embroidery or stitching leather bags for the camels and horses.  Each piece had symbols and decoration to be considered, and these functioned as amulets and charms for the men.  Long fringe was also added, usually wool, because we believed that movement would scare the jinn away from our journeys.

Immel had disappeared. We were told he was taking some of the loot over the mountain to trade with another tribe.  He was expected home before a new moon rose.  A journey across the valley, up the mountain, across that particular mountain range and down into another valley would mean a journey of many days.  Too many journeys would tempt evil spirits so they kept their trips to a minimum. Only a few times a year did they gather the men and go over the mountain.  They timed these journeys when the cultivation of the plots and orchards could be interrupted.

One evening when Takama was weaving at the small loom and Mother Leila was knotting a rug, Immel came in and flopped down on a bench.  I was trying to knot fringe for a large saddlebag and I was surprised to see him.  He listened patiently to his mother recite a verse of a poem, though she stopped and started numerous times.

“Tin Hinan.”  His voice made me look up.  “Would you like to go with us to hunt the mountain pigeon?  I have asked my father if it would be proper, and he has consulted the elders.  They see no objection to a woman learning to hunt with a falcon, for it’s been done before.”  He smiled at me brightly, some internal laughter behind those dark eyes.

“What would a proper desert girl know of hunting, Immel?  Are you cracked in the head?  What woman would want to?”  Mother Leila was shocked at the thought.

“But Mother,” I said from my bench.  “I know the falcons. I hunted dove and pigeon
many times with my father.”

“Oh, foolish girl, Immel is laughing at you!  He has an eagle he hunts with, a big and fierce bird.  Only he can call it to lure, and sometimes it doesn’t come home.”

“Mother is right, Sigi is large, even for an eagle.  He is a Golden. He has a mind of his own, but we are friends.”

A Golden Eagle!  My heart lept in my chest.  I had never seen such a bird, though I heard from my father Arabs hunted with them.  An eagle of such power could take a lamb from the field, in fact, could kill many lambs!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

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