My ancient hominid ancestor Owongo was feeling bored.
It had been a busy winter: even though the weather was balmy all the year round quite a lot of the creatures he stalked for food didn’t seem to realise this and had disappeared to other places, well beyond the reach of a day’s march (if he felt like marching for an entire day, that is). The problem with a day’s march was the fact that it took another day to march back, which meant he had to find somewhere to spend the night, which was always dodgy for two special reason. Firstly, it meant a whole night away from his viciously ugly wife Mirumda, whom he adored, and secondly he was never quite certain about his own personal safety when he was asleep in the wilds.
He reasoned that if he’d walked that far from home he might be in the territory stalked by any one of a dozen vicious man-eating creatures, and he would be without any kind of protection at all. He even went about naked (on account of the aforementioned balmy weather), so he didn’t have even the barely adequate protection of cured skin or woven fibre to offer some protection from the claws of a ravenous wild beast.
But now that winter was over and he’d emerged from it in one piece, and he had a little time for thinking.
“Mirumda, beloved,” he began to his good lady.
“Owongo, sex kitten of mine,” she crooned back, her ugly face breaking into a warty smile.
“Me need protection in the hunt next winter,” he ventured, “Me need to keep foul beasts at bay or Owongo may be foodstuff for Old Man Tiger…”
“Not Old Man Tiger!” she gasped.
“Old man Tiger,” he confirmed.
“Then Owongo need a tent,” she decided.
“What’s tent?” he asked, frowning.
“Wait and see and Mirumda will make tent!” she chortled, spitting out a blackened tooth, which narrowly missed Owongo as it flew past.
She disappeared towards the back of the cave where she had a store of unused skins, which she kept against the chance of an unexpectedly cold season. She was clearly doing something back there, for she started singing, a repulsive, discordant sound a little reminiscent of a squirrel being torn to shreds by a curious young lioness.
“What going on?” enquired Babongo, one of Owongo’s neighbours, a man he had never particularly liked on account of the fact he was never without septic boils.
“Mirumda make tent,” replied Owongo, proudly.
“What’s tent?” asked a curious Babongo, a particularly foetid boil starting to ooze and run down his face before dripping off his chin.
Owongo didn’t know, so “You wait and see,” he replied mysteriously, moving three paces back so as to avoid the worst of the foetid stench that emerged from the eruption on the other’s face.
After a while Mirumda emerged triumphantly from the back of the cave, gasping and heaving a huge bundle of skins that she had stitched together, and a few lengths of dried sapling.
“This tent!” she exclaimed.
Then she carefully pushed two wooden sapling poles into the pile of skins and heaved and pushed until the whole thing rose from the ground to form a hollow space in the midst of the smelly skins.
“Tent!” she exclaimed, proudly. “Owongo take tent out hunting and sleep the night inside it!”
“Owongo couldn’t carry that a day’s march through undergrowth!” he protested, “It too heavy by far!”
“Mirumda work hard…” she shouted, then her eyes glazed over and she started sobbing. “Owongo take tent or Mirumda weep,” she added, tearfully.
“I know!” said Owongo, needing to please her, “We’ll go into savannah, Mirumda and Owongo, to a place Owongo knows, and,Mirumda and Owongo will sleep in tent, away from home… on holiday!”
“And make glorious love?” she asked, smiling.
He nodded, wondering about the glorious bit.
And that was it. Mirumda invented the tent but Owongo with his manly brains invented the camping holiday!
© Peter Rogerson 08.04.12