Ibadan Sodowari was my friend. He was an Ijaw, a tribe that lives in the mangrove swamps of coastal Nigeria and Cameroon principally by fishing, but also by smuggling contraband.
Ibadan lived with his wife and numerous family in a small village amongst the mangroves a few miles downstream from N’dian. He sold his fish at the place where the red and black rivers meet. Mostly the fish were of modest size but sometimes they were enormous. Once, on the same day there were two gropas and a shinose all over forty pounds in weight.
Ibadan was tall and very handsome and as black as the ace of spades. Sometimes Ibadan would bring his fish to Mundimba House and he would stay a little while for a beer. Once he brought me a Night Heron, nycticorax, whom I named Lawrence. I don’t know why. Lawrence was an agreeable companion and he would pace with me up and down the verandah after dinner, during a period of solitude.
One had to watch Lawrence, however, as he would not hesitate to stick his extremely sharp beak into one’s ankle if nourishment was not forthcoming as fast as he desired. Later he must have felt the call of the wild, because he flew back to the swamps leaving me to wish that I had the sense and the wings to do the same. A night heron has enormous eyes, and makes his living paddling about the mangrove swamps in pitch darkness devouring various fishy morsels. (more…)