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“Stealing” the Rice Straw
Dedicated to my late father and all other fathers in the world!
Author: Andrew Yan
It happened in a small village in Southern Henan in the late 1960s.
It was a poverty-stricken village at that time and the villagers could only live from hand to mouth and had a hard life—a dog's life in all seriousness.
Originally assigned to work in Xinyang City after discharge, an army veteran answered the Party's call by volunteering for rural work in a remote corner of the Dabie Mountains in South Henan. Having been a soldier all his life, he felt overjoyed and invigorated to have a son at 49, so much so that he toiled tirelessly both in the brigade and at home.
He was the accountant of the brigade and was also responsible for growing cotton for the production brigade and that for 15 long years. He was a kind-hearted person and availed himself of every corner of the cotton fields to grow the cowpea, so after work from the field in summer and autumn, he would distribute the cowpea to other villagers from household to household. He worked as the cook in the army, so he was adept at preparing wheaten food. During traditional festivals, those comparatively well-to-do villagers would like to invite him over to help fry the twisted cruller because there was no other person who knew how to make it so wonderfully in the local place. So no other villager was more highly looked upon than him in the village.
As he was advanced in years, his life was far from satisfactory. It was not long before he began to quarrel with his wife and later family conflicts were a usual practice. He was a strong-minded man and knew that Love cannot be forced, so as he was not on good terms with his wife and had to live separately together with his 9-year-old son. No matter how hard life was, he tried to keep it going and his son, after all, was his great hope.
Unfortunately, he was hard upon sixty when he was afflicted with tuberculosis. Because he had no nutrients at home, he got from bad to worse in health and he was wasting away with tuberculosis. But at the mere thought of his 9-year-old son, he invigorated himself by an effort. At this time he could not die and leave his beloved son uncared-for. However, he was eaten up with illness and felt that his destiny was at hand.
His condition got steadily worse with each passing day and he coughed day and night and had to spit it out with purulent sputum. In such a condition, he was faint and weak all along and was almost disabled for anything, but he had himself dragged to cook meals for his son.
It seemed that the villagers had formed an unwritten rule: at the meal time the villagers, men and women, old and young, would naturally get together in the flat-field in the middle of the village, prattling about any topics, for what it's worth. It really offered a good chance for the villagers to exchange information.
That morning people gathered together again as usual and their tongues were loosened.
[ Last edited by andrewyan at 2008-4-5 08:50 AM ]