Kabon’s first husband, was a man from Mutei, whom she only referred to as Tililio. She went to his house, carrying a pot, two sotet, a skin mat for serving ugali and a bag of ghee, gifts from her mother for her to start a new life with. A year later she had a baby, but two months into suckling, a bizarre, flesh-eating disease infected the baby and it died within a week. The same disease leapt on Tililio and his brother, and they died within a few months. Tortured, Kabon walked back to her father’s house, leaving behind the gifts that her mother had given her.
Her second husband was from Marakwet, a mean man who lived in a hut hid inside thickets. He kept countless sheep and as soon as Kabon arrived, he left this duty to her and disappeared for months on end, claiming he was visiting friends who were never identified. Kabon kept tending to the sheep, in a land devoid of people, where she had to mind the elephants and buffaloes that roamed about, and shiver at night as hyenas wailed around her hut, eager to get in and bite on a lamb. Her frustration was immense, and she waited for her father, Chemngar, to pass by so that she could plead to go back to him. Chemngar was a renowned arbiter and his skills were sought all across the Kerio valley, and he was on such a mission in Marakwet when Kabon met him. Seeing how his daughter was living, Chemngar said this could not be and walked with her back to his house.
She found her third husband, my great-grandfather, Kipkigey Arap Ayobei, waiting for her back home. Kipkigey’s first wife had left him and their child, and ran off to Nandi. In his loneliness, Kipkigey was glad to start a new life with Kabon. Since he had lost all his livestock to Nandi raids, he moved his young family to Pokot, where he could tend to cattle belonging to Pokot families and be repaid with calves. There, he could also hunt elephants and sell the ivory to Kamba tradesmen who would walk up the Uasin Gishu plateau searching for this.
It was in Pokot that Kabon gave birth to my grandmother Kimoi, who was named Chebelio as a child, because she was born on the day that Kipkigey killed an elephant. By the time their third child, Chebo Kimukony was born, Kipkigey’s calves had grown into a considerable herd and afraid that the Pokot would be envious, he decided to walk back home. But as he trekked down the Uasin Gishu plateau, he marveled at the grassland. There were no trees then in the plateau, just lush grass that could feed cows and when the sun was out, for one to sit on and reflect. New men had come to the land then, white men who rode on horses and went about tilling the land with oxen. Gone were the Karamojong, Maasai and Nandi.
Kipkigey decided to build his home on the plateau and not go down to Kerio valley. And it was here that Kabon’s last child, Toroitich, was born. I met Toroitich as a young child in the 90s. By then she was old and blind, but she giggled with happiness when she touched my hands. She asked me to spit on her white hair so that she could bless me. She rarely met her elder sister’s grandchildren and when she did, it was always a joyful moment for her.