IN AFGHANISTAN (Part Two)

A morning walk, quiet, just watching a horse being shod. Hoof held between experienced knees, chunks of hoof cut off around the shoe, six nails knocked in…

Bang – Bang – Clangggg! Two men wielding heavy hammers, strike red-hot metal, making spades. One man holds a hammer out to my hand, he is wearing old grey pants and a singlet, sweat beads his brow, his hair matt black, and he lets it go suddenly as I grasp the handle… then he shows me his biceps with arm bent, now with arm straight, hmmm still big.  Impressive biceps, proud man. A kettle is put on the fire, a swarthy youth is sitting cross-legged above the fire doing his job, pumping the bellows , the sparks fly the fire glows white.  A piece of hash appears which Biceps heats on a piece of scrap metal over a little pile of coals he takes from the fire with a shovel, then he grinds it into a powder, and dips his fingers in some water and lets the drops fall onto the powder…and he makes a paste.

The kettle is removed and green tea is added. Cups materialize, and some hot fresh bread. Nary a word is spoke. Breaking the hardening paste into little pieces which look like mouse dung he signals for some tobacco, I give him two cigarettes. He empties one tobacco tube and mixes the little pieces of hash with the tobacco in the palm of his hand. One of the other men is now pouring out the tea…Now, Biceps scoops up the mixture into the empty tobacco tube and nimbly twirls the end.

At this moment the boss arrives, frowning a little, for smoking on the job is not really allowed…but, we can have a few puffs anyway because this is special.  And, we may also drink some tea and eat some bread. After ten minutes break, Biceps indicates that I had better go, so I go, and he picks up his hammer and…BANG!!!…. CLAANNNNGGGGGG!!!  he is back at work watching the hard hammer-head make impressions in the hot piece of metal, and little orange sparks appear on the surface of the metal and bounce and fizzzz, and disappear.

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