Hoteni, May 14th, 2000:
The old-timers say every village used to have a First Plowman's festival, or Tanjaua (also spelled Tinjaua). But now only the village of Hoteni keeps up the tradition.
It has become an institution. Reporters and tourists come from every corner of the world to watch the show.
It starts with this guy, Hotea Miron. The day's celeb. Miron is 22 years old and he was the first guy to break ground with his plow this year.
"How do people know you were the first?" we asked.
"Ah," he shrugged. "They know."
"So you're a celebrity now, aren't you?"
"Just for today."
As the 'winner' his family has the 'honor' of organizing and throwing the party, complete with food for throngs of strangers.
The band gathers and dancers begin to dance.
In private they sing his praise. Many major muckity mucks are in on the action at this point.
Soon it's time to literally put the show onto the road. All the Bo are tied together, and eighteen young men take on the role of oxen, raising the yokes and pulling the train out of Miron's family compound.
Miron takes his place of honor on the symbolic rolling plough, pulled by his eighteen man team.
The young men misbehave driving the train backwards and side to side.
The black vested man whips them like animals to make them tow the line.
TV crews clamor to interview Miron as the procession jangles toward the edge of town.
The reporter asks, "Do you think you will escape this year?"
All is not as it seems.
With a sudden bolt, Miron springs from his seat and runs away.
Other men leap from the crowd and give chase.
No matter how many times he runs away, there always seems to be someone there to catch him....
From what is he running? Will he be sacrificed for the fertility of the village's furrows? Is their face pie waiting at the gathered crowds?
While Miron attempts his escapes, the misbehaving ox train threatens to run backwards over the following band, and sideways over accumulating spectators.
Fitfully, the procession leaves Hoteni and heads down into the valley toward the nearby stream.
At the end of the parade, and after a dozen escape attempts, Miron is finally led down to the stream bed.
Crowds have been gathering for hours, waiting for this moment. There is barely enough room for him to be brought to the water's edge.
The officiate proclaims that all the villages will now be cleansed, and have a fruitful new year.
With the mob crying for more, they splash him with water...
then towel him dry.
The plowman is clean. Long live the plow.
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