Biblical plagues

When I think back to my Peace Corps experiences, recollections are sometimes of brief or momentary things. The abandoned and deserted city streets at the end of the days of Ramadan, for example, when people sat around the table at home anxiously waiting for the canon or siren to sound the end of the fast so that they might pick up their hrira (Ramadan soup) or cigarettes, whichever mattered more.

The road from Casa to Marrakech is long and straight, and crosses some of Morocco’s most productive agricultural land. I traveled it from Rabat many times on the way to Toubkal massif, south of Marrakesh, where I went hiking or climbing. On a hot summer day, the stubble fields exuded heat, and little dust devils would cross the road from time to time. It you hit one, the car would shudder. I always worried that my French friends’ little cars, traveling at 120 kilometers an hour, would spin out of control.

Often, it was more convenient to travel at night. It was far cooler and there was less traffic on the road. But more than once, there were explosions of the mice and frog populations. I can understand the former: after the harvest, there was plenty of grain for every hungry mouse, and since the mice gave birth every 21 days, it didn’t take long for the fields to be crawling with mice. You might not notice them from a speeding car, at night, except that so many tried to cross the road and were run over. The highway was literally wet from the blood and squashed bodies of thousands of dead mice. We never stopped to look at them so I can’t say what species they were, but I did see the reflections of their eyes as they scurried back and forth across the highway, uncertain as to which way to turn.

I witnessed the mouse massacres several times, but on one occasion, it was frogs that littered the road with their bodies and coated it with their blood. I think they were frogs, though they might have been toads. The numbers, like those of the mice, were astronomical, and the wet road in the middle of a rainless summer was all the more astounding.

Eventually one would drive out of the slaughter zones, but it always reminded me of the plagues of the Bible. I never witnessed a desert locust flock, but I suppose that, if I had, I could add them to the list. Southern Morocco has long been plagued by them.

Author: Dave

Retired. Formerly school librarian, social studies teacher, and urban planner.

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