Saturday, March 10, 2007

Death Of A Stupid Cow

In the film, The Last King of Scotland, a car transporting Idi Amn hits a cow. The young Scottish doctor, who is taken to the scene to attend to Amin’s superficial wound, is constantly distracted by the cow. It lies on the side of the road mooing away in pain. The film sequence is brilliantly done. The locals are standing around observing the whole scene and no one gives a shit about the cow.

Eventually the doctor, after repeated demands that some one sort the cow out, takes matters into his own hands and snatching up a pistol, sends the cow to roast beef paradise.

That made me recall an incident that happened to me. I had to hand in an assignment yesterday, so thought I could maybe kill two cows with one bullet. I dug up the part of LOTR with a short bit about a similar scenario. This gave me the perfect opportunity to work hard and rewrite the thing. So here it is.

I don’t recall ever seeing one sign on that Gokwe – Que Que road warning drivers of cows crossing. When I think about it, anyone, besides some very lost tourist, knows perfectly well that the odds of coming across some stupid cows drifting across the road are very good.

Working on the piece, I did a bit of research. I had originally recalled that the vehicle in this incident was a ’57 Ford. I did find the right pickup on the net and I was amazed to see I was just a year out. I decided to put up a photo of this mini-truck to give you an idea the size of it. Searching around a bit, I picked this one. I think it is about as close I can get to the real thing as it must have looked after the crash...

Death of a Stupid Cow

‘Aah Patrol Officer Lore, sorry to bother you Sah, but there has been an accident involving some cows. It has happened on the Que Que road, the Veterinary Department has been informed and are on their way. Chief Inspector Harvey… ’

I interrupted the Constable before he could finish - ‘said I must go. Has there been an entry in to the incident report book?’

There hadn’t, which is good. Less paper work the better, as at that time I was completely swamped with the stuff. So with rifle in tow, the book for on the spot fines, and after being allocated by the duty desk Sergeant another Constable for translation purposes, I picked a Land Rover that just might get us there and back and off we went.

More suicidal cows! Just what is it with these cows? None of them get it into their heads that when speeding steel meets flesh and blood, nine times out of ten, the cow won’t live to regret it, but the driver of the vehicle might. Why do they keep crossing the road? For some reason, they always think the grass IS greener on the other side. The fact that its all the same yellow/brown bush never enters their heads.

Now maybe Mandeeka’s No.1 son can instantly terminate three mombes with a commuter bus, (last weeks incident, same problem, different road, different cows), but this particular driver, when I arrived at the shambles, had been using a 1956 Ford F100 Pickup.

He must have had the rather well preserved relic going at full tilt over the small incline when he ploughed into the 3 cows crossing the road in single file at their usual unconcerned sedately pace. This time, it hadn’t been a clean kill. First thing I ascertained was that the driver and passenger of the well smashed up ancient pickup were amazingly unharmed, albeit a little dazed. The accident scene was complete carnage. The Ford must have bounced off the beasts like an arcade machine flipper ball, spun around a couple of times, before, still upright, came to a halt sideways across the road.

The way I pieced the picture together from the blood and drag marks on the very dry gravel road - the ‘Middle of the road’ cow had kissed itself goodbye with the engine block. The massive, heavy 8 cylinder engine had crushed its head so it resembled a giant hairy horned squashed tomato. The machine must have then spun and freakily rear swiped the ‘Entering the road’ cow, which had grotesquely been almost completely decapitated by the tail gate that had burst open from the initial impact. With the Ford’s momentum being severely slowed by the first two impacts, the final remnants of kinetic energy were spent on, ‘Leaving the road’ cow. The animal had landed up lying immobile, but looking relatively unscathed, trapped against the crushed body work and it was still very much alive.

As usual, from out of the surrounding bush, where there is not even a kraal in site, a small crowd of locals had gathered around. With little entertainment available, incidents like these were as much fun as watching Roman gladiators in an amphitheatre with no entrance fee to pay. With the Constable translating rapidly for me, I soon put a few of them to work by making them temporally officers of the law and positioned them a couple of hundred yards from the crash scene, flapping their arms to slow any oncoming traffic. We were only maybe 5 miles out of Gokwe town, and I didn’t fancy standing in the middle of the road if Mandeeka’s No. 1 son suddenly appeared in his bus again, packed with passengers and all possessions on the roof higher than the surrounding trees. Always pleased to help the law, the locals responded with enthusiasm. Whilst their antics might not have been text book style, their newly found impromptu dance routines did the job nicely - a bit like scarecrows in a tornado. The Black veterinary assistant, who had arrived at almost the same time, examined the surviving beast. He twisted brutally for a few seconds on the poor mombe’s tail, and then with an enormous amount of heaving, dragged its arse away from the wreck. I watched this with fascinated horror. The cow didn’t react at all, no moos of pain; it just seemed to look at me with big brown sad eyes.

‘This cow has got a broken back,’ says the Vet man. ‘You can shoot it,’ and he speeds off, leaving a huge dust cloud following his Landy. His job was done. I have to shoot a stupid cow! The driver seemed to have recovered enough to start moaning about his pick-up and his desire for compensation. Now by this time, I had garnered enough experience to know, that if it was possible to wrap up a case without using a ball point pen (unless it was for the on the spot penalty book), the better. This could get complicated if I opened up a traffic accident docket. Now was the time to use my expanding diplomatic skills to clarify a few points. Through the Constable, who gathered very quickly where this was heading, I pointed out, that in theory, perhaps compensation MIGHT be attainable if he could meet and prove the following criteria:

Possession of a valid driving license, road tax, car ownership papers and insurance. Of course, the pickup would have to be checked that it was road worthy – which might be rather difficult, considering the fact I could see 4 extremely bald tyres and that for some strange reason, there appears that there is not one mark on the dirt road suggesting any attempt of braking. Which could lead to the fact there wasn’t any. The drivers reply was the perfect one. None! He just stared at the ground for a moment and on rather shaky legs wandered off to sit under a nearby tree to get out of the heat. He had got the idea - Let sleeping mombes lie huh!

With that problem neatly eliminated, I turned my attention back to the cow and cocked my weapon which had been clasped in my right hand the whole time. Even a well oiled F.N. 7.62 semi-automatic rifle makes quite an audible noise, as its breechblock is shoved back and upon its return shoves a bullet up the barrel, ready for firing. All the gathered locals made a noticeable move back. I find it really weird, I doubt many had ever heard that sound or ever seen the loading action done, but they knew instinctively, that what had been a long extension of my arm, had suddenly been turned into a very deadly object. I wasn’t really sure about the right place to shoot the beast. I had read that elephants’ brains are really small and they have to be shot behind the ear. I didn’t know how big a cow’s brain was.

Suddenly, as I was musing over this mercy killing, a very excitable grey haired man breaks through the circle of gawkers, gesticulating widely and talking in rapid shona to the Constable.

‘P.O. Lore, Sah, this man here, he says that the mombes belong to him and please not to shoot the live one, as he lose too much money.’

I started to feel a little sorry for the owner, as this was definitely a serious financial blow to him, but I explained that the beast was in obvious pain and it had to be put down with a severe dose of lead poisoning, administered via my rifle muzzle.

Sah, this man says, if you shoot it here, by the time it gets to Mandeeka’s butchery in town, the meat will be useless. He say, he get a rope and can you drag it behind the Land Rover back to Gokwe to be slaughtered.’

Welcome to the clash of the cultures. I was appalled! What was asked of me, was in my mind, extreme cruelty for the sake of profit. I just couldn’t understand. That made me recall a recent article in the paper about cattle rustling on White owned farms getting out of control. Security forces had followed one group and came across a camp where they had removed the rear legs of one beast, but to keep the rest of the meat ‘fresh’ they had primitively cauterised the amputation wounds with absolutely no regard or remorse to the beasts suffering.

‘Tell this man,’ I shouted, whilst lifting the rifle in his direction, ‘to get out of my sight before I drag him to the butchers and then shoot him.’

There wasn’t any need for the translation. My tone and gestures sent a very graphic image. I turned my attention back to the cow, who had listened to the debate about its life without registering a single protest, not even a last moo goodbye!

I fired twice in quick succession, at point blank range, straight between the eyes; short, sharp explosions shutting up the incessant, screeching cicadas for a brief moment. No drama, no exiting bullet holes, no blasted out tissue or bone. No shuddering nervous system. Nothing at all to announce the grim reaper of cows - its eyes sort of glazed over. It looked dead. I couldn’t even see the small entrance holes as they were completely covered by the tight, smooth hair.

I was still fuming and called over the late cow’s owner and asked him for his situpa. I copied his details into the fixed penalty book and gave this ‘animal rights activist’ a ticket for 75 dollars for letting unattended domesticated animals wander the road. Then I told the pick-up owner to clear his wreck off the road before I give him a ticket for obstruction. I knew the crash scene would be cleared up faster than vultures would strip a buffalo carcase. Quite a few of the spectators had already returned with pangas and were haggling with the owner over the price of the best cuts. That took care of the cows.

I knew the old ’56 Ford would land up at Mandeeka’s garage, where presumably it would be beaten back into some shape of automobile recognition and be back ploughing into more cows in the near future.

So with everything wrapped up, it was back to the office – job done, just in time for lunch. I really fancied a fat juicy steak, as long as there weren’t any bits of steel in it.

1 comment:

NEATS said...


You are incorrigible!