Cow In A Ditch
It was late April in the Southern Hemisphere, the end of the hot season, but the heat was still sweltering. Our ten-minute walk to town for a cheap lunch was mostly guarded by shade, but still my t-shirt was soaked through as we reached the halfway point. It was then that a man walking a cow on a rope appeared ahead of us.
The man was trying to guide the cow to the sidewalk alongside the road, which required a short climb up a narrow, concrete staircase. Why the man took the cow through the difficult shortcut through the park I will never know. It would have been much easier for him to take the slightly longer way along the side roads that went straight out to the main road, no stairs required. Maybe he was late for his appointment with the butcher.
This man attempted to lead the cow up the stairs without much thought. He just walked up, the rope over his shoulder and the cow following, as if it would be a cinch. When the cow began resisting, the man turned around and tugged on the rope, attempting to force the beast up to the road. The cow, frightened by the small space and the stairs, planted a front hoof on the first step. That must have felt alright because he then did the same with the second. On the third footfall, on the second step of the small staircase, the cow toppled over to his right side, robbed of his balance, and tumbled into the small culvert, only about a foot deep, that ran perpendicular to the stairs.
The man hardly flinched. He looked down at the cow and calmly descended the staircase without so much as a sigh. He began tugging on the rope, the cow upside down in the itch, its legs straight up in the air, flailing.
As the small group of Peace Corps Volunteers and I got close, I saw that the rope ran around the cows neck and through its nostrils. The man pulling it was Indo-Fijian—Fiji born but of Indian descent.
Rather than walk around him, I decided to do what a Fijian would do. I walked up to the rope and helped the man pull. I knew I wasn't strong enough to make too much of a difference with an animal that probably weighed over a thousand pounds, but the effort would mean something.
When I began pulling I felt the rope become more and more taught. When I looked back I saw that both of the other male PCVs had pitched in. We gave a strong pull and I saw the cow's nostrils stretch. I could only think of how much such a thing must hurt. But it rolled, got its legs underneath itself, and stood up. The man did not speak much English, but he thanked us as best he could and we continued on to lunch.
It is moments like these that make me feel like a good person. It was not much, but that minute of effort saved one man a lot of time and stress. One does not need to join Peace Corps to provide this kind of help. It can be accomplished anywhere in the world at any point in the day. There is always someone in need of help, we just need to be a bit more mindful in order to recognize them.