Moo - Part 3
Continued from Parts 1 and 2 below.
“Nope. It can’t drive,” I said.
Nor could I, it seemed.
I thought back on what I might have done differently. As I had approached the sharp curve, there actually had been a man wildly waving his hands at me. I thought that he was an overzealous hitchhiker (happens a lot) until I saw a truck with flashing blue lights pull onto the road and begin following me. Thinking I was being pulled over (happens a lot), I began slowing down as I approached the curve…and then came the thud, my bad word, and the rush of that feeling which I will call the “darn-it-all-oh-no-did-that really-just-happen” feeling and the adrenaline that couples this specific, unpleasant feeling.
“Do you know any tow trucks that can pull me to the border?” I asked the officer.
I did not intend to loiter at the scene of the “auto vs. cow” altercation. I wanted to do nothing but leave, actually, and soon.
Well, that is not true. I wanted to put a bullet in the skull of that poor cow carcass in case it had survived the three collisions, but needless to say I didn’t have a gun. The cops (now there were three; one for each thud) all had guns, each discreetly tucked into his/her pants, but they did not want to use them.
“The owner of the cow must come so we can issue a citation,” one of them said.
In any case, I was ready to move on. I was uneasy and hungry and wanted a tow to some place that had electricity and a veggie burger.
“Can I see that torch hat again?” asked the policeman. “We found a brand on the cow and I want to use it to identify the owner.”
“Here you go,” I said.
I made a few cell phone calls to folks in Swaz and cashed in a few favors. Each of the conversations started with me saying, “Listen, I have a bit of a problem.”
After ten minutes of favor-seeking, there was a Swazi tow truck (with my name on it) on its way to the Swazi-South Africa border. I just needed to get myself and my disabled station wagon to the South African side of that same border.
I hung up the phone and looked for the light from my headlamp. Its white 3-LED light was ten meters behind the car and focused squarely on the fated cow’s rump-steak. A semi-circle of semi-illuminated observers had gathered. The cow’s brand symbol was being copied into the officer’s notebook.
I approached the lamp, the lighted cow, and the dozen or so half-lit bystanders and asked the cop, “Any word on that tow truck?”
“Oh…Hmmm…Do you have any minutes on your phone?”
“I sure do.”
Fortunately, I had put ten bucks on my Nokia in Carolina, a small town I passed through about an hour before.
He dialed a number on my phone, spoke for a while in Zulu, hung up, and told me that a friend of his was on the way.
I thanked him, hoping he was on his way in a tow truck.
Then the police officer then said, “We really need to go.”
I paused to digest and reflect upon what had just been said.
“Um, please don’t do that,” I retorted.
“I have a robbery suspect in the car, and I am now off duty.”
“Um, please don’t do that,” I re-retorted.
“I can’t stay.”
I thought about offering to pay him but instead avidly volunteered to write a letter to his boss describing how he—Officer Buthelezi—generously did not leave me on the side on the road in rural South Africa on a dark dark night.
“I am going to grab a pen and paper to get your name and the station address!” I said, running over to my lame car before he could object.
I took his information and the name and phone number of the department head.
The officer then generously waited the fifteen minutes until the truck arrived.
After one South African pasture-to-South African border tow truck, two nuanced border debates (one in each country regarding the export-import of damaged cars), and one Swaziland border-to-Swaziland mechanic tow truck, I was back at home, more than a little bit relieved.
I am not sure what happened to the victimized cow.
As regrettable as the whole affair was, given the circumstances, I am thankful that the animal was the only casualty.