Saturday, October 23, 2010

This cow is sick

“This cow is sick,” Carlos says. It is lying on its side. He lassos the cow in one swoop, and directs it to a pasture closer to the barn, keeping the cow in front like he is walking a dog. Something is poking out of its rear, and going back in, and I think it is some sort of internal organ, and I try to maintain my composure and withhold my disgust to feign as if this was ordinary occurrence in my life as a farmer. (Although I’m pretty sure I lost these points from the start, exclaiming excitedly to my host-mom, Ana, that they fed the cows pineapple and papaya cascaras, and she looked back at me, and said, flat-toned but surprised, “You’ve never seen that?”) I try to ask Carlos what the sickness is, but don’t understand the response. Two hours later, we are back with the cow and Christian, one of the owners, is here, using a long plastic glove to stick his hand in the rear of the cow. I watch in horror as a small hoof, then two, start to emerge in Christian’s hand. Now, Carlos is grabbing one leg, and Christian has the other, and they are both pulling full force as if it is tug-of-war against the cow. I feel as if I am watching a magician, fixated on every detail to see how it could possibly be. I feel incredulous still as a tongue lolls out, head, eyes rolled back covered in this yellow mucus. Legs strained stretched straight out, they appear as if they are going to break off. Floop, Christian and Carlos stumble back as the calf crashes onto the ground, collapses head first, in a heap, legs buckled, lolled tongue out, slime fur ball. I let my breathe out, relieved that it all has come out in one piece, and that the mother is okay. The air is heavy and still. “Muerto,” Christian states. It is still.

We are all fixated on this body, though, that has just emerged from another. Just then, its sides waver, hesitate in and out. Christian swoops over to pull the mucus membrane out of its mouth. It shakes its head as if it has just emerged from a deep slumber. “Shit, I thought it was dead,” Carlos states. We stand there, me, Carlos, Christian, mother. It is as if the mother has yet to discover what has happened, and is as surprised and apprehensive as we are in realizing what is lying there in front of us. Her nostrils flare as she approaches slowly, sniffs it cautiously, and then eagerly, dutifully, eyes wide, rushes the last two steps in to bathe the calf in her tongue swaths. We stand there speechless, silent, watching the tiny body. Christian lifts its leg to see what sex it is. Carlos finally kicks the mother’s head away, saying “hijo de puta, she almost ate its tail. I thought it was gonna eat the damn thing’s tail.” We smile and exchange knowing glances, and return our attention to the new creature. The calf is thin. It lies there, head erect, but unresponsive to the warm breathe blows and big rasps of tongue. The mother chews away the remnants of this yellow membrane in addition to licking off the bubbly slime foam. I am too stunned to be grossed out. Its long front limbs stretch in front of it like it is done lying there. It has figured out how to be an object in the outside world, and now it is ready to enter it as a furry subject unsure of what this leg does and that. Oh, strain upwards, lie down, collect oneself, strain upward, lie down, that is too much for it at the moment. Finally, out of the stillness, Christian smiles at my mesmerized face, and says gently, “Vamos, a ordenar” and I follow walking sideways, head turned back to the calf. Will it stand up? What will the mother do next? I want to see it take its first wobbly steps and see its muzzle furs collect too eager froth dribbles of milk.

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