On Friday, August 30, about 1 PM, our biggest cow fell into our deepest pond. Fortunately, her neck remained above the water. Still, it was a pathetic sight, especially with the green algae dangling from her ears.
The workers had named her “Gula,” meaning “greedy,” in recognition of her enormous appetite. She managed to accumulate a weight of at least 200 kilograms, that is, about 450 pounds. She was also 8 ½ months pregnant
The farm workers pumped most of the water out of the pond. Still, her feet were sticking in the mud. Not for even the shortest second did I ever expect that we would get her out of the pond. The two farm workers and a grounds keeper, at least, were experimenting, gathering ropes and boards, though I don’t know why.
When the water was drained, a cement shelf about half way up the side of the pond was exposed. Two mechanics from our neighbors organized raising her onto the shelf. At this point, she was still cooperating as they guided her onto the shelf. As soon as she reached the shelf, she lay down and refused to budge. She had enough of being pulled and pushed.
Hope emerged when our two Masai watchmen (Askaris) appeared. The Masai are famous for their knowledge of cattle.
About 5 pm, eleven of our brothers returned from playing football. They were soon joined by our prior. A variety of approaches were tried to lift the cow, but even 17 men could not lift such a cow, who had no intention of being lifted. Who knows what was going on in the cow’s brain and how she understood why these men were trying to raise her heavy body. One brother began to massage Gula’s head and speak to her – and it calmed her. Even St. Thomas knew that animals have feelings but it was a surprise to realize it.
My reflections became more miserable: good bye to the calf, good bye to the abundance of milk that comes after a cow gives birth (which we could sell), and what were we going to do with 450 pounds of beef after we stuffed the freezer and the refrigerator. We would have to have an ordination and invite everyone we knew.
Then, our prior came up with a plan. Our prior teaches philosophy and philosophers do not have a reputation for being practical but there are exceptions. And besides, the lifting was going nowhere, and no one else had any other ideas.
First, it would be necessary to get a hold of her legs and to turn her over onto her back. Have you ever heard of anyone turning a 450 pound cow onto her back? Not an easy task but with 17 men pushing and pulling, it happened!
Once that was done the prior told the men to tie her two front legs together and then tie her two back legs together. A search produced a heavy pole, which was run beneath the tied feet. Then with 8 men standing on each side of the shelf, lifting the pole, slowly by slowly, the upside down cow began to rise, not quickly, to be sure.
With our brothers and workers strenuously lifting, the cow was pulled to the top of the pond and turned onto solid ground, her feet untied, and she was rolled upside up. The cow appeared finished. Then she opened her eyes and looked around. Mustering what strength she had, she stood up and walked away from the crowd of muddy men. Within seconds, she was in the pasture, eating grass. A cow can get very hungry after such an experience, especially if her name is Gula.
We called the veterinarian to check on her. He inquired whether she was eating and, of course, she was. He said there was no reason for him to come. We asked him to check the unborn calf. His answer was the same, if the mother is eating, the calf is ok.
Other friars probably had the same experience I had, when I walked by the next day, Gula looked at me with big sad cow eyes. She never expected we would treat her in such a way. I told her I was sorry but really she had something to do with it in the first place.
Two weeks later, Gula gave birth to a healthy young bull, whom we named “Taabu,” “Troubles.”
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.