Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Afghan Cows

I have decided to resurrect the Shit Saint Louis Says blog, which means all that delicious traffic of people who want to read racist comments without actually going the the comments section of the local news will be off this blog.

Therefore, I should get back to using this as it was been intended: The place to have brain dumps and tell stories. I hope to be a bit more active here with tales of the military, my city and all the other things I keep telling myself I should write about but never get around to.

Today will be cows in Afghanistan.

Back when I was just a young pup of a Soldier, I deployed to Afghanistan to play the role of roving journalist with a Civil Affairs unit. The goal of CA is to win the hearts and minds of the locals via bribery with medical supplies or building wells and schools or whatever the village is clamoring for. We use government funds to hire local contractors which dumps money into the economy and stabilizes the region. 

If you happened to miss the day of your social studies class which delved into the history and politics of the most middle country of the middle east, I'll give you a refresher. There is quite a bit of trade which moves across Afghanistan that isn't necessarily heroin and destitution. Some of the people are nomadic, traveling all over the country to trade cattle, meat and fur to some of the more agricultural Afghans.

The standard operating procedure at the time when dealing these Kochi tribes was to let the elders know a day or so before our planned arrival where we would be and what services we would offer. Generally the promises were de-worming of all livestock with vaccination for the sheep and goats, as well as some medical checkups for the people. Since many locals relied completely on their goat and sheep herds for survival, they would come in droves for some free medical help.

We Americans would pack up some humvees and SUVs and drive out to the middle of nowhere and wait. We brought our own protection, but the local warlord would send out a contingent to help us out with security. Sort of a good faith measure. 

This was Afghanistan in 2004. The local militia consisted of three dudes high on opium handling AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades.

I assure you there is just regular tobacco in that cigarette
So one of these families brought a couple of cows. Being the helpful person I am, I volunteer to help hold the rope attached to the cow while the veterinarian prepares the deworming solution. The parents wander off to talk with a few other people and I'm just hanging out with a cow, an interpreter and a seven-year-old Afghan kid who looks like he would rather be anywhere else other than on some lame road trip with his parents.

As an American, I'm used to the docile, doe-eyed cows which wander aimlessly around Southern Missouri countrysides, grazing the grass, standing in pools of water and being boring but delicious.

Not from Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, everything is angry. Because it's Afghanistan. It's hot, things don't grow very well, the Taliban has been messing the place up and shit is always exploding on account of all the Soviet mine fields scattered about.

So as I am standing holding on the the lead of this cow, it decides it wants to wander over and sniff some other rock on the ground. The rope slips from my hand as the cow walks off.

I walk with quick strides to get the rope attached to the errant cow.

The cow views me as a possible threat.

The cow trots further away.

I try my best to keep up with the cow.

The cow starts running.

I panic. I have just chased off part of this poor family's income with my negligence! I had to do what was right. I had to chase down this cow. I had to save them from starvation. For America!

Cows, it turns out, can run pretty fast.

I spend about ten minutes on this endeavor to maintain friendly relations between Americans and Afghans before I realize I am about three hundred meters away from any kind of security in what could very well be a minefield.

So I meekly return to the interpreter and the boy. Both have quizzical looks on their faces at the weird American who just attempted to run down a cow. I apologize as much as I can through wheezing breaths about being unable to wrangle the cow.

The interpreter gives a laugh. "It's a cow, where the hell is it going to go?" He asks, sweeping his arm across the broad expanse of nothing surrounding us.

I turn. The cow is standing about twenty feet behind me. The kid walks up, grabs the rope and leads it over to the veterinarian, who also witnessed my ignorance of the mental workings of foreign cows. The look in that kid's eyes told me he didn't hold out much hope for the future of his country with the Americans.

Lesson learned. Cows aren't stupid, and they know to come back to the herd.

But sometimes, like humans, they just want to be left alone.

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