Jamaica Magazine

"How I Roped a Cow" by American Retiree in Jamaica

Ann & I had only been living in Jamaica for a few months but during that time it was nearly a daily occurrence to see cows walking unattended through the streets and backyards of our new community.  Our property is walled, thank God, so we didn’t have to watch where we were walking in the yard.  No cow chips anywhere.  However, the cows seemed to like whatever flowers the former owner had planted along the outside front wall.  Two or three cows would stop for a little snack before continuing on their way to wherever that was.  The Parish council and police department were trying to capture these cows to prevent the all too common roadblocks on the main road.  This effort was met with much resistance as some people were stoning the rescue workers. 

All of this leads up to one of my first articles which has always been one of my favorites.  I don’t think there are many, if any, friends who have not been told this story in person.  We both still have a good laugh every time it is told.  So here it is I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. 

Maybe roping is the wrong word, chaining would be more accurate.  I was awakened one morning by the sound of one of the neighborhood dogs barking.  That, in itself, is not uncommon in Jamaica.  This particular dog, Sparkle, had a very good memory.  If someone passed by his house that was unknown to him he would bark, which is what any watch dog would do.  However, in Sparkle’s case, he would continue to bark for countless minutes after the person has been long gone.  He didn’t just bark a warning bark; it was more like he was talking.  

But I digress.  

As you can see in the picture of my driveway there is a chain that runs in front of the gate.  The purpose of the chain is to protect the gate from cars using the driveway to turn around. 

Sparkle was not barking in front of his house but at the end of my driveway.  Still half asleep, I went downstairs to see what his problem was.  As I stepped into the garage there he was barking for all he was worth at a cow laying on its side outside my gate.  As I approached the cow I could see the chain securely wrapped around the cow’s right rear leg.  It was obvious to me she was severely traumatized as evidenced by the amount of excrement around and on her.  Either this cow hadn’t done her “business” in a long time or she had a very large intestinal system unknown to man.  It was everywhere, all over the gate, driveway, wall, and the road.  Unfortunately for me when she fell her head was pointing away from the house. 

My first concern was to remove the chain from around her leg.  Not knowing how to do this, I immediately contacted my neighbor to help me figure a way out of my dilemma.  It was about 7:30 and he was still in his pajamas.  Once he got dressed he came over and we talked about our options.  It was decided the first thing was to hacksaw one of the links of the chain and pry it apart.  Once the chain was removed, the cow didn’t move.  She just laid there in her own feces rolling her eyes around.  I was getting scared thinking this cow was going to die right there.  What would I do if that happened?  The thoughts of decaying flesh ran through my mind. 

Our next plan was to somehow scare the cow into getting up and going home.  How could we possibly scare this cow anymore than she already was?  We tried yelling and screaming but that didn’t work.  She just laid there rolling her eyes around.  Our next plan of attack was exactly that!  My neighbor started “tapping” her on the head with the pry bar while I kicked her in the butt.  All the time our screaming continued.  Finally she started to get up.  She was very wobbly but did manage to stand on three legs.  With us still screaming at her, she hobbled down the road and plopped in front of my next door neighbor’s house.  With a sigh of relief I thanked my neighbor for his help and turned my attention to removing the “calling card” she left me.  It took several hours of work with a hose, shovel, and brush to clean up after her.  At last the mess was gone, but the aroma lingered on!  I wondered if it would ever go away. 

By noontime the cow was still laying in front of my neighbors.  Once again I started to worry about her dying there.  Then I had a brilliant idea. “I’ll call the police!  They’ll know what to do!”  BIG MISTAKE!!  After I explained the situation the police officer said, “Call your butcher.”  “What?”, I yelled.  Then he said, “Do you know whose cow it is?”  “No”, I replied.  Then he said, “Well, it must be yours, call your butcher.”  Now the problem was I hadn’t been in Jamaica long enough to even know one.  

Fortunately, a short time later a police car came to investigate.  At the moment the police car turned onto my street, the cow stood and walked to the next neighbor’s house and laid down.  It was as if the cow recognized the police car and was trying to get away from it.  Could this cow have been in trouble with the law in the past?  When the car pulled up two uniformed officers and one plain clothed detective stepped out.  My first thought was that the detective was a butcher and the police were going to fill their freezers with “my” cow!  It actually turned out that he knew a lot about cows.  His assessment was that the leg was badly damaged but not broken.  He said one of two things would happen.  Either the cow would find its own way home or the real owner would come looking for her.  

I am happy to say the cow was nowhere in sight the next morning however the smell was still there.  Was all this a sign of what living in Jamaica was going to be like?  One would never see a cow walking the streets in the suburbs of Boston.  What was then somewhat traumatic, I can now reminisce and laugh at the whole thing.  This was just another wonderful day in Jamaica. 

It wasn’t long after this that all the wandering cows disappeared.  Could they be in someone else’s freezer?  Later….   

About the author

John Casey