Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Lesson to Learn from Costa Rican Teamster’s Tragedy

Tuesday morning, October 30th a Costa Rican man hauling sugar cane, with a team of oxen, stumbled and fell in the cane field. It is believed he tripped on crop residue from the previous sugar cane harvest. Another man working nearby called out for the oxen to stop but they continued --- running over  Bertilio Quiros, age 72. He died at the scene with wounds to the head, chest, and limbs.

A daughter described  Bertilio as a humble man who loved his work as a teamster. He was a loving father and grandfather. Our sympathies go to Bertilio’s family and friends.

Those of us who work with oxen (and “reitkuhs!”) may tend to become mesmerized by their usually gentle and affectionate natures. Bertilio’s accident is a good, though tragic, reminder of our oxen’s size, weight, and strength, and that oxen may not comprehend the significance of the consequences of their actions. I am reminded of finding dead sheep around the base of our hay feeders because their herd-mates were standing on top of them while they ate. The offending sheep were not cognizant of their actions and it is doubtful Bertilio’s oxen were cognizant of their’s either.

I mentioned “reitkuhs” (“reitkuh” is German for riding cows — riding cows and “springenkuhs” (jumping cows) seem to be a phenomenon of a few young German girls, especially those who live on dairy farms). I've seen several pictures of these smiling girls lying beneath their cows with their faces protruding between the cows front legs (click here to see one Die Kuhreiterin at 1:29 seconds. While the trust these kids have in their cows is admirable, I do fear for their safety.

It could be dangerous to anthropomorphize about our cows or oxen. While a cow may have a natural instinct not to step on it’s calf, I do not believe she would have an understanding of the possible consequences of a misplaced step on her young friend and trainer.

I know the only understanding that Scout the Ox has of the consequences of stepping on my toe is that it makes me holler — and he gets an elbow jabbed in his side!

With these thoughts in mind I’m glad I have trained Scout the Ox to long reins — so I can walk behind him while working. I’m also glad he responds well to “whoa.”  While I’d like to think he would  not step on me if I fell in his path, I’m not prepared to bet my life on it.

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