Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Cow-Minder

In Chizatau nature has been taking over the river bed. Herons, egrets and wild ducks fly from place to place. Plenty of clam shells can be seen by the water. If one looks closely enough, they are holes in their shells and are filled with mud, which is proves that they were eaten by birds. The grass is full of bees. Dragon files and small blue butterflies zoom ahead as I walk by.

The only person I see there regularly is the cow-minder. It would be silly to call him a cowboy because he is in his mid sixties. He considers himself too old to leave Chizatau. He earns a hundred lei per month per cow + food, and leaves home early in the morning and walks the river bed with the cows until 7 p.m. The cows lead.  There are nine of them. They eat grass, rest at mid day, go in the water to cool off and wash, and then walk back home. Each of them has a different personality. He said only the smallest one is lazy and naughty.  The rest listen to him, love to be clean and cannot stand even a speck of dirt. They wash several times a day.

He is not the only one who walks the river bed. There is another old man I see from time to time. He has the luxury of guarding his own cows, and is not always there at a fixed time. He stays under a tree and reads his bible while his cows graze. Then there are the shepherds. They stop at the same place as the nine cows at mid day with their sheep and chat and sometimes share food.

The cow minder tells me he has two sons, but they visit rarely. One chose badly when he married a girl he met in a dicotheque. They had a daughter together who is sixteen and very big and tall. She seems to posses no other qualities in his eyes. He has since divorced his wife and moved to Germany for work, but does not save much money because he smokes and that's expensive. The other son works in Lugoj - the nearby city - and has two younger children. They like to be on their phones and tablets and don't have time to visit a grandfather in a small village a little more more than 15 km away or help with house chores. 

When I was growing up, the river bank in Chizatau was almost white with geese and full of laughing children. They were so many that together with cows and other forms of livestock they managed to stop me from swimming. Today the geese are gone. I've seen only one lonely goose in somebody's yard.

The cow minder himself had had a wife. She died when their children were about the same age as mine crushed under concrete. She worked at making marble, and one day the concrete mixer was broken. She was told to hit it with a shovel to get it to restart. When she did so, it fell on her and crushed her. So, the cow minder raised his boys alone and let them splash in the Bega river where they learned to swim on their own. He was not a cow minder then because Chizatau had a Cooperative and made concrete, bricks and marble. It was a busy place.

It's interesting that now nature is taking over without fancy intervention programs. Most people have moved to the city or abroad, and the ones who are left spend their time on tablets and computers and let wild life grow not because they support it but because they are too addicted to technology to do anything else. There are few farm animals other than the cows, and some sheep. Most people keep dogs and they are confined to their yard. There are no geese or ducks or children on the roads. The only noise is from cars and trucks because Chizatau is on the main county road from Timisoara to Lugoj.

This year has been strange. Summer came in late March right after snow and it stayed warm and rainy. It rained every 2-3 days and plants, grass and trees grew. There were no storms here as of yet or wild-fires. The fruits and vegetables riped quickly or went bad because of the rain. The only thing that grew in our garden are pumpkins - lots of them - and grapes.

The rest of the world is warming up.  Even the UK, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark have had a long hot summer this year. Sweden highest peak melted by 13 feet in the month of July. The Swiss military is wearing shorts and T-shirts. The wild-fires have reached the Artic circle.  California and Greece have lost people to fires and plenty of houses.

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