Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Anyone Lose a Leg?

I've run over a lot of interesting things in my motorbike travels in Isan: snakes, rats, haystacks, boxes, and almost an elephant. However, yesterday's bizarre incident just won't shake itself out of my mind.

I was giving a lift to a student from the university to downtown, when we came upon something about 1 meter (3 ft.) long, a mixture of fur (hide?) bone, blood, and rather jagged on one end, I made a last minute maneuver, avoiding it, but looking through my rearview mirror, saw another motorbike behind me hit it. The object flipped up in the air, doing a couple twirls and landed further out into the middle of the road.

I dreaded asking, but road-kill shock drove me to it: "What was that?!" I yelled to my passenger.

It wasn't so much the information I received, but how it was conveyed that rattled me.

"A cow leg," he said in a somewhat indifferent, nonchalant manner. He immediately started chatting about something else: "Did you see the big dormitory they're building over there...?"

"Wait!!" The urgency in my voice stopped him mid-sentence. "Did you say a COW LEG? Like 'the leg of a cow?'" (making sure I was correctly understanding his grammatical construction.) "Cow leg? As in, 'There's a cow running around in a field somewhere missing a leg?' And I just saw it's missing part flipping around in the air back there? Like, I almost HIT it?"

"Yeah, so?" The non-surprise in his voice revealed to me that this was a non-event to him. It was then I remembered I was talking to a kid brought up on an Isan farm.

It was also at this moment he also realized he was talking to someone from a different planet who'd never quite confronted anything's bloody leg lying around Seattle's streets.

We rode on in silence; him, wondering what kind of sheltered life I'd lived until now.

And my thoughts?

I couldn't help picturing a cow trying to cross the busy highway, against the pedestrian "Wait" light, dodging, dancing among the racing cars, trucks, and buses. Finally, her luck runs out on the front bumper of some Nissan pickup.

Or, some farmer trying to milk an unsteady cow. "Hold on Bessy, just a few more minutes of this torture. Grab that barn pole with your teeth just a little tighter. That'll steady you".

Or overhearing a cow-to-cow conversation out in the barnyard: "Molly, did you forget to wear your prosthesis this morning? You really shouldn't leave the barn without it. You're unattractive when you hobble."

"Why me?" Molly bellowed in anguish.

Then again, perhaps it was just an overloaded rendering truck bouncing along the highway, dropping a few heads, legs and tails along the way. Most likely.

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