It was the end of a full day in the saddle from 7:15 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon (with a lunch break). Chele and I had one job left to do: we had to deliver two cows to the neighboring village, El Carbon. We felt pressed for time since we could see the massive rain front getting closer by the second, so we were hoping to make it quick and simple. But oftentimes when that’s what you want, it turns out long complicated.
El Carbon is a small, poor village. Walking down the main road (basically the only road) gives me a feeling of being in a real Honduran village.
As Chele and I drove the two cows down the road leading into El Carbon, we had our first problem. On our right entering the village was a home. Like most homes in El Carbon, it was cinderblock with a brightly colored (typically green or pink) painted line around it for decoration. It had a barbwire fence around it to help keep in the family’s two cows and flock of chickens. Like so many of the fences here in Honduras (El Sembrador included), there are many broken strands of barbwire. As Chele went to block one of those gaps with his horse, one of the cows turned back towards El Sembrador. I turned and took off for the cow. This had to be the fastest cow I had ever seen as it barreled down the road.
As I began to pass the cow going its full speed and me on my horse going its full speed, the cow turned sharply left and busted straight through the barbwire fence into a field filled with other cows. Embarrassed that I failed, I turned around to head back and tell Chele what happened. To my surprise he met me with the same news that the other cow busted through the fence as well, so both of us made our way into the field to get the two cows. Our next problem arose here when I realized we had two cows in a herd of all bulls and the bulls were “excited.” I had a flashback to my accident earlier with a couple excited stallions and a mare, so I cowardly decided to stay back a little bit and let Chele separate the cows from the bulls before I joined the drive again.
Finally, we made our way back into El Carbon. Two guys entering this village on horseback, especially me being a Gringo, was bound to bring attention. And so soon, we were forming a parade that was growing by the second. Chele led the way to block the cows from any holes in fences. The parade behind us grew with a dozen stray dogs and every child who wasn’t preoccupied playing soccer. Our “band” in the parade was a car parked on the street with its music blaring Spanish pop music. And, a group of teenagers stared at me with perplexed smiles. The smell, however, was not the typical smell accompanied with festivals, parades, etc. It was a gag-inducing smell of burning trash.
Yet again, the cows found an opening and ran for it. I stayed out on the street waiting for Chele to return. I was glad I waited as I watched Chele basically ride through someone’s house—this “house” was a far cry from a sturdy house with four protective walls. Once we were back on the road with the cows, we went a little further only to combine with a herd of 10 or so other cows. Chele and I, along with another man, herded the new formed group to the field at the end of the town. I was able to gather from the man and Chele’s conversation that the guy who wanted the cows would come pick them up from the field later. As we were leaving, we came upon the guy who bought the two cows. Chele explained to him where the cows were, and he was so grateful, he wanted to get us something to drink. In true Honduran fashion, there was one of those small stores of soda pop and cell phone service nearby (I mentioned these in the first saddle story), and he bought us some pop. Wanting to get back before the rain came, we thanked him for the Fresca, saved it for later, and trotted the whole way back.
Again, another memorable moment in Honduras filled with learning experiences.