How to Get a Cow to Cross a Bridge in the Himalayas

As they say, “you can take a girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl”.  Previously, I wrote to you about The Long Road to Rodeo with my steer Sebastian.  Let me now share an intercultural cow story.

In the early 1990’s my husband and I traveled in Nepal for six weeks.  While we spent a lot of time in Kathmandu and Pokhra seeing all of the sights, we were young and ready to hike in the Himalayas. We had been staying in the Vajra hotel in Kathmandu and the staff there suggested a wonderful guest house in the mountains where we could spend Christmas.  We packed our backpacks and a driver from the hotel drove us to the guest house where we had outstanding views and wonderful vegetarian food.

Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve we were told that there was “no room at the inn” because a group of German tourists were arriving.  Apparently, there had been a miscommunication between our hotel and the guest house. We were told not to worry because there was another hotel that was only a couple of hours hike away.  The guest house provided us a guide and so we put on our gear and set out.

Along the way, we had to cross gorges… with rope and wooden suspension bridges.  Not for the faint of heart, especially if you do not like heights. Cows apparently do not like heights either.  We came to a bridge where a cow was having no part of this proposition.  She simply did not want to cross even though two Nepalese men were trying to push her across.  We could not cross until they did and daylight was quickly running out.

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I said to my husband,  “They need to gently twist her tail.”  He said, “What?”  I replied, “That’s what we did back in Kansas when we needed to load the cattle into a chute or into the trailer and they were being stubborn.”  He told our guide about my plan.  The guide then told the two men in Nepalese how to proceed.  Let me tell you, that cow crossed the bridge!  Did I change animal husbandry in Nepal?  Quite possibly.

When we crossed the bridge and finally arrived at our destination, it was like something out of a Twilight Zone TV episode.  The hotel had 1960s decor, complete with a silver metallic Christmas tree.  At the time, there were also demonstrations and protests going on throughout the country because the Communist Party was trying to get the King of Nepal to renounce his divinity, which he ultimately did.  (I must say I wondered at the time if this was one of the ultimate “Speech Acts” that we know from linguistic theory).  Consequently, we had one hotel employee (a university student) who was concierge, front desk staff, housekeeping, and cook.  Our Christmas Eve dinner was an odd assortment of food items, but we made the best of it.

The student said he would like to give us a gift for Christmas if we were willing to wake up early and hike.  We agreed and got up between 4 and 5 in the morning and went for a hike.  We were surprised that he was packing a telescope.  We eventually stopped and he set it up.  When the sun began to rise, we watched the morning light pass across Mount Everest.  The mountain went from pink…to yellow…to orange…to red.  It was one of the most amazing things we had ever seen, and certainly one of the best Christmas gifts we have ever received.  I suspect that cow got to witness it as well…

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Listen to Dr. Mater on The City Podcast from HBU.


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