One Man and his Negotiable Cow

negotiable cow

I was about to assemble a spaghetti carbonara for lunch when the dogs took off en masse, barking and howling.

From the kitchen window I could see that they were heading for the front gate and assumed that it was yet another of their false alarms…they are territorial, to an extreme. No walkers, motorbikes or cars are allowed to pass without a stern warning as to the potential consequences of hanging about.

But the barking and howling persisted so I turned off the pan…muttering oaths…and went out to  find that a man leading a cow was walking up the drive, both completely unmoved by the canine frenzy.

My heart sank. This was David, the new partner of the daughter of the man who is renting our old house down the hill, together with the lower pastures, while preparing to build a  house for the daughter on land he owns opposite us.

That was over a year ago. So far an electricity post has gone up…neatly situated directly opposite our gate…and there things have stalled.

Finance is the problem. Things went wrong when the father became ill and for a long time could not carry on his business of selling fruit and veg on the markets. His wife and daughter could not take up the slack and the then partner of the daughter was unwilling to contribute his income from delivering things after dark in order to help the situation.

Further, the daughter refused to sell her herd of cattle. Since all the family land was taken up with producing fruit and veg for the markets she was obliged to rent land to run her cattle….and as she did not want to sell any the whole thing was a lose – lose situation which was a drain on the family resources even when things were going well.

As always, financial distress produced problems in relationships. The partner left, much regretted by ourselves as not only did he deliver things after dark  but he was also a wizard with animals, and the daughter took up with another chap…

David. The man leading the cow.

I have learned my Spanish on the hoof…but generally it works. It might not be pure Castillian…but it works. Having picked up Spanish here in Costa Rica it works quite well with Costa Ricans – generally.

Not with David.

He is a nice young man…he is wonderful with the daughter’s young son…but in terms of intelligence a Toc H lamp beats him hands down for illumination.

Why had he come to see us leading a cow?

Because the cow had a problem.

Thinking that I am neither a veterinary surgeon nor an animal psychiatrist I continued.

And what is the cow’s problem?

I should have remembered the first rule of advocacy…never ask a question to which you do not know the answer.

David went off at a rate of knots….from which I eventually disentangled the following…

The cow was worth one thousand dollars…

My backside.

He had bought it himself. With his own money. …

Pull the other one, it has bells on.

He, David, had worked his fingers to the bone clearing the lower pastures…

So he should as keeping them clear was part of the letting agreement.

But the cow had punctured its intestines on a tree stump hidden by the undergrowth…

The undergrowth that he had worked his fingers to a bone clearing.

They – no, he – would have to pay for a vet.

Yes, they are not generally charitable institutions.

But the cow would die anyway…

Why pay for a vet’s opinion when you are better qualified to give a prognosis?

We owned the finca….


So we were responsible for upkeep…

Read the lease. No, as you were. Get someone to read the lease to you.

Thus we should pay him one thousand dollars for the moribund cow…

This is where my Spanish let me down. I was unable to translate  ‘Awa’ an’ bile yer heid’   in any way which would accurately describe the strength of my views.

Examination in chief revealed that the case put forward by David was not his own creation. His lady partner had coached him….it must have taken hours…

It appeared that there had been vast expenditure on Christmas presents for the child so   money was needed to pay the bills…including the rent owed to us.

Thus the lady’s bright idea.

The cow is on the pasture up here, under my eye, and appears distinctly alive.

Danilo is inspecting the lower pasture and directing David in clearing it properly.

I am hunting high and low for my copy of A.P. Herbert’s ‘Uncommon Law’ wherein the case of the negotiable cow may be found….just in case the young lady has any other bright ideas.








26 thoughts on “One Man and his Negotiable Cow”

    1. Well, once I find the book I can enjoy the A.P. Herbert on his behalf. Did you see the TV series? Apparently the BBC wiped the lot…
      Ah…the Poetic Gems….I fear even that might give him problems…

  1. Remind them what happens when rent is not paid.
    You might get paid in cows of course, but the meat would keep the dogs for ages – well a week.
    What’s Spanish for “Shove it pal?”

    1. From what I see of their cattle the meat would be hard to find among the bones…
      Something on the lines of ‘metetelo por el culo’, I think…but not exactly as snappy as the phrase in English…such a versatile language! I think I will ask Julio for the current slang..

  2. Jeez. I’m glad you have Danilo to step in. Let’s hope they all realize they have pushed you as far as they can and move on. i feel bad for the cows.

    1. So do I. They have moved all their cattle onto the lower pasture which is simply not adequate…as they were told when they took up the lease. And when maintenance is neglected too, it makes matters worse. Too idle to use a machete, just a high powered strimmer which doesn’t touch the rough stuff.
      I can’t give grazing to their cattle as the high end is divided for the sheep and has been resown this year…Danilo will talk to the father about selling them on…summer approaches and although they can use the fodder grass and cane planted on the lower part of the finca it will not be enough to bring that number of cattle through the dry season.
      I see that they are feckless…money for presents rather than think of the bills…but the father is a straight chap who has fallen on hard times so we will look for solutions, though I fear that the daughter will be too pig headed to co operate.

  3. Amazing that some people expect you to believe the worst rubbish they can concoct that sounds fine to their ears.
    Unfortunately, not much between heir ears really. On yer bike pal springs to mind.
    Happy New Year
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    1. He had learned his lines well, poor chap! Pity about the reasoning.
      There is a phenomenon common to, I think, all countries. The local thinks that because the foreigner does not speak his language the foreigner is an idiot who can be taken advantage of. When this proves not to be the case the local blames the foreigner.
      Sheer stupidity does’t help either…
      Hsppy New Year to you and yours!

  4. The only thing missing was the young man telling you how much milk they were going to lose out on when the cow succumbed, and then you looking over to see a decidedly unfemale appendage on the underside of said bovine.

    I mean, if you’re going to try to fleece someone, don’t send a moron to do a (con)man’s job.

    Hope you enjoy an outstanding New Year, and thank you for a great year of posts!

    1. She can’t have thought of that!
      I fear anything involving David is doomed to failure…he is a nice lad but about as wet as a bog in winter…
      Thank you for your kind words…let us see what the coming year will bring.

  5. It is such a truism that people assume if you aren’t fluent in their language they can bullshit you and fleece you and generally treat you like a halfwit. The bad ones, that is. I imagine this girl was quite bewildered that her witless scheme didn’t work. I suggest next year she indulges a little less in spoiling her child and remembers that, as my ex-husband’s Godfather (an extremely wealthy man) once said to him in response to a begging letter ‘the point is that we all, no matter how large or small our income have to learn to balance our own books’. I am sorry for those poor cows that are clearly grazing on insufficient pasture. I am also sorry for you but I have no doubt that you will deal with whatever has to be dealt with with decency and directness no matter that your Spanish may be a little faulty 🐄

    1. We think there might be a solution for the cattle. Leo contacted the ex partner and the father and it has been agreed that the cattle will move upto the land opposite us as there is no way that building can be undertaken given the current state of the finances. Further, the manager of the big finca alongside has agreed that, if fencing is put in, he will allow the cattle on his land through the dry season on condition that fodder is supplied and the land is kept in good order, so the animals can move there once they have exhausted the first finca’s grazing.
      Fencing which will, no doubt, be delivered after dark.
      It is one of the things i like about living here…everyone knows that the father is a straight chap and has had problems, so are willing to help him out by giving him time to find a proper solution. In the meantime, our lower pasture can be brought back into shape, so, all in all, a good temporary outcome….for the cattle at least.

    1. All the essentials for a good year to come! Our best wishes to you both, the furry rulers of your household and your community which is pulling together to help those in the worst need.

      The cow seems O.K. I have her up here under my eye. As for the rest, there seems to be a solution for the coming dry season.

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