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…
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.