The hand waved us across the road and down the muddy slope. The old man was lying on the back of his water buffalo! The poor beast looked exhausted, lying with it’s head between it’s hooves and ears drooping. However, that large head slowly lifted up in curiosity as we approached.
The man wore a pair of dirt encrusted trousers and a white collar shirt that could’ve been mistaken for brown. He wore a stained conical on his head, shielding his face from the afternoon sun.
He introduced himself as “Hom”, shook each of our hands enthusiastically, and pointed to the large animal still lying in the dirt and said slowly and repeatedly, “Tao”. Tao’s head lifted slightly at the mention of his name and then stood up and came closer.
At first I was quite frightened. A water buffalo is a big animal, with big horns and big hooves and big teeth. Hom saw that all of us were drawing back a little. He gently took my hand in his rough, wrinkled hand and set it carefully on Tao’s hairy back. Soon, poor Tao was being handled like a pet kitten.
I was curious to know how old this massive beast was. I asked Hom, he either didn’t seem to hear or didn’t understand. However, a second later, he knelt down and carefully wrote something in the dirt with his fore finger: “50”! We were surprised and impressed. Hom looked with pride at Tao and gave him an affectionate slap on his neck.
Unexpectedly, Hom took me by the arm and led me towards the right side of Tao. He gestured for me to throw my left leg across the buffalo’s broad back, while at the same time he would lift me. After a few seconds I was sitting up on Tao’s back. It felt really strange! Eulain joined me and Hom led us as we walked a few paces. I never imagined that I would ride on the back of a water buffalo!
Until next time,