Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to yoke up and plow with a team of water buffalo

Written from Nha Trang, December 20th, 2014, where it did not rain all day.  I even caught one glimpse of some blue sky out  over the ocean.  It was shy and ran off when it saw me looking.  Kids here are sometimes like that too.

Water buffalo are all over Viet Nam, from the low country where there's lots of water up in to the mountains where the water mainly falls from the sky and runs in small creeks down mountainsides.  They are probably the sweetest (probably not the smartest) large animals anywhere.  They do in fact love to wallow in a mud hole with just nose and maybe eyes showing above the waters.  They can swim really well (they just walk into the water and keep going.  You can tell when they touch down, they start to rise up).  They have sometimes fabulous long horns that serve primarily for kids to hang their sandals on while they ride bareback, without saddle or bridle.  And they work.  Not fast usually, but slow and steady.  Two of them together can pull really hard.  They figure occasionally in the distant background of one of my photos, but only rarely get to star.  This is their turn!
First go fetch the buffalos from wherever they've been wallowing. . .or grazing or whatever.  When you get back to the road with luck your wife will pick up the yoke and bring it down to you.

The first trick is to get the buffs standing side by side, but they're used to this drill and snuggle right up.

It takes a bit of shuffling and pushing, but shortly the yoke settles down on peoples' shoulders (buffalo peoples')

The plow itself is a little heavy, better go get it yoursrelf

Madame sweet talks the big guys to get them to stand still.  They really DO know what you're doing back there, but they would like to look anyway.

You need to get the plow far enough forward that you'll be able to fasten the toggle line to the yoke.  You didn't notice the toggle line?  scroll back up and look at that plow again.  There it is, line, one each, with toggle.

Okay, zoom in really close and you can see that you really can't see just exactly how the toggle is fastened.  Darn.

Say a couple of magic words and they will take a little strain on the plow, but then you need to tell them what to do.  They're ready to help, but you have to communicate (this is like a lot of other human relationship problems. . .communication)

Actually, from this moment on you never quit talking to them.  They prefer simple one syllable words, repeated often, like, maybe once per second.  I didn't record it, but the conversation went something like "tak-tak-tak-tak-tak-tak-tak-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-tak-tak-tak-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-tak-tak-oh--which apparently means something like "left left left left left left straight straight straight and so forth. . .in buffaloese obviously, not Vietnamese.  Wait, I don't know that.  Maybe the buffalo speak Vietnamese.  H'mm.  I don't know, it's a pretty difficult language.

And there you have it, come to the end of the furrow and talk them around onto the other tack.

And there you go outbound.  It doesn't look like they're pulling at all.  They don't grunt or heave on their load or anything dramatic, they're just out walking in the water.  The plow however cuts through the soft mud like unzipping a new coat.

Coming down the line. . .nice straight furrow

Well, it;s shallow, but it is water. . .

And that's all there is to it, go get yourself a pair of water buffalo and do it yourself, it's obviously fun.