Thursday, February 05, 2009

Miranda? Miranda? Mirandaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

I bring you sad news, Legion of Fans (LOF) from the wilds of Zimbabwe where Miranda, the much beloved mascot of the Mashonaland East branch of the Central African Division of my fan club has passed away.

Poor Miranda was found lying in the grass beside her well-chewed copy of ZAMBEZI, with her tongue lolling out and four hooves in the air.

A gumboot-shod Branch President Chief-Justice Makonde (whose parents subscribed to the fine Zimbabwean tradition of giving their children aspirational names) led me to Miranda’s paddock soon after my arrival in this strife torn country.

“Ah, but she was a lovely cow,” Makonde told me, “and we had high hopes that she would one day have a role in the film version of one of your books. Spray painted black she could easily pass for a Cape Buffalo.”

I nodded, and observed a quiet few seconds of respectful silence. I, too, could picture Miranda lowing gently in the background as Charlize Theron and a platform-shoed Daniel Craig alternately pouted and frowned at the camera in their soon-to-be confirmed roles as Insp Sannie van Rensburg and Det Sgt Tom Furey in the film version of SILENT PREDATOR.

I can’t help but think that Miranda, named after one of the main characters in her favourite novel, ZAMBEZI, would have approved of her method of dispatch to cow heaven.

Like the fictional Miranda, Mashonaland East’s bovine mascot was fed to the lions.

Yes, it’s true what they say, LOF, truth is stranger than fiction, especially in Zimbabwe. Soon after arriving in Zim one of my first chores on the farm I was staying on was to drive a dead cow to a nearby lion park.

Together with the other members of the local branch, Emeritus-Professor Nkomo, Civil-Engineer Makoni, and Brain-Surgeon Ngwenya we loaded Miranda on to the back of a bakkie for her journey to the great beyond. Even the rather effete branch treasurer Flight-Attendant Mugabe (no relation) leant a hand, before breaking down in tears.

Like a Viking princess travelling to the spirit world in a fire boat Miranda left the farm and her fellow branch members in a smoking Nissan, with Mrs Blog and I at the helm.

(We had to wind the windows up as Miranda was becoming quite bloated by this stage.)

I couldn’t help but wonder, LOF, what would happen on my return to Australia, when I had to submit to the inevitable grilling from one of our diligent customs and quarantine officers at Sydney Airport.

Officer: “Where have you spent most of your time abroad?”
Mr Blog: “Africa. Zimbabwe, lately.”
Officer (with eyebrows raised): “Have you been on a farm?”
Mr Blog: “Um, yes.”
Officer (narrowing eyes): “Have you come into contact with any livestock.”
Mr Blog: “Err… yes, but only dead ones. A cow, in fact.”
Officer (reaching for red panic button): “What did it die of?”
Mr Blog: “Well, we’re not too sure. Flight-Attendant thought it might have eaten a poison frog, but I did notices quite a bit of mucous around her mouth.”
Officer (looking confused): “There was a flight attendant on your flight with mucous on her mouth?”
Mr Blog: “No, the cow’s.”
Officer: (Taking a step back). “Have you had any close contact with any other animals?”
Mr Blog (scratching head): “Well, there was the bushbaby…”
Officer: “The what?”
Mr Blog: “Greater bushbaby – also known as a pookie or a night ape. It’s like a cross between a monkey and a possum. Our friends on the farm keep it as a pet and it liked to wee all over me.”
Officer (pushing button): “Code Red, Code Red! Hands up.”

The low growl of a black-maned lion woke me from my daydreams. As we entered the gates of the nearby lion park Kalahari (one of the resident lions), was on his feet and rushing to the fence of his enclosure as soon as he caught sight and scent of the unfortunate Miranda.

I parked the bakkie and a team of keepers looped a rope around Miranda’s hind legs. When I drove off Miranda moved an unceremonious thud closer towards oblivion.

I knew the lions, leopard, hyena, caracal and jackals who lived at the park (who, like everyone else in Zimbabwe except its politicians and senior bureaucrats looked like they could use a good feed) would benefit greatly from poor Miranda’s demise.

In fact, as I was to learn the next day, when I attended a cattle auction in Harare (which I will blog about in a coming instalment) those predators at the lion park got a far better deal than most of the butchers out there buying beef cattle.

Miranda had lived her long, full life on a farm run by our (white) farming friends so she was better fed (except for the poison frog) and better cared for than the average Zimbabwean bovine is today.

Nothing goes to waste in this troubled country (there is zero garbage on the roadside as someone finds a use for everything), not even a poisoned cow.

I was sad as I drove away from the park (not wanting to see a re-enactment of Mr W. Smith’s book, When the Lion Feeds), but the words of that great people’s poet Elton John suddenly came to mind and gave me some small measure of consolation as I headed back to the farm.

“She wears electric boots, and mohair suits…”

No, hang on a sec, that wasn’t it. It was the other one: “…it’s the circle, the circle of life”.


ali g said...

a chewed up copy of Zambezi found by the body?.... poison frog?....bit suspicious. just as well the CSI guys weren't called in. Could have been even more problems for you with the customs/immigration people

rhodie-jeff said...

Didn't think 'Zambezi' was that bad? Reckon it was ivory poachers.
ps, shorts and T shirt - much more like it!

Java said...

Thats what I love about Africa, the cruelty and honesty of nature.

Feeding a dead cow to some hungry lions, deal!

Even when our dog got hit by a car once, dad took the revolver out and bang! relieved him from the pain.
No RSPCA's or fancy stuff, quick and kind to help out.

Even as a child you learn there is no time for squirmishness, you just get on with life and make a plan as best you can!

Maybe it was just her time, no book or frog involved?

Helen said...

Now that's stuck in my head! "And it moooooves us aaaaaaallll"

And least it removed the mental iage of your mankini-clad campling neighbours! Oh wait... nope, still there!