It’s not every day you meet a gaur ox… six feet high, heavy enough to make me feel slender, those big, dark, placid eyes… and the ability to shove his tongue up his own nostrils. After a few minutes of staring at each other, the ox settled down and, once sitting comfortably, it seemed he was ready to tell me a story…
I often wonder what stories animals would tell if they could (Can’t help having an active imagination!) so my mind began to wander. I love stories. Once upon a time Gaur- he has to have a name, so why not?- listened to his great-great-great-Grandfather Muuuh telling an evening story as the herd chewed its cud and the ox-calves burped warm milky wind…
“Once upon a time, in a land far far away, our forebears lived in a hot hilly town where we worked so, so hard. Some days we ploughed the fields, or pulled up trees. Our owner fastened a heavy yoke on our shoulders and tied ropes to our harness so we could do what those weak men couldn’t do for themselves. We were proud of being strong, and brave, and stubborn- even more stubborn than those donkeys! And our deep voices drowned out those annoying brays- lightweights, those donkeys, can’t think they’d ever be much use…
Anyway, said Muuuh, they had an adventure! There’s one night that every ox remembers with pride. It went like this.
“It was a difficult plod back to the stable that evening. The roads were choked with people, and we had to barge our way through to get home. We were late for our hay- and on the journey we saw a bright Star shining, high in the darkening sky, so pretty.
Home in our pen at last, guzzling our hay, we were just getting ready to doze off and a frightful clatter made us jump! The door had been dragged open and a donkey clattered her hooves on the stones. In came a man and a very fat lady, looking weary and rather bedraggled. She cried out sharply. and grabbed at her stomach, and started breathing hard. The man put her down on a fairly clean bit of straw, and she shrieked! That’s when I realised. She wasn’t fat, she was about to have a calf!
It seemed to take a long time, with noises and tears and yells- then a different noise- a wail, a sobbing cry… Poor calf, I thought, can’t even moo. And it isn’t even trying to stand up, poor thing. That’s when, of all things, the woman wrapped some cloth round the young one, and PUT IN IN MY DINNER TROUGH, right on my soft sweet hay!
Cheek. I was going to have that for breakfast. The night seemed long and starlight shone brightly through the crack in the door. I stamped my hooves, then pricked up my ears… someone was coming. Several, in fact. The man met them at the door, and tried to send them away. But they talked quickly, urgently, and a caught a few words… Something about “angels” and visions and Light… then someone lost hold of some silly little lamb and for a few moments it was chaos. Then the man spoke again, and pointed at the woman, and the calf in the trough, and said “Sent by God… Love has been sent from Heaven to Earth…”
The new arrivals, who smelled of sheep, just smiled and fell on their knees… and the new mother smiled and nodded, and they all looked so happy. Later on the sun came up, and we went out to work, gently ruminating on what had happened.”
We oxen, said Muuuh, have always repeated that Story. Because if what those shepherds said is true, then it was the best night any oxen have seen. The mighty One who made us strong has changed the world with a little, crying, weak thing who the man called Jesus. Who knows what will happen next? It’s beyond any Ox to know… but look up at the sky tonight… Maybe we’ll see a Star…”
(c) Copyright Richard Starling 2020