Originally published June 24, 2012
On my drive from Langley to White Rock this morning, I noticed several bright flares on both sides of the road ahead. As cars passed me from the opposite direction, I could see by the look of terror on their faces that something terrible must have just happened – but what? As I got closer, I noticed an RCMP officer, sitting on his horse, frantically waving his arms for me to stop. Langley (Horse Capital of British Columbia) is where Mounties learn to ride horses. In fact, it is the only place in Canada where Mounties still patrol on horseback – there are no police cars (Mountie Cars). There are no sirens or police lights on RCMP horses – just flares and a Mountie whistle, which is tied to the end of a long white cord (so they don’t lose it).
I immediately pulled my car to the side of the road, in front of Hall’s Prairie School and quickly got out and started walking towards the Mountie.
“Yes Officer, what’s the problem?” I asked.
“Are you familiar with farming?” the Mountie asked somewhat desperately.
“Why yes, I spent several summer holidays working on farms as a teenager back in the ‘60’s”, I quickly replied. (See my previous blog post Summer of ’66)
“Good! I am a rookie Mountie – on my first patrol and I have a bit of a problem. You see, I’m from the city – born and raised in Toronto – and the only time I’ve ever been in the country was on weekends with my parents, when we would go on picnics to places like Markham, Etobicoke and even Scarborough.”
“I see, (although I really didn’t) what seems to be the problem? I noticed several flares burning – is there a problem at the school?” I asked.
We both turned and looked at the school.
“Yes, I think so, but I’m not certain.” he replied. “May I use the hood of your car? I need to dismount from the horse but I’ve never done it without a step ladder,” he added – his face turning a bright red – the color of his uniform.
I grabbed the reins of the horse as the embarrassed Mountie stepped onto the roof of my car – then started tumbling backwards, down the back window, across the trunk and then onto the ground, where he landed sitting in an upright position. I immediately sat down beside him – to save him any further embarrassment. I could tell that he was all choked up with emotion – his eyes began filling with tears.
“Did you know that this is a very historic school?” I asked – hoping that the change of subject might allow the Mountie a few moments to compose himself.
NOTE to readers: Hall’s Prairie Elementary School is located on 8th Avenue – between 176th Street and 184th Street and directly across the street from Hazelmere Golf & Country Club, in South Surrey, BC.
“This school has been teaching farm kids for more than 125 years. Horse-drawn wagons pick up the kids from the numerous farms in south Surrey and drop them off at the school each weekday morning. Most of them arrive barefoot – because of both declining farm incomes (government subsidies) and the recent crackdown on illegal “moonshine stills” by the government “revenooers”. The teacher stands on the school porch ringing a hand-held bell – which can be heard for miles.” I looked at the Mountie and was relieved to see him smiling again.
“So Officer, what seems to be the problem?” I asked.
“Follow me but please be cautious” the Mountie warned.
We walked down the road about 100 feet and then we stopped. He pointed to a spot between the road and a farm’s wire fence. I could see the terror on his face – he was struggling to be brave.
“They are the biggest and meanest looking Dalmatians that I’ve ever seen!” he whispered. “I was going to shoot them but there are three of them – and I probably would only be able to get one shot off before the other two got to me!”
“Don’t say another word!” I cautioned, “And don’t look them in the eye – just turn and face the other way – NOW!”
I put my arm around his shoulder – as sort of a “fatherly” gesture and explained that the three animals were not Dalmatian dogs – they were Holstein cows. Actually, one was a cow and the other two were calves. They were just laying on the ground – and staring at us. Obviously, they had followed some of the kids to school and then got tired and decided to take a nap on the side of the road.
Once again, the Mountie’s eyes started filling with tears – and he began shaking – so that’s when I decided to take charge of the situation.
“These may be just cows, but we still need to exercise extreme caution” I warned. “If you make eye contact with them, they will come right over to you. They are extremely curious animals. And 8th Avenue is a busy road – if the drivers passing by make direct eye contact with the cows – we will be doomed!” I handed the Mountie a tissue for his eyes.
I quickly thought of a plan – and began explaining it to the Mountie. The Mountie was to go up the road a few hundred yards – while I went back the other way, a few yards. We would stop each of the oncoming cars and explain to them that they must not make direct eye contact with the cows. Meanwhile, I would use my mobile phone to contact the farmer – whose name Orwell MacDonald was hand-painted on the mailbox located nearby. But there was just one thing – I would need to have the Mountie swear me in as a “Deputy” and then give me something to wear to make me look official. He nodded in agreement and tried to remove his hat but couldn’t loosen the chin straps. As he fumbled with it, I quickly grabbed his service-whistle-on-a-rope and slipped it around my neck. He didn’t object – it was clear to him that he was in the presence of a fearless patriot – a natural born leader. We then took up our positions on the road.
As I called Directory Assistance for the number of O. MacDonald’s farm, I noticed the tags on the right ear of each cow. The two calves had tags that read “Ei” and the large cow had a tag that read “Oh”. It was obviously some form of classification system that farmers now used instead of the previous cruel practice of “branding with a hot iron”.
I quickly dialed the number.
Meanwhile, vehicles were lined up for miles in both directions. Many drivers were honking their horns – things were deteriorating quickly. It became so noisy I had to grab the mountie whistle and started to blow several very loud blasts towards the angry drivers. It was after the last whistle blast that I got an answer on the phone.
“Yes, this is Deputy Danny speaking. Is this the O. MacDonald farm?” I asked in a very loud and official-sounding voice.
“Yes, I’m O. MacDonald” he replied nervously, “is there something wrong?”
“Yes!” I replied, “we have Ei-Ei-Oh on the side of the road and everyone knows that O. MacDonald has a farm, Ei, Ei, Oh!”