Here along the dirt roads or on paved highways ancient wooden carts with huge wooden wheels are pulled by teams of Brahmin cattle. They are slow and implacable. Motorcycles scream by, busses blast their horns, teams of school children on bicycles do not merit even a flutter from their long blonde eyelashes. They are the color of cement and have a curious soft wattle from chin to chest—like a fashionable flutter collar. They pull what are called Bullocks Carts; the reason is apparent from the rear view.
Kandal Province claims the distinction of having the biggest and whitest Brahmins in Cambodia. Certainly they are big, particularly the bulls. One day as I was riding my bike home for lunch, I saw a splendid fellow tied up near a painting bearing his likeness. Luckily I had my iPad with me, so I parked my bike and dug through my bag for it. That big boy was as curious about me as I was of him. I looked up to see him peering down over my shoulder. He had a “Whatcha doin’?” look on his kind face. His size alone startled me. Nearly seven-feet tall at the hump, with a head a yard long, yet he seemed to be attached to the fence by a piece of kite string. I backed away slowly. He followed me to the painting and posed. Hello Handsome! Click.
In the early morning and around sunset cowherds in my commune lead the Brahmins to and from the fields. Children often have this job. A rope lead is threaded through their broad black noses and they follow at the slightest tug. In Kandal Province the Khmer word for cow is pronounced ko; in Siem Reap Province they pronounce it go. A baby go is not tied to the rest of the herd for the walk home—it is free to kick up its heels and gambol along as it pleases. Although leggy, they aren’t built for speed. The baby go dance is like a nerdy kid at his first disco. They want to fly, but haven’t found their wings.
The most astonishing thing about the Brahmins is their deep voice. It can sound like a lion’s roar, rumbling like thunder low and long. Or it can sound high and plaintiff, like sad news meant to be passed along. In America every schoolchild knows cows go “Moo.” Here the Brahmins speak a different language. They say “Muth”—and they mean it.