It finally happened. Traveling the roads and tracks here at Olbalbal one must frequently thread one’s way through flocks of sheep and goats often numbering many hundreds. Our area, the plains on the edge of the wide Serengeti plains seems to love goats and sheep. They in turn populate the area reproducing like rabbits. Driving our Toyota Land Cruiser along our paths, the huge herds part like waves before the prow of a boat. They seem to have a sixth sense of just how close they can come to the car when they race to cross the road in front of us. When they realize the car is getting too close they invariably turn back. They seem to have group consciousness acting in perfect coordination like a flock of birds swooping and turning as one. Sometimes when a baby goat or sheep lags behind, I have to slam on the brakes to avoid running over a tiny “kid”.
Anyway, yesterday I hit a sheep. One of a herd of sheep that turned back when the car came near, The sheep kept right on coming and was mangled under the wheels of the Toyota Land Cruiser. He must of somehow lost his group consciousness and all of a sudden, decided to go it alone. He was a very large ram, and left no doubt that I had hit something as the wheels of the car bounced over his very substantial body. We were on the way back to the mission from one of the places where we have a regular weekly meeting. Fortunately for me, there were a number of Maasai elders in the car who immediately began to discuss the situation with the owner of the sheep lying dead by the side of the road.
Initially the owner, a man of some forty years was very angry and said that the ram was of a size to be exchanged for a heifer and therefore was worth a lot of money. He was right. My victim was a beautiful big ram and a real loss to the family. The men traveling with me spoke at length with the herdsman and after a time, he began to calm down. As the discussions progressed, all of us standing on the side of the road beside the dead sheep, the herdsman soon came to agree that his loss was just a case of bad luck. I told him that I would pay whatever he thought was just to compensate him for his loss. By that time, he was saying that if I would look for a young female sheep for him, it would be fine. Immediately the Maasai elders with me told the man that they would look for a fine ewe for him. They would not let me pay for the sheep to compensate the owner. They told me to forget the whole thing and they would take care of it, looking for a ewe and giving it to the man.
I was very lucky to have the old men with me in the car. They were able to negotiated effectively with the owner of the sheep and bring the discussions to a good conclusion, something that I could never have done on my own. Also, I was amazed and immensely grateful that they were ready to take care of the whole matter.