Driving in a foreign country can be a 3-D live action arcade game, especially if you are the driver. It is a cure all for boredom, a recipe for an ulcer. Raw daily life just seems to spill out on the roads at unanticipated moments. You have to be ready to maneuver quickly. It might be a herd of milk cows swaying home after from a good cud chewing day. Often these road surprise packages seem to wait to make their appearance on blind corners. I have experienced this in Romania countless times with cows, horses, sheep, goats, water buffalo and geese, and of course the late night drunk who missed the earlier call to go home with the herd of other drunks. The most disturbing encounter is with the horse drawn hay wagon at night without any form of lighting, (except for the reflective gold caps on the front teeth of the nervous rider perched on top).
These carts, known as a “căruță”, are about 5 feet wide and 6 feet long with four wheels, and a front bar that is usually attached with leather straps to the backside of one or two draft horses. While they are generally drawn by a horse, in some areas they use a donkey, oxen or water buffalo. I have seen most with rubber tires, but have also seen some with wooden wheels.
I encountered an interesting căruță one night as I made my way home. A man had been in the forest cutting wood for the winter and loaded it onto his large căruță. He must have started home in the daylight, but night overtook his return. He was having quite a time getting up a steep hill when I passed him. I happened to notice that the horse was missing. In its place the man had wrapped the horse straps over his own shoulder and was straining to pull his heavy load of wood up that hill. In his poverty, a horse was too great of a luxury. It reminded me of Tevye in a scene from “Fiddler on the Roof”. In a quick brainstorm, I stopped my van, backed down the hill and threw open the back doors of the van. I told him to hop in. I must admit, he was confused, but tired enough to comply. Sitting backwards with his feet dangling down from the open van, I told him to stay there. I jumped back into the driver’s seat, and used the horsepower of my van to climb the hill as he hung onto the straps of his căruță. The warmth of his smile after our conquest made me feel like a hero.
It reminded me that life gives us moments of opportunities to pass in the night, or to rewind and join in. I hope that I don’t get so preoccupied with my own journey that I neglect to stop. I want to stay willing to spill out and mix with life as God lets it brush by.