Every few minutes, I’d stare desperately at my watch. I was waiting for a trotro at Bridge, pacing up and down like an expectant father. No doubt I’d be very late for work, and the chicken scratching and pecking around me wasn’t helping things. Chickens of today aren’t what they used to be, I thought. I remember when I was eight years old an angry mother hen chased me because I’d ventured to pick my ball that had fallen a bit too close to her feeding chicks. It mentally scarred me. I looked with disgust at this overly domesticated bird.
Suddenly, a grasshopper jumped into the road. This chicken went after its meal with regard for neither its own life nor anyone else’s. The oncoming Kia Rio had to swerve dangerously into the next lane, which was thankfully free. The silly thing did nothing but flap its wings. For a moment, I thought fear would miraculously transform it into an eagle and soar away. The irony.
We’ll probably never know whose chicken this was. At least, not until its eyes are rolled back in death, its intestines spilled on the asphalted road. Dare you run over a chicken and you’ll see its owner. He’ll demand compensation, arguing that he was nurturing it for Christmas. You’ll end up paying for its potential offspring as well.
Animals have always had a special relationship with Accra’s streets. They’re everywhere, and each type, from ruminants and poultry to stray domestic animals, are very well represented. Just the other day, I was in a trotro on the ARS-America House road. Our driver was dishing out mouthfuls of dust to the drivers we overtook. Sitting in the front seat, my attention was drawn to a dog lying right in the middle of the untarred road. Instinctively, I flinched, almost grabbing the driver’s arm. One look at him, and I came back to my senses. I figured the poor mutt was doomed to a horrible death. The driver looked like the kind who’d like to confirm that all dogs go to heaven. Somehow, at the last minute, a streak of humanity must’ve shot down the driver’s spine, for he sent us all swinging, swerving the dog by no more than a whisker. It never moved.
I’m sure anyone who’s ever had to stop for sheep in all their majesty to cross the road was all but tearing their hair out. On one of the back roads at East Legon, the driver’s best efforts at escaping the main road traffic were all undone by a flock of sheep. Anger burned in his eyes as he furiously slammed his wrist into his horn. He stuck his head out and shouted vulgarities at the dumb creatures crossing in their own sweet time. The mate couldn’t stop laughing. At least, someone in there had a sense of humour.
One Saturday morning, I had the misfortune of encountering a herd of cows at the side of the road on the Kanda-Nima Highway. No amount of beating by their minders would keep them in line. Clearly, it’ll be a while before animal rights are introduced here. The poor boys looked harassed. The huge beasts looked like not even a tipper truck could intimidate them. All sorts of images ran through my head, like their suddenly contracting Mad Cow Disease and overturning cars, stabbing us all with their scary horns.
When I was doing my National Service, on the way from Nkwanta to Brewaniase, we stopped to pick a few passengers. After an exchange of sentences in the Ntrubo language, the mate jumped out and opened the boot. Since the driver got out, I did as well. I burst out laughing when I saw a gang of men heaving a whole cow in. Within minutes, the silent animal was secured inside and we were on our way. Just like that.
It’s only in foreign movies that I’ve seen special carriages for bulls, anyway. I saw some goats being transported in the back of a taxi. They were crammed in, and I wondered how much the driver would charge, knowing very well that his next passengers for the next few weeks would have to contend with the overpowering smell of billy-goats. These goats must’ve felt they were in paradise, ruminating while being sent on a kingly ride towards Jamestown. They were calm as doves. I could see vultures circling over the slaughterhouse as the taxi turned towards it.
Whether farm or domestic animals, they ultimately meet their end somehow. I happened to be travelling on a not-so-busy tarred road once. I noticed a sickening dark organic mass with fine fur sticking out of it. Perhaps that ran-over cat would’ve thought twice about getting to the other side.