Cow Dung Saves Life

My uncle Alec Roberts’s accident is well documented in both the Lancetand in our family history records. In those days when cattle were long horned, they had to be dipped every week against East Coast Fever, a deadly parasitic disease for which there was no inoculation. A cattle dipping tank is a long narrow deep concrete structure, which is filled with water and into which they add a chemical mixture to kill ticks that carry the East Coast Fever. The cattle plunge into the tank and swim to the other end, by which time the chemical has affected any ticks. Once the cattle are out of the tank, there are concrete paths at angles from the tank, with strong upright poles and beams in which the cattle stand giving time for the dip mixture to run off their bodies and return down the channels to the main tank. Uncle Alec stood alongside one of these cattle races branding his oxen and his Maasai herders worked alongside him. An ox with very long horns shook itself to get rid of the water, tossing its head at the same time. One of its horns pierced uncle Alec’s temple and went into his brain. The horn came out with a piece of brain hanging down his face. A Maasai standing nearest Uncle Alec picked up a clump of new cattle dung and clapped it on to the side of Uncle Alec’s temple, thereby ensuring no more brain could come out. He was then carried to the kitchen and laid out on a table, where he lay awaiting the arrival of Dr Tennant of...