Being the ‘strike team’ for a surveillance job requires certain skills – patience – obviously – but also an ability to hide away whilst waiting for that call and not bringing attention to yourselves.
‘Jon’ and ‘Steve’ were assigned to this role on an operation based within a small village. Their brief was simple – park up out of sight and don’t be seen; if the call comes, be ready to emerge and stop the target vehicle … easy. With this in mind they sussed out a deserted farm track just outside the village but perfect to respond to all routes leaving the area.
On the day of the Op they got themselves hidden up on the farm track nice and early and settled in – let the waiting … coffee-drinking … newspaper-reading and occasional dozing begin. As the morning dragged on they suffered the inevitable boredom which comes with a job like this but also became increasingly curious about a cow standing in the stream bordering the field next to them; it didn’t seem distressed but hadn’t moved since they arrived – could it be stuck in the mud? Having not much else to worry about once all the newspapers had been read and coffee drunk the welfare of this cow took on an importance which it might not have warranted at some other time. Obviously, they didn’t want to bring attention to themselves but, maybe – they reasoned – a call to the Control Room might be in order … perhaps Control might be able to track down the farmer and ask him to attend?
As it goes the Control Room had trouble locating the farmer so decided instead on calling the RSPCA who, in turn, concluded that recusing a cow stuck in some mud was beyond the capabilities of one of their inspectors and so called the Fire Brigade … this information of course wasn’t relayed back to Jon and Steve …
Half an hour later a fire engine arrived … followed shortly afterwards by another engine … followed by a fire car containing a chap wearing a white shirt who quickly undid his tie, put on his fire jacket and white helmet before doing a lot of pointing at things with his outstretched arm whilst other fire officers reacted to his instructions … then another engine … then a ‘Mud Rescue Response’ truck, followed shortly by – just so the farmer would know he was getting his money’s worth if he ever did turn up – a ‘Large Animal Rescue Response’ vehicle, whose crew leapt out eagerly and started donning gear in the manner of rescuers who didn’t get the chance to rescue anything very often.
Jon and Steve sat watching from the bonnet of the patrol car, rather concerned that their discreet sit-up point for the surveillance operation might not be quite as discreet as it was earlier; already the usual “No change – no change” reports of the surveillance team was being punctuated by comments about ‘… Trumpton being busy this morning … Christ – there’s another appliance now …’. On the upside however, as Jon reasoned, a collection of fire officers this size was seldom around for too long before being joined by one of those WRVS food wagons dishing out free tea and bacon rolls.
They watched grimacing from the track as seemingly dozens of fire officers, soon covered in mud, first pushed and shoved at the cow, then tried to drag it out with a winch, before then firing up the world’s loudest mobile generator and assembling elaborate mud and animal rescue equipment which unfolded with compressed air to a rigidity which could be walked upon and stretched across the entire stream. Even with these devices deployed, however, they couldn’t move the cow and the fire officer in the white helmet began openly talking in terms of requesting the assistance of a helicopter from the local army base … Jon and Steve looked at each other … Oh grief … they might just to disclose what’s going on here …
Perhaps the cow decided, on hearing about his proposed flight, that this pantomime had been going on too long. Mooing to its mates stood watching nonchalantly from the bank, it slumbered up quite casually, although still all but trampling some fire officers in the process, and calmly made its way out the stream, up the bank, and back into the field where it stood chewing grass as if none of this had ever happened.
A mere two hours extracting of fire officers from mud, debriefing, packing down of equipment and painful manoeuvring of large fire appliances along a very narrow farm track later, Jon and Steve were left alone again, wondering whether anyone had noticed the activity around their quiet sit-up point.
Shortly afterwards, looking back to the stream, they noticed that the very same cow had got back in the mud again …