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Purple Cow Stories

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My mother told Purple Cow stories when I was a little girl.  Stories that were inspired by a poem entitled “The Purple Cow.”  Stories she made up as she told them.  Now, I share Purple Cow stories with my Grands, and Ruth, almost 4, never tires of hearing them.  I quote the four-line poem and then tell a story – whatever comes to mind at the time.

To be sure I spelled the name of the poet correctly for this column, I googled The Purple Cow and learned that Ogden Nash, who I’ve always credited with writing the poem, is not the author.  Gelett Burgress wrote “The Purple Cow” and Nash changed one word (anyhow to right now), got it published, and fooled me all these years.  And I learned Burgress gave this poem an interesting subtitle, one I’d never seen before.  Burgress’s poem written in 1895 is the version that Mother taught me.

The Purple Cow
Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least.
I NEVER saw a Purple Cow;
I never hope to See One;
But I can Tell you, Anyhow,
I’d rather See than Be One.

            And I never knew until now that Burgress wrote a second verse two years later in which he regrets penning words about a cow.

Confession: and a Portrait, Too, Upon a Background that I Rue!

Ah yes, I wrote “The Purple Cow”
I’m Sorry now I wrote it.

            I’m thankful Burgress wrote such a silly verse.  My Grand laughs every time she hears it.  She wonders who’d want to be a cow, especially purple.  “Tell me a Purple Cow story,” Ruth will say.  “The one about when she fell in the pond.”  And if I don’t tell it exactly the way my Grand remembers, she joins in the story telling.  (Now I’m writing some of these made-up stories – I wish I had Mother’s.)

“Ruth,” I said to her after I’d told a story of the Purple Cow walking on an icy pond, “it’s your turn to tell a story about Purple Cow.  She rolled her eyes, tilted her head, and said, “Well, the Purple Cow walked and walked and walked and walked.  It walked more.  It saw a dinosaur.”

“A dinosaur?”  I asked.

She nodded her head, grinned, and said, “A dinosaur.  And there was a skunk on the dinosaur.  And the skunk sprayed the Purple Cow.”

“Then what happened?”

Ruth looked out the window which she was sitting beside.  She tilted her head from side to side, and said, “That’s all for today.”

I have a feeling that Burgress, the originator of the Purple Cow, would approve of Ruth’s story.  He founded a humor magazine and published books of whimsical writings and illustrations.  He became known for his humor that was based on substituting the unexpected for the common place.

And who would expect a skunk to sit on a dinosaur and spray a Purple Cow?  Only a little girl who never tires of Purple Cow stories.

 

 

 

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