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One Night’s Adventures of Ralph S. Mouse

My Grand snuggled beside me on the couch, lay a book on my lap and asked, “Can we finish this book now?”

            I opened to the bookmarked page of Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Clearly and began reading aloud in the middle of a chapter, the top of a page.  Micah nudged me. “Gran, it’s okay, but do you know we’ve already read this?”  It had been three weeks since we last read about Ralph.  How could Micah remember?

            If you have read one of the three Ralph books, you know that Ralph is an unusual mouse.  He had listened to so many children and watched so much television that he learned to talk, and he rode a motorcycle that was propelled by his voice, “pb-pb-b-b.”

            Ralph lived at a hotel where Ryan, the young son of a housekeeper, was his best friend and confidante.  Ralph became frustrated with his cousins because they begged for motorcycle rides and were leaving signs of a mice infiltration at the hotel so he convinced Ryan to take him to school.  Ryan’s classmates discovered Ralph.  He had to escape a maze they created, avoid being seen by the school custodian, and deal with the class bully who smashed Ralph’s motorcycle.

            Micah remembered that we’d read about the motorcycle being destroyed.  As we continued reading, Ralph was given a sports car, a Laser XL7, but it didn’t move by pb-pb-b-b.  Ralph was told that he had to make a sports car noise to make it move.

            “Vroom!!” The car rolled across the floor.  My Grand clapped.  When the car needed to move backwards, Micah read the word much easier that I did, “Moorv.”   Micah said, “Stop!” He ran upstairs, came back, plodded down beside me, and ran his red Hot Wheelssports car along his leg while I read the last pages of Ralph S. Mouse.

            After brushing his teeth, putting on his pajamas, and snuggling under the covers, Micah asked, “Will you tell me a purple cow story?”   A story that I’d make up as I told it.   

            Purple Cow, tired after a day of picking grass in the pasture and playing outside, lay down on the straw covered floor in her barn.  She heard a noise, a squeaking noise.  My Grand grinned and whispered, “It was Ralph.” 

            I continued, “Purple Cow looked around, but she couldn’t see anyone or anything.  She asked, ‘Who’s there?’”

            My Grand raised his hand.  “Stop, Gran. I’ll be Ralph.”  Oh, the conversation between Purple Cow and Ralph!  They talked about what they’d done that day, the places they’d been, and what they liked to eat.  When Purple Cow said it was time to sleep, Ralph asked if she’d forgotten that he was nocturnal.

Purple Cow didn’t understand so Ralph explained the meaning of nocturnal.              In several columns, I’ve written about Heart Tugs, those times when heartstrings tighten and I want to imprint t

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.