Once upon a time…
No. No. No.
Starting a story like that usually gets a happy ending. Or an educational twist.
This story, however, about a cow, is just a story. It is a story about a famous cow, though. Well, she’s a cow in a very famous story. Jack and the Beanstalk—remember that one?
If you remember the story, Jack and his mother were not doing so well. They had no money and the only food they had was the milk provided by their cow—Milky-White—until one day, Milky-White didn’t give any more milk. So what did they do? Jack’s mother sent Jack to the market to sell the poor cow.
But on the way to the market, Jack ended up selling the cow to a man for three magic beans. What’s not important—to this story anyway—is what Jack did with those beans. Sure, he got rich and he and his mother lived happily ever after. But the cow, the one in this story, wasn’t part of that experience.
So Jack went one way to climb a beanstalk and deal with the dangers in the sky, and Milky-White went another, with the man who sold the magic beans.
The man—we’ll call him Leonard, for that was his name—took Milky-White by the harness and led her into the forest.
“Ha!” the Leonard exclaimed. “The boy has no idea what he traded. But we know, don’t we? And now you’re coming home with me and you’re going to make my family very happy.”
Leonard’s home was only an hour or so away. His family lived in a small one-room home in a clearing of trees. It looked peaceful, but homely, with dying flowers, an empty barn, and two ragged children, Rebecca and James, running to greet their father.
Leonard’s wife, Martha, heard the joyful glees of her children and stepped outside to watch her children grab their father’s legs and yank him down into a hug. When she saw the animal Leonard brought home, she ran to greet her husband just as her children had.
“You have a golden milk cow!” Martha exclaimed. “How did you get it?”
Leonard smiled. “I traded with a boy. I gave him my lunch and he gave me the cow.”
“You traded your beans for a cow?” Martha said. “How dumb is that boy?”
Leonard shrugged. “All that matters is we have this cow.”
Leonard took the cow to the barn and settled her in for the night with some hay and fresh water from a nearby stream.
The next morning, Leonard and his family woke early to milk the cow. Leonard sat on a stool by the cow while his family watched excitedly. He reached down, grabbed a teat, and started the milking process, but… nothing came out. He tried again. Still nothing.
“The cow’s dry,” Leonard said.
“What?” Martha exclaimed. “You got us a dry cow? A dry cow’s not good!” And she stomped off.
The children began to cry.
“It’s okay children. I think we just need to give Milky-White a little love. Why don’t we stay with her today and sing her songs and feed her hay and tell her stories? That might make her happy.”
And so that is what they did.
And the next day, when Leonard sat down to milk the cow and his family watched closely, he reached down, grabbed Milky-White’s teats, and milk came out! In fact, so much milk came out that they filled two buckets.
The children were happy. Martha was happy. Leonard was happy. But most importantly, Milky-White was happy.
“Can we drink the milk?” The children asked.
“Well,” Leonard said while looking to his wife, “you may have a little but this milk has a special purpose. It’s for giving life to our little homestead.”
Leonard and Martha each took a pale of milk, went outside, and drizzled the milk all over the homestead. They dribbled some on the dead flowerbed, some on a desolate garden on the side of the house, some on a sickly cat. They drizzled it on anything that looked like it was about to face or had already faced death.
And then they went inside, ate a measly meal of beans, and went to bed.
The next morning, Leonard and his family woke and excitedly went outside to see what the milk had done. And to their delight, everything that was dead or about to die had renewed life. The flowerbed bloomed with yellow daisies and purple pansies. The garden flourished with all kinds of vegetation: carrots, onions, beats, lettuce, potatoes, pumpkins, and more. And the poor-looking cat from the day before meowed and pawed the children’s feet, begging to play. The little clearing in the woods was full of life.
END OF PART ONE
Ready for more of this tale?
© S. Ann Comte, 14 September 2017