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The Legend Of The Three-Legged Cow

It had already been a long day by the time we got around to bath time...

It had been in the 90's all day and we had spent most of the day in town, shopping. I'd started things off by catching a door with my hand as my son breezed through and left it to almost close on me. Though I caught it in time, it broke my thumbnail and, as I stepped through the door, it clipped off my shoe. Embarrassing!

'This is how my day is going to go.' I thought to myself, nursing my mangled thumb and re-adjusting my shoe in front of everyone.

After a long morning in town, we stopped for fast food, only to discover that every other traveler within a fifty mile radius had descended upon the same restaurant. The lobby was crammed full, but, since my son insisted on this particular location, we suffered through the drive-thru to order. Is it any wonder that he got he same toy he already had from a previous visit? Effort ruined! (sigh)

Yep, that kind of day.

A light dinner led us to the sandbox, so you know we were covered in sand and dirt by the time we came back in the house. As I popped him in the tub, I gave him a dollar store 'grow capsule' for the water. They come a dozen gelatin capsules to a card and inside are sponge shapes about two inches long. We had recently tried farm animals, then insects. Now we are on sea creatures.

I needed to run a load of laundry, so, to tide him over while I ran downstairs, I grabbed the previously revealed sponge creatures from past capsules and threw them in the tub with him. Delighted, he started sticking them to the walls and coloring in scenes.


Grabbing the clothes, I walked them down, pausing to pet the cat on the step. Since I hadn't turned the light on, it was dim at that time of evening. I gave Grace a scratch and loving pat, turned around and unknowingly put my right foot on the chair cushion I'd thrown down the steps that morning. The cushion earned a trip to the washer after getting several squirts of freeze pop juice on it. 'Mom, my chair is all wet!' He had wailed. And rightly so!

Without traction, my right foot shot out from under me. My left foot remained on the step behind me in a flat position. My left hand gripped the railing for dear life. I might as well have been slipping off of the bow of the Titanic the way I held that thing.

In slow motion, I did a split there on the last four steps of the staircase while still holding the laundry in my right arm. My left toe, bent back to my ankle, suffered the most damage. My right heel skidded down until I hit bottom. Hanging there like a drunken gymnast by my left hand, I finally let go, pulled my left foot forward, and sat down to muffle a scream into the armful of laundry.


As I caught my breath from seeing stars over the pain of essentially giving myself 'turf toe' falling down the stairs on this chair cushion, I manage to get the laundry started and hobble back up. As I come down the hallway, I'm met by my soggy child who is out of the bathtub and sobbing.

Hoping he hadn't heard me, I try to get him to calm down as I grab him a towel. He is trying to tell me something, but, without seeing any blood or teeth missing, I'm confused as to why his world is crashing down around him. Finally, he catches his breath to start his tale of woe:

"Mom," he looks up at me, terrified. "Do cows have three legs?"

I'm so confused as to why this random thought has sent him into apoplectic tears that I don't know what to say. He holds up one of the tiny sponge animals, a yellow cow. "I bit his leg off and...swallowed it!"

Why this had to happen at the exact moment I was doing my figure skating jump slide down the stairs, only the Fates will ever know. I grab the sponge to examine it.

"I'm going to explode!" He wails. Trying to block out his melodrama to focus on the cow, it indeed only has three legs. However, where a fourth one would be is definitely the shape of udders. Nothing on this two inch sponge looks torn or bitten, and none of the other legs are damaged in any way.

"Are you sure you ate it?" I asked, trying not to laugh. If he had eaten a sliver of sponge that was three quarters of an inch long, I can't imagine it instantly poisoning him or making him explode in any way. But those little blue eyes, gushing with tears, communicate that he is on his deathbed.

He nods yes, inconsolable.

Looking for the card the farm animals came on, I yearn to check the shape of the cow in my hand to the picture on the back of the cardboard. We had dutifully matched each up as we revealed it in the bath each night. But a quick search reveals that he had thrown it away. Sobs burst forth anew.

Soothing my dying child as best I could, I grabbed the current blister pack and took to the computer. Going online and doing a quick Google search of the farm animal collection quickly took me to images of the back of the package we had discarded.

There, I lined up the sponge in my hand to the picture on the screen...

Three legs.

"Oh, so cows DO have three legs." He breathes. His death sentence lifts from his little head and he wipes his flushed face with the towel gratefully.

"Real cows DO have four legs, honey, but this one was cut out with only three so you could see the udders." I gently explain. "Nothing on this cow is missing and so you did not eat any part of it." We hugged there, my wet little guy coming back to his carefree self at last.

"I thought I was going to have to explode." He said, hugging me hard. I gave him a solid minute of hugging and consolation so he could just let it all out and feel that I was there for him, poor dear.

Picking up every single sponge animal he'd had in the tub, I thoroughly double-checked that every piece was whole and nothing was missing. No random legs were found floating in the tub. All was as it should be.

Less than ten minutes later, he was dry, dressed in jammies and happily enjoying some pineapple before bed. It might as well have been a different day entirely.

Except for me. I was hobbling and mentally drained. Ever will I remember the night my son thought he ate a cow leg and was going to have to explode to survive!

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