I have three kids, and being the stay-at-home dad, I get asked about six hundred million billion and ten questions a day by my kids, give or take a dozen or so. #RussellTheSheepReference #ThisGuyIsAnEasterEggAuthor #WhyIsHeUsingHashtags?
My daughter and elder son are of an age where I’ve allowed myself to start giving “Calvin and Hobbes” style answers to their questions, usually causing them to crack up hard. I mean “Adult snorting hot coffee” type hard. Which I have been responsible for, but never convicted of.
I decided to test out an idea by posting it on Facebook, and the reaction was great. And so, let’s see if I can make a mini-series out of this. Here you go. I call it: Sarcastic Dad: Beware the Were-Cows, my son
My six year-old looked at me, his eyes at half-mast. His little brother was soundly asleep in the lower bunk, looking like a drunken pirate but with a little blue bear and blankie to keep him company.
“Dad, what’s the most dangerous animal on a farm? Is it a chicken?” My big guy had just finished grade one and had loved it. If he’d learned nothing else, he’d learned he could feed his curiosity, and beat the world into submission, with a relentless stream of questions.
Lately though, I’d started developing a defense mechanism. A means of bringing the questions to an armistice, a temporary halt, though part of me wondered if this oasis of peace would cost me a mountain in therapy bills later.
I raised an eyebrow and glanced around, giving the tiny stuffed goat in the corner a good glare. Opening my mouth like I was going to answer, I stopped and closed it. I gave the darkened room another look, unsure that the little night-light was doing a good enough job at keeping the heeby-jeeby monsters away. “Sure Buddy, it’s a chicken,” I replied, messing his hair.
Stepping off the lower bed and I waited for it.
“No, really, Dad.”
There it was.
“What’s the absolute, most scariest creature on a farm?” he asked. I could hear his little mind going a mile a minute. “And don’t say the farmers.”
Pulling myself back up, I gave him ‘the look.’ “I don’t want to give you nightmares.”
He put on his game face and courageously pushed the covers forward, revealing the super hero pjs underneath. “I can handle it. I’m almost seven.”
“Alright,” I said, leaning over the edge. “But you can’t tell your mom.”
Pulling the covers back up and glancing at Billy the Monkey, his most prized stuffy, he narrowed his eyes. “I’m ready.”
“Okay, the most scary thing in all of the farm… are the cows.”
“Come on, Dad!”
I put a hand in defense. “No, hear me out. It’s not the regular ones, it’s the were-cows.”
“Were-cows? What…” He furrowed his brow and shaked his head. “There’s no such thing as a were-cow. What’s that even supposed to be?”
“It’s like a were-wolf, but they transform into cows,” I said, nodding.
He gave me a full on frown. “People that change into cows? That’s not a thing. And if it was, it wouldn’t be scary.”
“Oh, you’d think so,” I said, rubbing my stubbly chin. “But here’s the thing. A long time ago, kings and queens would go on trips, riding in a carriage full of treasure. They’d think nothing of going down roads that went beside farmers fields. Sometimes they’d find the roads blocked by a herd of cows.”
My son’s skepticism gave way to concern.
“The guards would get out, while the king and queen fussed in their seats, complaining about this and that. Well, as the guards approached the cows, trying to shoo them away, suddenly one would get knocked out. Then another…”
I watched as my son slowly reached out for his blankie that he’d banished to the corner of the bed, many a claim about not needing it anymore but it never made it to the give away pile.
“Then the king and queen would come out, and then would see nothing but cows. Just cows… mooing. Hours later, passersby would come along and find a man and woman standing there, in only their underclothes, claiming to be a king and queen. Trying to tell people that they were robbed by men and women who then turned into… cows.”
My son was sitting up, beads of sweat forming on his brow.
“You see, Buddy,” I continued quickly. “Some of the best thieves and spies have been were-cows. And anyone who would discover them, well, would be hit with a special moo, which would curse them, turning them when the sun rose the next day, into cows themselves… forever.”
“Cows are awake during the day, right?” he asked, the wheels of reason turning behind his eyes.
“Yeah,” I replied quickly.
“So they’re cows in the day, and people at night?”
“Why I haven’t seen one when we’ve been at a farm?” he said, hitting me hard and fast with the question.
My eyes darted around, looking for a good answer. Knowing I was running out of time, I blurted out the first thing that came to me: “They can only transform after your bed time.”
“Hmm…” I can see the wheels of reason fighting off the worry and concern, the magic of the story clearly breaking down. “When do they sleep?” He raised a ‘gotcha’ eyebrow.
Bowing my head and hiding my smile, I shrugged. “I never asked him.”
“You… you met one?” he asked, his eyes going wide.
“Oh yeah.” I looked at the ceiling and scratched my neck. “Only for a minute, but it was long enough.”
“I was about your age, driving with Uncle Mike on our way to Grandpa’s birthday party. He’d picked up some last minute ice cream when there was a loud bang. Uncle Mike pulled over, thinking we hit something. As he got out to investigate, I slipped out of the car and stepped up to the head-height corn in the field beside us. Something was rustling towards me. My heart was racing and then, I heard it. The strangest moo ever.”
“A very special moo. But it was unlike any moo I’ve ever heard. Then it appeared in the early dusk light, a brown and white cow. Uncle Mike was peeking under the car on the other side, and I couldn’t find my voice, nothing came out as I tried to call to him. I just kept backing up until I was right up against the car, but my feet kept on going.”
Billy the Monkey and blankie were tightly in hand as my six year old listened with every fiber of his being.
“And then I watched as he transformed into a man. Fully clothed, and about the same age as Uncle Mike. Smiling at me, he said–”
“Wait! You said they change after my bedtime! DAD! You made all of that up!”
I let out a laugh and nodded. “You’re right, I did.”
“I knew it!” he said, his hands in fists of triumph.
Stepping down, I peeked in on the little guy and gave him a gentle rub on his back.
“So it is chickens,” he said, wiggling down his bed.
“Oh no,” I said closing the door. “It’s rabbits… but, we can talk about that in the morning.”
I could feel his eyes burning a hole in the back of my head.