Haddad: Applying the folktale of The Little Cow

“Man is a creature of hope and invention, both of which belie the idea that things cannot be changed.” — Author Tom Clancy

The Little Cow - a folktale

There was once a very wise man who had a young apprentice. One day, the wise man asked the apprentice to travel with him.

During their journey they saw a little house on the horizon. It would soon be dark and they needed a place to rest, so they made their way to the tiny home.

As they got closer they could see the house was in disrepair. The roof was deteriorating, the walls were stained and the main door was cracked.

The wise man knocked on the door. A pleasant man greeted him and his apprentice and invited them to come inside and rest for the night.

Inside, there were only a few simple chairs and a single bed the father shared with his three children.

The wise man began to chat with the pleasant man. His apprentice quietly listened. The wise man asked how he and his children could survive like this, and the pleasant man replied, “We have a little cow that gives us milk every day. I use the milk to drink and to make fresh cheese and butter. Then, I take the leftover milk to town and exchange it for some bread or grains. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to survive.”

The wise man and his apprentice spent the night and the next morning they left. The pleasant man gave them some bread, milk and cheese to take, and wished them a safe journey.

As the wise man and his apprentice walked away, the wise man said, “My young apprentice, could you do something for me?”

“Of course, I will do anything you ask,” the young man replied.

“I want you to go to that house and find the little cow. Then take it to a cliff and push it over the edge. Make sure the cow dies,” the wise man directed.

“Wise man, how can you ask me to do something like that? That poor man and his family depend on that little cow to survive.”

“Young apprentice, please, just do what I have asked.”

The apprentice did what the wise man requested, but felt confused and conflicted. He couldn’t believe he had done something so horrendous to such a pleasant man and his children.

Several years passed, and the apprentice could not forget what he had done to that poor family. He could not forgive himself. So the apprentice decided to travel alone back to the little house and confess what he had done.

He decided to work for as long as needed to replace the little cow and somehow help the family recover from the setback he had caused. However, as the apprentice got closer to the little house, he noticed that it wasn’t so little anymore. In fact, it was now a rebuilt beautiful big house, with lots of windows and a lovely garden.

The apprentice knocked on a big, ornamented wood door. The pleasant man opened the door and said, “Welcome my old friend, I remember you from a few years ago. Please come in and be my guest again.”

When the apprentice entered the house he noticed how beautiful it looked inside. He couldn’t believe his eyes and asked, “What has happened? How did your life change so much? You own a beautiful home now, and you seem happier than before.”

“Yes, my life changed after you and the wise man left my home,” the pleasant man explained. “The morning you left, we found our little cow was dead. We were sad, and I didn’t know how I was going to survive without it. But, thanks to that event, which I considered unfortunate at the time, I was forced to do things I would have never done. Thanks to that, I learned new skills, I became a better and stronger person, and my life changed completely.”

This folktale has been told in various ways for generations. It reminds us that there will be times in all our lives when we will need to make a big change in order to grow. Many of you reading this have no doubt experienced such life-changing moments, whether it involved a relationship, a medical condition, an accident, a career change or the loss of a loved one. As hard as it may have seemed, your heart was likely telling you to be courageous, and have faith that things will work out. Sometimes we come to the realization that we must push our own cow over a cliff, and change the direction of our lives.

I will be leaving the newspaper business this month. It’s time for a change for the betterment of myself and my family. I have enjoyed working for this family-owned news group for more than 14 years, helping to find and tell stories from many communities throughout northern Arizona and the California border. And since the pandemic, I have enjoyed working more closely with the Prescott area newspapers and their hard-working, dedicated employees. I will miss them as I pursue a new career.

I want to thank the readers who support community journalism. More than 70 small hometown newspapers have gone out of business in this country just during the pandemic alone, so the stories from many of those communities are no longer being told. It makes me sad to think that the local athletes in those towns will no longer be featured on sports pages, or that their spelling bee winners and graduates will not receive public recognition, and that their residents no longer have an advocate or watchdog in their corner. Fortunately, there are many people in this community who support local, independent news outlets.

I have also felt that support, and I thank you.

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