Mad Cows and Englishmen

If it isn’t one health threat, it’s another. I mean, really, Mad Cow Disease? Bird Flu? What’s next Snotty Sheep Syndrome? It wasn’t something I gave much thought about until what happened the other day. I was reading “Alice In Wonderland” to my children for the first time. (We had just returned from Disneyworld and I wanted to put the Spinning Teacups in perspective for them.) I had gotten a copy from the library. It was a very old copy in so-so condition, but it was the last one they had. Anyway, when I got to chapter seven and the tea party, a packet of folded note paper, yellowed with age, dropped out. It was the original draft to the tea party in Lewis Carroll’s own handwriting:


Alice approached the glen to find a table set out under a tree and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it; a Mad Cow was sitting between them, fast asleep, her tail occasionally swatting the flies off the honey pot.

The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it. “No room! No room!” they cried when they saw Alice approach.

“There’s plenty of room!” said Alice indignantly.

“No, no, you’ll have to moo-ve,” responded the Cow.

“But I’m so tired. I just wanted to sit for a moment,” Alice pleaded.

“I won’t stand for sitting,” declared the Hatter as he sat.

“Is that swiss cheese I see?” Alice asked, seeing the plate of featured food.

“Not at all!” replied the Cow, “that’s my brain.”

“Your brain?” But how can that be? Don’t you need your brain?”

“Not at the moment. I’m watching my ‘Baywatch’ DVDs.”

“Ah-ha, then you’re baywatching!” the March Hare added.

Since no reply was possible, none was made. The Hatter was the first to break the silence. “I’m having some tea! Would you like some, dear?”

“I’m not a deer, I’m a cow,” said the Cow.

The March Hare then said, “Actually, she’s a heifer.”

“That’s just fine,” replied the Hatter, “Heifer cow is better than none.” The Hatter again turned to Alice. “Now, would you like some more tea?”

“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I can’t take more.”

“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than less.”

“Unless you’re a Moore named Les,” the Cow pronounced.

The Hatter and Hare hurrahed. “Well done! An excellent line, bovine. Would you like some milk with your tea?”

The cow shook her head, “I can’t possibly have tea without milk!” She then coughed and tried to speak again, but only a harsh whisper was heard.

“Oh my,” fretted Alice, “is she a little hoarse?”

The Hatter began pouring tea on the Cow’s nose. “Don’t be silly, you stupid little girl! How can a big Cow be a little horse?”

Alice thought, then replied, “Well, a door can be ajar. Perhaps the answer lies there.”

“It’s riddles you like, eh?” the March Hare said. “Then riddle me this, why is a raven like a writing-desk?”

“Moo,” the Cow began, “a raven is nothing like a writing desk! Have you ever tried to write on a raven? Preposterous!” At which she began to drool into the Hatter’s tea cup.

“I want a clean cup,” the Hatter decided. “Let’s all move one place on.”

He moved as he spoke, and the Mad Cow followed him. The March Hare moved into the Cow’s place and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change; and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare dropped some pie all over his setting. Alice asked what kind of pie it was.

“It’s my pie,” replied the Cow. “I just made it.”

“We have cows at home,” Alice stated, as she gingerly pushed the offending pie away from her. “They wear bells about their neck. Do you?”

“No, I have a horn.”

The March Hare took his slice of lemon and squeezed it out over the Cow’s head. “There,” he said, “Now we have the horns of de-lemon!”

At that, the Hatter stood upon his chair and declared, “A recitation, we must have a recitation. Cow, it’s your turn!”

The Cow was pleased to perform and thus began:

“Twinkle, twinkle, little calf
You’re a wonder, at least by half.”

The Hare whispered to Alice, “My favorite! You know it, perhaps?”

“I’ve heard something like it,” said Alice.

And the Cow continued:

“All around the barn you fly,
Like a catcher in the rye – -”

Alice was confused. “Rye?”

“Because we like you!” they replied.

The Cow then sat, saying, “That poem makes me weak at the knees!”

“I thought it was the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy,” said the Hatter.

“Yes, yes, that also.”

Alice could take no more. “You’re all quite mad. This is the stupidest tea-party I’ve ever been to!”

“How about coffee? Do you like coffee?” asked the Hare.

“I love cow-fee!” replied the Cow. “Lots of Cow-fiene!”

“We have coffee. We have International blends. Just like that time with the waiter in Paris,” noted the Hatter.

“Jean-luc!” they all cried

“This is utter nonsense!” Alice remarked.

“That would be me,” the Cow responded.

And with that, Alice left in a huff.


My research reveals that Walt Disney “convinced” Carroll to change the Cow to a mouse. Lewis resisted until Disney had a couple of thugs work him over. The rest, as they say, is history.

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