The Cow on the Roof

Posted by in Blog, Storytelling on Dec 2, 2011

The Cow on the Roof

Ianto Prytherch was a very lucky man. He had married a beautiful girl called Myfanwy Price, and they had a fine baby and a piece of good land.

One day, Ianto came home from the field worn out with working.

“Come in and sit down, cariad,” said Myfanwy, “I’ll get your dinner on the table now.”

“It’s all right for you,” he told Myfanwy, “all you have to do is potter around here at home. Nothing but the baby and one or two bits of pieces of work like washing up. Meanwhile, I’m breaking my back out there among the turnips.”

“I’d change places with you tomorrow, if you think like that,” she replied, “But I reckon you’d find it harder than you think, Ianto bach!”

This got under Ianto’s collar, and he raised his voice to his wife.

“Harder than I think? Harder than I think, woman? By damn, I tell you, I’ll swop places with you tomorrow, and then we’ll see! Harder than I think! Tchah!”

Well, now Myfanwy was getting a bit cross, too, and she said: “All right, Ianto Prytherch! Tomorrow morning, I’ll go out into the field, and you can stay at home here and look after the baby and see to the house, and we’ll see who gets the best of the bargain!”

And so the bargain was struck. The next day, Myfanwy would go out into the field, and Ianto would remain in the house and look after the baby, and see to all the chores. They exchanged never a word more that evening, but ate their dinners in silence.

Next morning, Myfanwy pulled on her thickest, stoutest boots and took a warm coat, and set off for the field. Ianto allowed himself another hour in bed, looking forward to a pleasant, easy day.

“I’ll show her,” he said to himself, chuckling: “I’ll show her!”

Now, there was the baby to take care of, the porage to make, the pig to be fed, and an eye was to be kept on the cow, that she didn’t wander off into the field next door and eat the wheat. The cow was the most difficult, for the fence needed mended, and she was liable to go off on to the neighbour’s land and cause damage, if Ianto wasn’t careful.

Then he had a clever idea. The house lay just below the field, and the roof was a turf roof, and all grass. If Ianto could get the cow on to the roof, he would know where she was, and he would get the grass, that was growing too long, down to a good length by letting the cow eat it. There was clever, now, he thought. Carefully, he led the cow to the edge of the field above the house, and he gave her rump a kick that made her jump on to the roof, where she started happily grazing.

One thing bothered Ianto, though. The roof was sloping, and he was afraid that she might fall off, and he would know nothing about it, until it was too late. But now he had another clever idea. He fetched a length of rope and tied one end round the cow’s neck. Here was the clever part: he dropped the other end down the chimney, and once inside the house, he tied this other end round his leg. Then he would know if the cow was somewhere that she shouldn’t be. He rubbed his hands thinking about his cleverness, and began to stir the porage.

The baby started crying. Now, Ianto didn’t know much about babies, and didn’t know that this baby wanted his nappy changed. He just rocked the baby’s cradle as he stirred the porage, but baby wasn’t soothed by the rocking at all. He just cried the louder, and Ianto rocked harder.

Now the pig, who lived in the sty across the yard, hadn’t yet been fed, and he was very cross about that. He snorted and snuffled and banged himself against the sty door.

“I’ll deal with you in a minute,” Ianto shouted, but the pig was not satisfied with that, and snorted and snuffled and banged all the louder. Meanwhile, the baby was crying with wanting to be changed, and with Ianto rocking him about so roughly, and Ianto was still stirring the porage with the other hand.

Now a pig isn’t necessarily the most patient of animals, and he was now battering the sty door with all his might, snuffling and snorting angrily. All of a sudden, the sty door burst open with the battering, and the pig came galloping across the yard and right into the kitchen! He ran round the kitchen, knocking over the churn full of buttermilk, and the bucket full of pig swill. Ianto looked at the terrible mess on the floor, all swimming in pigswill and buttermilk, and in a rage, he dropped the spoon into the porage, left the baby’s cradle swinging all by itself, with the baby yelling his loudest, and he fetched his hammer, and gave the pig an almighty wallop on the head, and laid the poor beast out cold.

Just then, the cow fell off the roof.

Now, it was clever of Ianto, right enough, to make sure by tying the rope round his leg that he would know if the cow went somewhere that she shouldn’t. Where his cleverness let him down, though, was in not realising that the cow was much heavier than he was, and now she had fallen off the roof, and her weight pulled Ianto, on the other end of the rope, up the chimney. But the chimney was narrow, and Ianto was jammed, upside down.

Round about mid-morning, Myfanwy started back to the house for her eleven o’ clock cup of tea, and to see how Ianto was getting on. She wasn’t far away when she heard the baby crying, so she hurried over the field, and saw a strange sight: the cow dangling by a rope at the side of the house, and not looking at all pleased about the situation. She took a sharp knife and cut the rope, and led the cow into the byre to recover. Then she went into the house.

What a sight met her eyes there! Across the doorway was a pig, apparently fast asleep. The floor was awash with buttermilk, pigswill and soot, the baby was yelling lustily with rage and discomfort, and there was no sign of Ianto.

Myfanwy changed the baby’s nappy and soothed him to sleep. She woke up the pig, and led him back to the sty, and started to get to work cleaning up the kitchen floor, and then she saw Ianto. He was upside down in the fireplace, with his legs up the chimney and his head stuck in the porage pot.

She helped him out, helped him to clean off the porage and brush off the soot, and together they cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. Ianto didn’t have much to say for himself, and hardly dared to catch Myfanwy’s eye, for fear that she would either burst out raging at him, or laugh at him, which would be worse, for you can meet rage with rage, but laughter is harder to face.

Wisely, Myfanwy said nothing about it. And that night, as they lay in bed in the darkness, Myfanwy said lightly: “So will you go to work in the field tomorrow, then?”

“Aye,” said Ianto, “I think probably it’s best, on the whole. After all, it’s not a woman’s work, is it now.”

That was when Myfanwy began to laugh, and Ianto didn’t feel quite so clever after all. But he never ever complained about working out in the field again.