October 21, 2003


From an Agence France-Presse article, published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Was it the curse of the goat? Or was it the fickle hand of fate once again seemingly reaching out from nowhere to spoil a Chicago Cubs victory party?


But this goat had two legs. If the Cubs are denied a World Series appearance in 2003, an unthinking fan may go down in Chicago history alongside Mrs O'Leary's cow which was once refused entry to the ballpark, causing the owner to put a curse on the American baseball team that has lasted for decades.

I'm assuming that the writer was not a native english speaker, and didn't notice that he'd conflated the cow, which occupies a slightly more important position in Chicago history, with the curse of Sianis' goat. Unfortunately, the editor also didn't notice the goat suddenly metamorphosizing into a cow.

On the other hand, I checked two people, one even a midwesterner, and neither had heard of Mrs. O'Leary's famous cow. Or perhaps I should say "not very famous".

I must have heard the story of how she reputedly started the Great Fire of Chicago when I was very young. My mom sang quite a lot to us kids. Among her specialties were what I would call "upbeat disaster songs". There's one in particular with a really cheerful, bouncing melody. About the sinking of the Titanic. It included the verse:

Mothers and wives, little children lost their lives
It was sad when that great ship went down

Anyway, for posterity, the song about O'Leary's cow goes like this:

Late last night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O'Leary took a lantern to the shed
And when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said:
"It'll be a hot time, in the old town, tonight!"

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Hat tip: Tim Blair

Posted by jeffreyb at October 21, 2003 12:47 AM