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Once upon a time, not very long ago, up north, where the diary farms roll, there lived a cow named Sweetie. Sweetie looked like all of the other black and white diary cows in the herd, in the rolling green hills of the dairy farm land up north.

But there was one thing that made Sweetie different from the rest, and the farmer noticed this as soon as Sweetie joined the dairy herd. Each day, when the cows were milked in the morning and in the evening, Sweetie gave about two gallons of milk—a morning gallon and an evening gallon. This milk tasted sweeter than a milkshake, sweeter than a candy cane, sweeter than honey. And that’s how Sweetie got her name.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Sweetie’s face on this page.

The dairy farmer was delighted with this special gift of Sweetie’s milk. He kept it separate from the milk of the other cows and put it in special peppermint-striped bottles that brought a much higher price from the people of the town than the ordinary milk did.

Because there were only two gallons of Sweetie’s special milk available each day, only a few people could purchase it, and they became regular customers and felt pretty special. In fact, they even came to depend on Sweetie’s milk to add to their coffee and tea, to drink as a kind of dessert, and to offer to very special friends. It became a mark of distinction to buy even one pint of Sweetie’s special milk.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Sweetie’s milk on this page.

Now there was a mystery about how it came to be that Sweetie’s milk was sweet. No one understood how her milk came to be different. Sweetie lived in the same barn as all of the other dairy cows. She ate the same food, she drank the same water, grazed in the same pasture, and looked a lot like all of the other cows. Some of these cows were sisters and cousins of Sweetie, born of the same long line of dairy cows. And yet, their milk was ordinary.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a drawing of a herd of cows on this page.

Now there was one other person who was curious about Sweetie and her milk, a girl named Victoria. Victoria was the daughter of the dairy farmer and was about the same age as Sweetie, about nine years old.

Victoria was a curious girl. She was curious about why the sky is blue, curious about where the birds go in the winter, curious about thunder storms and hail, curious about people and the ways they choose to live their lives, curious about nature and curious about history. And, most importantly for our story, Victoria was curious about what made Sweetie the Cow different.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Victoria’s face with a thought bubble about a bottle of milk on this page.

One summer morning Victoria decided to try to answer this puzzle. Victoria got out of bed before the sun rose and walked quietly to the barn. She stood in a far corner and watched as her father, the dairy farmer, greeted the cows, hooked them up to the milking machines, and finally let them out to pasture for the day. So far, nothing that happened to Sweetie was different from what had happened to all of the other cows.

Victoria watched and listened and followed the diary herd down to the meadow. Sweetie, like all of the other cows, nibbled at the grass, walked and stood still, and was served by the little birds that perch high up the back of a cow and chase insects. Like her sisters in the herd, Sweetie swished her tail to chase flies away, chewed on her cud, and moved slowly down the hill toward the shade of the trees that grew beside the brook. So far, nothing that Victoria saw was different for Sweetie.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Sweetie’s swatting flies with her tail on this page.

Now, each afternoon when the sun was hot, the diary cows rested in the shade of a grove of trees. Their black and white bodies became camouflaged in the shade and splotches of sunlight that filled the little grove of trees with the brook running through it. The cows would gather in the coolest, shadiest spot, and let themselves down, until they were resting, chewing their cud, and taking little cow naps in the heat of the afternoon. Victoria followed at a distance, as the dairy cows settled into their time of rest and repose. She listened, and she watched. So far, nothing seemed different for Sweetie.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Victoria’s face peeking out from behind a tree on this page.

But then Victoria noticed that Sweetie stood at the farthest end of the patch of shade, closest to the brook, and watched and waited until all of her sister cows had fallen asleep. Then, very quietly, Sweetie moved down to the muddy edge of the water. Victoria was watching.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Victoria’s surprised face watching Sweetie move away from the herd on this page.

Without making a sound, Sweetie stretched out her neck, as far as far could be, almost looking like a giraffe. Victoria couldn’t see too clearly, but it looked like Sweetie was stretching her neck out to nibble the branches and leaves of a tree that hung way out over the water. After a few minutes, Sweetie returned to the herd and took a nap of her own.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Sweetie’ stretching her neck up to eat some leaves on this page.

Now this made Victoria quite excited! Finally she had seen something quite different, that just might be connected to why Sweetie’s milk tasted so sweet. Victoria watched and waited patiently until the cows began to stir themselves and to wander back toward the dairy barn.

Instead of following the cows, Victoria decided to investigate the tree down by the stream. Now, little girls, unlike cows, can climb a tree, and that is what Victoria did. She climbed up a slim trunk and out into a fan of branches that hung over the rushing brook. What she saw astounded her! At the end of each branch of this tree was a cluster of brightly colored gumdrops. Some were orange, others green. Some were bright red; a few were black. There were yellow ones and there were white ones. This was probably the only living gumdrop tree in North America.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of gum drops under some tree leaves on this page.

Well, as you can imagine, Victoria was delighted. Not only did she solve the puzzle of why Sweetie’s milk was sweet, but she had also found a supply of wonderful, delicious, fantastic, scrumptious gumdrops, all hers for the picking. You see, Victoria had a sweet tooth. She just loved candy, and gumdrops were at the top of her list of favorites.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Victoria happily picking an armful of gum drops on this page.

Victoria began to nibble. First, she tried the orange gumdrops, and they were the best she’d ever tasted. The green were even better than the orange. The yellow melted in her mouth. The red had a tingly flavor. And best of all were the black gumdrops, which tickled her nose as she ate them. Victoria felt like she was in heaven. As she climbed around the branches of the gumdrop tree, sampling as she went, she began to hum, hum a delicious little song about how delightful it was to be alive at a time like this.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Victoria’s happy, singing face on this page.

Now, like all children with a sweet tooth, Victoria got a little bit carried away. At the end of an hour, Victoria had eaten every single gumdrop from the tree. She wasn’t feeling so good. She felt a little sick. So Victoria climbed down carefully from the gumdrop tree, and walked slowly up to the farmhouse. She was satisfied that she knew a secret that no one else knew. But she was not feeling very hungry for dinner. She told her Mom that she felt a little sick and went to bed early with a nasty tummy ache. Victoria felt better in the morning.

But then an alarming thing happened. Two days later, the farmer noticed that Sweetie’s milk wasn’t quite as sweet as it had been. Then his customers began to complain that Sweetie’s milk didn’t have that special taste that they had grown to depend on. By the end of the week, Sweetie’s milk was just as ordinary as that of all the other cows.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of the customers complaining on this page.

Now this created a real emergency. The farmer was alarmed that perhaps Sweetie was sick and afraid that he would no longer be able to charge the special high price for Sweetie’s milk. The special privileged customers were alarmed because they had grown to depend on Sweetie’s milk for their cereal, their coffee or tea, to serve to their special guests, and for that special feeling of having something that no one else can have. Even the professor at the State University was alarmed that this special, unusual cow was giving ordinary milk.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a drawing of the farmer pleading with a perplexed professor examining a milk bottle on this page.

After alarm came anger. The customers were angry at the farmer, sure that he had done something wrong. The farmer was angry at Sweetie, sure that she had let him down. The farmer was also angry at the professor for not having the answer, for not having the cure that would return Sweetie’s milk to its original, special condition. And the farmer’s wife was angry at the customers, at the farmer, and at the professor, for making such an emotional mess of her otherwise peaceful life. This was turning into a real crisis.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of everyone’s sad faces in separate “Brady Bunch-style” boxes on this page.

Victoria watched all this develop with a growing feeling of dread. She was pretty sure that she knew why Sweetie’s milk was no longer sweet, for no more gumdrops grew on the gumdrop tree, after Victoria had stripped it bare. Victoria was afraid that she had caused all of these problems. She was also afraid that if she confessed, the anger of the grown-ups would be directed at her. Victoria had caused a problem and didn’t think that she could fix it.

Victoria was feeling awful. She thought about it and thought about it and thought about it some more. “What can I do to get myself out of this mess?� she asked herself. She was faced with a choice between confessing that she had been the cause of all of these troubles, or doing something to fix the problem, or just keeping quiet and hoping that no one would find out what she had done.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of Victoria’s confused face on this page.

On her bureau, Victoria had a piggy bank that contained almost fourteen dollars in nickels, dimes, quarters, and pennies. Some of this was birthday money, some was lemonade stand money, and some was strawberry picking money that Victoria had earned during the last year.

Looking at the piggy bank gave Victoria an idea. She opened it up and took all the fourteen dollars (almost) in a little sack, on her bicycle into the nearby town. At the General Store, Victoria bought almost fourteen dollars worth of gumdrops, and she asked the clerk to please keep it a secret. Returning home, Victoria hid the gumdrops in the bottom of her closet.

Next morning, before anyone else arose, Victoria crept down to the barn and fed Sweetie the Cow seven purple gumdrops. At the end of the day, when Sweetie’s milk was sampled, it was still the same as the other cows’ milk. But Victoria did not give up.

On the second morning, long before the sun rose, Victoria crept down to the barn and fed Sweetie seven red gumdrops. And on the third day, seven green gumdrops. Victoria promised herself that if improvement didn’t come soon, she would have to tell the terrible thing she had done. But, thank goodness, on the evening of the third day, Sweetie’s milk had returned to its former sweetness.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a drawing of an elated Victoria triumphantly holding up a bottle of sweet milk on this page.

The farmer was very happy. The customers were very, very happy. Even the professor was pretty happy, although a bit puzzled. The farmer’s wife was pleased that the blaming and arguing had stopped. But no one was more pleased than Victoria.

Victoria continued to feed Sweetie the Cow seven gumdrops each morning, until her whole supply of gumdrops was gone. Then she began to worry again. Will this be the end? Will Sweetie’s milk become ordinary? Will I have to confess the terrible thing I have done? Victoria waited a day, then two, then three days and four, after her last black gumdrop was gone.

Attention Illustrators! I would like a close-up drawing of the last black gum drop on this page.

But Sweetie’s milk stayed sweet. For, you see, the gumdrop tree had recovered and once again produced the sweet ingredients of Sweetie’s milk. This made Victoria and Sweetie two very happy girls.

Sweetie the Cow  

Sweetie's milk goes plain.