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'Headless Cow' makes 3rd-grade author 'famous'

By Keith McCord | Posted - Jun. 2, 2011 at 6:34 p.m.


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SANDY -- Do you remember any of the assignments that your third grade teacher gave you? Probably not. This week, 22-year old Chris Cassity was reminded of a project he worked on 14 years ago in Mrs. Miller's class at Bell View Elementary School in Sandy.

Peggy Miller says when she would ask her students to write a story or an essay, many kids would have trouble coming up with something to write about. So she came up with a technique that worked every time. She filled a cardboard box with various stuffed animals. The students would come up one by one, select an animal, and then would write about that particular animal.

Once upon a time...

Miller fondly remembers the story that Cassity created, when he was just 8 years old. When he selected a stuffed animal from the box, he picked up a cow, but the head had come off. Mrs. Miller said she had been meaning to take it home and mend it.

"I said, 'Chris you've got to have the whole thing.' And so I vividly remember him on the desk with these two pieces with him writing the story."

He came up with a 13-sentence tale called, "The Headless Cow." It's about a cow that had his head bitten off. He eventually finds a store that sells heads of all types. He finds the perfect head, attaches it, and he lives happily ever after.

The imagination of a third grader, right?

Peggy Miller's writing assignments were year-long projects in which the students' stories would eventually be made into hardcover books for them to keep. These days, the students' books are sent off to be professionally done, but back when Chris wrote "The Headless Cow", the teachers made the books themselves, using cardboard and plastic page covers.

As Chris moved on, Mrs. Miller hung onto the book to read to her students over the years. She even read it to adult classes that she taught. Thousands of people have heard the story of the cow without a head.

Miller is retiring when the school year ends, and so a few days ago, she called Chris, who's finishing up his junior year at Westminster College, and invited him back to her class for a party. What he didn't know is that she was planning to return the book he wrote long ago.

On Thursday, in front of a classroom full of 3rd and 4th graders, Miller presented the book. Cassity says he never thought he'd see it again.

"As I was on my way over here I was talking to my mom and I told her that I couldn't remember what the story was about," he said.

Since she had read the book to so many people over the years, Miller told Chris he is a famous author who never knew it, until now.

When asked what the story means, Cassity paused and then said, "It's a great book. Now looking back, it shows that our imagination can really do anything. And the fact that I picked out a cow without a head I could still make a story from it."

And so, Chris Cassity, Mrs. Miller and "The Headless Cow" will now live happily ever after.

Email: kmccord@ksl.com

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Keith McCord

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