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Mrs. O'Leary's Cow: "I am Not a Crook!"

By Breck Radulovic, 1871
Jan. 22, 2016

To the Editor:

Recent accusations of arson against me have deeply troubled my conscience, and I am writing from the confines of Cook County jail to say I’m not a crook. I am Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, and I did not start the Great Chicago Fire. The arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends towards justice. My name will be cleared and this slander will end!

Why does suspicion fall upon me, a humble cow? There are many other suspects in the case. Perhaps Mrs. O’Leary herself! She claims she is innocent, but the lady doth protest too much, me thinks. And what about Daniel “Pegleg” Sullivan? He was in the barn that night when I fell down into a burning ring of fire. I went down, down, down and the flames went higher and it burned, burned, burned… the ring of fire! There was nothing I could do!

I cannot say why the people of Chicago seem to be hiding from the truth of my innocence. We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. I invite the enlightened readers of the Shady Dealer to come toward the light, to realize that I, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, did not start the fire, no I didn’t light it, but I tried to fight it!

I may not be perfect, in fact I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.

So what if some mistakes result in the blazing, fiery destruction of 3.3 square miles of the city of Chicago? Everybody makes mistakes everybody has those days! I mean, everybody knows what, what I’m talking about… Right? Not that I did it.

So I say to you today, give me liberty or give me death! If my name is not cleared, there’s only one thing I can say: two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

As I face the butcher’s block, the executioner’s chair, for a crime I did not commit, I leave you with these parting words: there is nothing to fear but fear itself.