You may already know this story, but it has a profound truth worth remembering. It touched me more than 30 years ago. (Any errors are mine, I’m paraphrasing as I remember it from the Reader’s Digest.)
The Ten Cow Wife (Anonymous)
People laugh, when they tell the story of Johnny Lingo and the price he paid for his wife.
It would be kindness to call her plain. Sarita was little and skinny without “endowments.” She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked, as if she was trying not to be seen. Her cheeks had no color, her eyes never opened beyond a slit and her hair was a lackluster mop. She seemed to be scared of her own shadow, frightened by her own voice. She would never laugh in public, never draw attention to herself, so her family despaired that she would she ever attract a husband.
But she attracted Johnny Lingo. The family urged Sarita’s father to try for a good settlement. “Ask for three cows,” they told him, “and hold out for two until you’re sure he’ll pay one.”
Her father was afraid if he missed this chance to marry off Sarita, he wouldn’t get another one, so he wasn’t inclined to “hold out” for anything. Maybe he’d get one cow. He would be grateful to get that much.
On the big day, Johnny Lingo walked straight to Sarita’s father and stated, “Sir, I offer ten cows for your daughter.” Quick as a wink, before Johnny could back out of such a preposterous deal, the bargain was struck. Johnny handed over the ten cows and Sarita’s father handed over his daughter.
They moved to another island after the wedding. Some months later, a visitor told Johnny Lingo that everyone was talking about him.
“What do they say?” he asked.
“They say the marriage settlement you made for your wife was ten cows.” A tactful pause. “They wonder why.”
Johnny’s eyes lighted with pleasure. “So people know about the ten cows?!”
Johnny’s chest expanded with satisfaction. “Always and forever, when they speak of marriage settlements, it will be remembered that Johnny Lingo paid ten cows for Sarita.”
The visitor was disappointed. All this mystery and wonder, and the explanation was conceit. Just wanted to make himself famous for the way he bought his wife. It was tempting to deflate him by reporting people thought he was a fool.