The Man in the Purple Cow House

Book Description

Mary Ames knew as a young girl there was something odd about her father. Tom Ames’ manner, dress, and enthusiasm for his causes made him stick out from the rest of the dads on her block in Sierra Madre, California. Mary was aware of the controversy around the Big House her parents owned in nearby Pasadena – that while she lived there as a toddler, he owned a cow, and that someone painted Bossie purple. Still, her father was her favorite parent. 

Things changed as Tom’s causes turned to obsessions. His moods evolved from loving and fun to angry and irrational. When Mary’s mother divorced him, he moved to Santa Monica beach. On the day Mary gave birth to her first child, her father accused her of being part of a conspiracy and announced he never wanted her or the rest of the family to speak to him again.

Thirteen years later, Mary learns he has lost his home to foreclosure and has no money. She decides to put aside her fears of rejection and abandonment and find out what happened to him. She starts where, for eighteen years, her father ate breakfast, Norm’s Coffee Shop. During her journey and a review of her father’s past, she discovers possible reasons for why his personality cracked. Thirty-nine personal photographs supplement her tale. A percentage of every book sale is donated to shelters and services that help the homeless.

Listen to Susanne Lang of KRCB public radio interview Mary Ames Mitchell about The Man in the Purple Cow House. You may get a blank screen for 30 seconds while the podcast is loading. Scroll through the first half to reach the bit about Mary. Her interview lasts 25 minutes.

If you are already aware of the Purple Cow House, you might be interested in viewing the scrapbook that my mother kept from about it covering 1953 to 1967. I have posted a video on YouTube.



The Big House - The Purple Cow House

The Man in the Purple Cow House Book Cover

Interior of the Purple Cow House