The Hip Chronicles, Part VI: Mountain cows

In my series, the RA Diaries, I’ve tried to write about the weird, the painful and even the comical parts of having a chronic illness. Very recently, I had what for many RA patients is a rite of passage: my first joint replacement. My new right hip, with its festive combination of titanium, cobalt and plastic polymer, is worth five times more than my car. And it will surely be a great source of amusement to TSA scanners worldwide, because on x-rays it looks like I’m packing some major heat.

Now, kind reader, let me tell you exactly how I went about getting my new hip. But be warned. It’s gonna get gross. And graphic. And, maybe once in a while, somewhat amusing. I hope you get something out of it. I’m certainly hoping I will.

Many years ago, my parents had dinner with another couple. This couple were old friends, and at the time, they spent lots of time with my parents, because the two couples had a lot in common, including children of the same age, geographic location, ethnicity and work experience.

Normally, they all got along quite well, but on that fateful evening, they almost came to blows. Why?

Because of mountain cows.

These friends were from a country full of mountains, and that night, they insisted to my parents that the cows in their homeland compensated for their steep grazing grounds by growing one set of legs longer than the other.

Now my father, while a lovely man in most respects, does not possess the ability to listen to certain stories without displaying some skepticism.

Oh, all right — he scoffed. And when the friends bristled at his scoffing, he scoffed some more (he also has the ability to never let things drop). Things got really ugly, and for a moment there, it looked like these old friends were done with each other.

Fortunately, they were able to patch things up, and for years, this served as a cautionary tale for me. I learned that not only should one avoid talking politics, religion or money at dinner parties — any talk of mountain cows was also verboten.

But lately, I’ve been wondering about those mountain cows. And when I wonder about such things, I turn to the Internet. My usual go-to, Snopes, did not yield a thing, but the rest of the Web showed me that most mountainous countries (or even just hilly ones) tend to have similar tales, although they are not necessarily about cows. They can be about goats, or sheep, or pretty much any beast that grazes on a steep grade.

And the consensus is that they don’t really exist after all.

But I’m not sure that’s true, and that’s because I speak from personal experience. My recent hip replacement has left me with one leg longer than the other. Every time I stand, it feels like I’m wearing a high heel on one foot and a flat on the other. It is not a comfortable feeling.

Crap, I’ve turned into a mountain cow!

When I mentioned my ailment to the physical therapist, she wasn’t surprised. Apparently, it is common for surgeons to add a little length to the operated leg to improve stability. It would soon settle in, she told me reassuringly. Then she measured my legs, and told me that actually, there was very little difference in height between them. It was all in my head, and I needed to reprogram my brain to understand my legs were actually even.

Great! I am not a mountain cow. I just have delusions of being one.

Now, I have nothing but mad respect for my PT. She has helped me more than any gym teacher in my entire school career. But I still wanted a second opinion, so I questioned my surgeon when I went in to get the staples out of my leg (yep, stitches are so passé).

He admitted that they had made my leg a bit longer for stability. But then, he also measured me and concluded that there wasn’t much difference between my legs.


He did give me some hope — if the leg doesn’t settle in in a few months, we can start talking about getting a lift for the supposedly shorter leg.

I appreciate this, but I have another solution. If I’m still a mountain cow in a few months, I plan to move somewhere hilly. That way, I can spend my days standing on a grade for maximum comfort.

I do realize my plan has drawbacks — I will only be able to face one direction. Hmm — maybe I should consider living in a gorge instead?

Either way, kind reader, consider yourself warned: If you should find yourself in hill country, and you should spot a brunette toting a laptop while standing on a grade, do not be alarmed. It is just me, the elusive mountain blogger.

Just do me a favor and don’t bring me up at dinner parties — you’ll be sorry if you do.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.


  • Ohhhh I know that feeling!!
    Since a car accident years ago, my pelvis will twist and leave one leg longer on short notice. It just sucks. 😦
    But here’s to hoping it “settles” soon- the real estate prices in the Hills are insane- and there’s all those damn rattle snakes!! 😉

  • Ours is a very hilly neighborhood. Consider yourself welcome anytime!

  • Thanks, Olivia. I will probably take you up on that!

  • Well, Susan, you can join me on the slope when that happens. All we’ll need is a redhead, and every hair shade will be taken care of.

  • Well.

    I´m an avid reader of your blog. Your earlier entries have left me 1.saddened 2.outraged and 3.contrite.
    1 becuase of your suffering past and present
    2 because of the treatment you´ve often received from the medical society as well as from society at large
    3 because I´m such a cry-baby over my own little aches and pains

    This installment left me *lol* though.
    Can´t wait to tell this at a dinner party.

    You must be feeling better!

  • Thanks for reading, Agneta! And I am feeling better. Writing it out helps — it always has. And please use this anecdote at dinner parties — hopefully it won’t lead to trouble!

  • The only story I’ve heard of animals with longer legs on one side is from the wonderful conspiracy of apparently all Scots to convince tourists that the Haggis is a creature that runs round hills with one leg longer than the other (always running anticlockwise), and you catch them by scaring them and making them run the wrong way and fall over.

  • Ha! Of course, I forgot all about the wild Haggis! That does seem to be the gist of all of those stories — let’s see who we can fool with this ridiculous tale.

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