The Man in the Purple Cow House and Other Tales of Eccentricity - the book.

Long before Mary Ames understood the words eccentric and schizophrenia, she sensed there was something different 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 on the corner of Woodland Road and El Molino Avenue in nearby Pasadena – that while she lived there as a toddler, her dad 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. 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 her dad has lost his home to foreclosure and has no money. Fearing he has become homeless, she decides to put aside her fears of rejection and abandonment and find out what happened to him. She begins her search where, for eighteen years, her father ate breakfast, Norm’s Coffee Shop in Santa Monica. During her journey and a review of her father’s past, Mary 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.

Radio Podcast

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.

YouTube video of the scrapbook kept by Mary’s mother, Eileen Ames

The scrapbook contains newspapers clippings from 1953 to 1967.

Purchasing Information

Title: The Man in the Purple Cow House and Other Tales of Eccentricity
Author: Mary Ames Mitchell
Publisher: Peach Plum Press in Marin County, California.
ISBN: Paperback: 978-0-9850530-8-6
ISBN: eBook: 978-0-9850530-2-4
Genre: Historical Narrative / Memoir, Pages: 210.
Paperback and Kindle Editions on

Click to Read the Reviews

The Big House - The Purple Cow House

The Man in the Purple Cow House Book Cover

Interior of the Purple Cow House