What's Up with the Clifton Cow?
I've been feeling kind of down lately.
The news is full of war plans with Iraq and nuclear weapon saber-rattling in North Korea. Annual budget battles are ongoing in Washington, the Tristate, my pocketbook.
Even the sun is refusing to shine much these days.
But, just in time, a small distraction breaks through the winter blahs. An important anniversary approaches.
It's been a year since Cinci Freedom, that bovine bent on survival, bolted over a meatpacker's fence in Camp Washington and eluded helicopters, heat-seeking scanners, horses, hunters and Good Morning America's cameras for 12 days, finally winning freedom after recapture Feb. 27.Out to pasture Since then, the Clifton Cow, as some like to call her, has been relaxing with other unthreatened animals at a farm sanctuary in upstate New York. Like her original flight for freedom, the anniversary couldn't come at a better time for professional artist Tom Lohre and easily pleased art admirers like me. Lohre is a Clifton artist who is better known for portraits and landscapes than for serendipitous works of whimsy. Over the past 20 years, he has sold more than 1,400 paintings, he says; 80 percent are in collections around the globe. "I've worked at it all my life, painting for myself and for others," says Lohre, 50. "I usually paint important national events. I painted Mount St. Helens after it erupted. I painted the first shuttle launch. I've painted the planets Voyager has encountered. Now I'm painting the Clifton cow." Can you blame him for being cow-captivated? Inspiration hit once that cream-and-brown Charolais took temporary residence in Mount Storm Park, a block from Lohre's home. Cows escape from meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses all the time, but usually they're caught quickly and returned, anonymous, to their fate. This cow's independent attitude and fame didn't fade, even after tranquilizers slowed her enough for capture. Not only was she spared, she was booked to host the Reds' Opening Day parade, but she was too jumpy. Mayor Charlie Luken presented her with a key to the city, though. Lohre first painted her last summer, from memory and news clips. The cow was in no mood to pose for anybody. The first rendering made it onto Fourth of July invitations to a Clifton block party. Then his wife and a neighbor sought portraits of Cincinnati's most hallowed heifer. Then came half a dozen other orders. Recently, Lohre added three cow paintings to his portfolio available for purchase online. Prices range from $500 to $1,000 for originals; $15 for prints. They're watercolors, oil on canvas and sepia watercolors. In one, a plump and prissy Cinci Freedom calmly pauses near a gaslight in an urban park. She could be presiding over a picnic, beef-less of course. Then there are two more exciting portraits of her kicking her heels high, almost like a bucking bronco, near the aging elegance of a cupola in the park. Lohre imagines that's how Cinci Freedom looked, bounding over that fence. He painted a night scene, where the cow appears to jump over the moon in the background. "It's in an old classical style,'' he says of his paintings, "not unlike the Italian renaissance.'' Not so stuffy, though. Like any fine portrait artist, Lohre treats his subject like royalty, capturing her dignity, beauty and her fire. Visit Lohre's Web site. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 768-8395
CINCINNATI -- The cow that roamed a Cincinnati neighborhood for the better part of two weeks will arrive at its new home Thursday.
The cow, which was recently named "Cinci Freedom," is scheduled to arrive at the Farm Sanctuary shelter
in Watkins Glen, N.Y., sometime Thursday afternoon, a Cincinnati television station reported.
Cinci Freedom will share a barn with 50 other cows, and she will have 175 acres to roam.
Cinci Freedom escaped from a meatpacking plant in March by jumping a 6-foot-tall fence. She hid in a wooded area in a park until animal control officers were able to subdue her with tranquilizers.
After she was captured, animal rights activists called for its life to be spared. The cow was given to artist Peter Max, and he donated $180,000 worth of artwork to the Hamilton County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Monday, March 04, 2002
That roaming cow prompts ruminations
Doing the cow-cow boogie in Clifton
By Ron Blair
Special to The Cincinnati Enquirer
I woke up to the noise of my house shaking. Our dog, Hunter, was barking. With bed-head and pajamas, I peered outside at a wind tornado, swirling debris everywhere. A helicopter — labeled Hamilton County Sheriff — was just over the roof of my house.
Not knowing the mission, I made sure the doors were locked and called my wife. “Kathy, I think that they must be after someone dangerous, maybe a murderer or an escapee!”
IN MY LIFE
Ron Blair, 45, president of Eagle Pak, flyfisherman and a freelance fiction writer, lives with his wife, Kathleen, son Paul Blair II, 16, and daughter, Virginia, 15, in Clifton.
It turned out the commotion was over the cow that escaped from a Cincinnati slaughterhouse. Police tried to corral the cow down Central Parkway but the bovine escaped to the green belt of Clifton's Mount Storm Park.
You've probably heard the story by now, since it's been in the papers and on TV. Even Good Morning America reported it. People and reporters from all over the Tristate descended on the park with cameras and rope, hoping for a picture or chance to be the Clifton cowboy.
Names for the bovine heroine surfaced. Charlene Moo-ken (named after Mayor Charlie Luken). Heidi. Bovine Bin Heidi. Stormy. I call it the Ghost Cow of Clifton.
It seems ironic that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge visited Cincinnati and declared it a “model city of security against terrorism,” but it took nine days to catch the cow.
I did my civic part. Our house abuts the park where the cow roamed, so I decided to look for it. I put on my hunting clothing and boots as well as my florescent hunting cap. I influenced my 16-year-old son, Paul, and his friend Alexander to join the urban safari. Hunter, our Rhodesian ridgeback, scanned the Earth with his minesweeper snout and it was not long before Hunter was wagging his tail and barking. Hunter was on the scent of the Ghost Cow of Clifton.
Paul avowed excitement:
“Dad, I can't believe that you're making me search for a stupid cow.”
Alexander too was enthusiastic:
“Mr. Blair, I'm bleeding, because of thorns and branches. Can we go home?”
First blood had been drawn.
Soon, I found myself hunting alone with my best friend. Hunter and I covered all 56 acres and finally found a strong scent near the Cincinnati Women's Club.
Hunter's ears perked up as we heard a faint sound in the heavy brush. It sounded like hooves pounding the ground. Hunter started a growl. The growl turned into a whine. An eerie feeling rushed over me as we could hear something but not see it.
“This is spooky, Hunter. I think that we'd better call off the search.”
Back at home, I was pulling the burrs from my clothing when I heard a radio announcement. “A helicopter has just located the cow near the Cincinnati Women's Club. SPCA hunters are now approaching the area with loaded tranquilizer guns.” I chuckled to myself, “This makes sense, why didn't I think of this? A 7-year-old cow is about 70 in human comparison.
While I'm searching the 56 acres, the cow is relaxed, sipping on tea and munching crumpets while playing bridge with other women. She's probably enjoying the gossip and food, catching up on the Clifton news. She's probably in a great moo-d.
I turned on the TV as the story broke into an afternoon soap. Once again, the Ghost Cow of Clifton has eluded authorities.
When nine days since the great escape had passed, the clock radio woke me with chatter and jokes about the cow. “Where's the beef?” “Watch where you step if your headed toward Clifton.”
As got up, Hunter began barking and growling. I opened a bedroom blind to witness Hunter thrashing about like I've never seen him do. “What the heck is going on?” I muttered.
Then, I saw it. White as a ghost. A cow. The cow. The Ghost Cow of Clifton was strolling in our back yard. I screamed:
“The cow, the cow, everybody, the cow.”
Still pulling on my pants, I dashed outside almost falling down the stairs. My wife followed me out on the deck holding her hand to her heart. “What is it? Are you OK? I thought that someone was hurt.” Paul and our daughter Virginia joined us.
We smelled a smell that we had never before smelled in Clifton. I went for the phone.
“Give me District 5 police, hurry, we have spotted the Clifton cow.”
“Police, District 5.”
“We don't have much time! We have the Ghost Cow of Clifton in our back yard. I'm looking right at her now, and she's looking at me.
“Now slow down. Are you sure that it is a cow?”
“I know what a cow looks like. It's the famous cow and it's starting to walk away. It's now moving toward Lafayette Avenue. You better move fast and head it off at the pass.”
“Give me your address.”
“Now! Now! I see two guys following it in the woods. You better get a squad car on Lafayette fast!”
Minutes later, two police cars pulled down our drive. Two very nice officers informed us that they missed the cow, it was moving too fast. “Sure would've liked to have seen Heidi,” one said.
Then, a TV reporter showed up on our doorstep. Our 15-year-old daughter, Virginia, was on camera. “We saw it right over there behind that tree. No, I've never before seen a cow in Clifton.”
Then, the hubbub was over. We went about our day and I wondered whether I would see this local hero again.
A sunset rested on top of the hill as my wife and I pulled down our driveway. The theme song from Rawhide entered my mind while I got out of the car. “Honey, there is something white in the woods again.”
Hunter started barking. My wife calmly says, "She's baaaack.”
This time, no one was chasing her. Our family gathered once more on the deck feeling this was the last time we would see her. She was so peaceful. So serene.
The sun was dropping lower as darkness prevailed. A silhouette of greatness stood on the ridge with the western orange sun as a backdrop. She stopped, looked at us, paused and then turned away, slowly walking toward the sunset. It grew dark as the gaslights came on.
I stretched my arms around my family, thinking about what many Americans have gone through in the past few months, I thought about our heroes, about the things to come, our children's future. I thought about love and thankfulness.
Turning us all toward the kitchen with my arms still around them, I said:
“Funny cow. What a funny cow.”
Epilogue: The next morning we learned on a national broadcast that authorities using thermal imaging equipment and armed with tranquilizer guns had captured the Ghost Cow of Clifton.
Runaway cow a folk hero
By Barry M. Horstman, Post staff reporter
For days, it's been perhaps the most mooooo-ving story in Cincinnati.
In a week filled with major news - the execution of a Cincinnatian for the first time in nearly a half century, black entertainers' boycott of the city and the countless feel-good stories of the Olympics - tri-staters are preoccupied, of all things, with a missing cow.
Since escaping from a local slaughterhouse by jumping a 6-foot fence at Ken Meyer Meats in Camp Washington Feb. 15, the 1,200-pound cow has become daily fodder for radio talk shows, TV newscasts and office chatter.
Curious onlookers peer toward a heavily wooded area in Clifton where an escaped cow is believed to be hiding. (MELVIN GRIER/The Post)
Dubbed Moosama Bin Laden by one DJ, the cow has evaded police and officials from the ociety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals while crossing Central Parkway and entering Mount Storm Park in Clifton, where it was last spotted by one TV station's helicopter ''Cow Cam.''
''The problem is, this is a free-range cow that isn't going to come to any human,'' said SPCA general manager Harold Dates. ''And when you weigh 1,200 pounds, you can pretty much go anywhere you want to go.''
At City Hall and from coast to coast, where CNN and other news outlets have chronicled the four-hooved fugitive's run for freedom, the cow's fame grows daily.
If and when the runaway 7-year-old cow is captured, Mayor Charlie Luken plans to give it the key to the city. In the meantime, WLW-AM talk-show host Bill Cunningham, never shy about doing anything to beef up ratings, will continue referring to it as Charlene Mooken, while his counterparts have settled on nicknames ranging from Heidi to Bessie.
Everyone from Marge Schott to Fifth Third Bank has offered to do whatever it takes to prevent the cow from ending up on a hamburger bun, the latter by offering the cow a starring role in its next ''Holy Cow'' home-equity loan ad campaign.
Similarly, Chick-Fil-A, a fast-food restaurant that features a cow in ads urging people to steer clear of red meat, is offering 100 free chicken sandwiches to whoever catches the cow.
Frustrated in their repeated attempts to lure the light-colored Charolais out of Mount Storm Park's thick underbrush, officials Thursday devised a new strategy: using three other cows as bovine bait to draw the cow into a corraled area.
Today, officials - professing no fear that the scheme could backfire and leave four cows on the loose - plan to truck in the new cows and place them in an area contained within about 30 10-foot temporary fence sections. Water and food also will be set out to make it look like there's a big cow party going on inside.
If the cow falls for the trap, officials will swing the gate on a happy ending to the saga. If not, they'll move on to Plan B: trying to bring her down with a tranquilizer dart, a far less attractive option that requires carefully hauling a 1,200-pound animal out of a hilly, brush-covered site.
Until the cow is captured, police plan to close Mount Storm Park to the public. In recent days, the cow has been spooked not only by the joggers and dog-walkers who routinely use the park, but by dozens of gawkers who have come to watch the man - er, cowhunt.
The major concern of Cincinnati police, said Lt. Kurt Byrd, is preventing the cow from wandering onto nearby Interstate 75. ''If a 2,000-pound car runs into a (1,200)-pound cow, it might be pretty ugly,'' Byrd said.
Assuming the cow is safely recovered, it will have earned a permanent reprieve from the grim fate that awaited it last week at Meyer Meats.
''There's no doubt this cow will be living the rest of its life in the most comfortable situation that can be provided,'' said the SPCA's Dates.
Whether that is on Mrs. Schott's estate or some other farm remains to be determined. Regardless, it's an udderly satisfying way to wrap up the story.
As Byrd pointed out, contrasted with the decidedly unpleasant local, national and international stories that have dominated the past year, the missing cow tale comes off as a welcome respite for Greater Cincinnatians weary of bad news. ''If this is our major news story,'' he said, ''it speaks pretty well for Cincinnati.''
Publication date: 02-22-02