Roving cow pilfered again, but she's back on the range

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- You just can't keep a good cow down, if it's popular and made of plywood.

Thieves on Friday made off with a life-size, two-dimensional cow from in front of the Chena Ridge Veterinary Clinic, but as is the custom, the board bovine returned Sunday morning.

It's not the first time the Chena Ridge cow has vanished into the night. For a Holstein, she's remarkably well-traveled.

''It's a community cow -- we move her at least once a day,'' said clinic manager Jan Roberts.

The cow used to be shuttled regularly along a mile stretch, which snakes up a hill west of Fairbanks.

''The neighborhood people will drive up the ridge instead of the Pump House route to see the cow, she said. ''It's sort of a family thing -- where's the cow today?''

The original veterinary clinic cattle, a mother and her calf, joined the clinic two years ago after Roberts noticed a similar display in someone else's yard and decided to commission her own.

The first summer she displayed the cows, one was briefly cownapped but quickly returned by a father and his contrite teen-age son. The next spring, the ankles of both cows broke when Roberts pulled them out of winter storage. She decided to give the Holsteins the heave-ho, but there was a local outcry for their return, so she commissioned a $300 pair of replacements.

A month later, in July, they vanished. The mother cow was returned a few days after that, but not before prompting a slew of phone calls to the clinic, offering either help or sympathy. The culprits tenderized the calf, using it for target practice, and was no longer suitable for public viewing.

So the mother cow went back on roving display, albeit on a tighter leash. Recently, she got into the holiday spirit.

''She's all in Christmas regalia,'' said Roberts. That included a red coat, a red scarf, garlands and a Santa hat.

The cheery attire did not deter the recent thieves, who swiped her sometime after 8:30 p.m. Friday night. Roberts reported the theft to Alaska State Troopers, who noted the crime in their daily press release. The alert proved unnecessary as the cow reappeared Sunday.

Roberts enjoys the neighborhood's fascination with the cow, if not the reason for it.

''I don't understand the attention this cow has brought,'' she said.

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