Saturday, February 23, 2002

Herd mentality

Perspective changed with cow chase

        Cincinnati has had a cow.

        And it is good.

        Good for the city.

        Good for this town's ratty image.

        Good for everybody.

        Good for the cow.

        Even better, the cow is an underdog. And everybody's cheering for her.

        She's a runaway, a slaughter house escapee. She cheated death.

        She's been on the lam for more than a week. At large, and living large off the land, in Clifton's Mount Storm Park.

        Cincinnati Police officers couldn't capture her. They couldn't get close enough to put her in a headlock, much less cuff her hooves.

        SPCA wardens couldn't get the job done either.

        Neither could would-be cowboys, heat-seeking helicopters, animal rights activists, vegetarians bearing hay and tofu burgers, cow whisperers, joggers calling out “Here, Bossie” or employees of Ken Meyer Meats, the place where she was to meet her end as a hamburger heifer.

        Best of all, this is no mere bolting bovine. She is a sacred cow.

        For a few moments every day, during mentions on the radio and TV or when she gets some ink in the paper, she takes our minds off the news from the real world.

Now, the news

        For the most part, the news on the home front and around the world this week has been awfully grim.

        At home, Cincinnati's boycott battle continues. Small minds refuse to budge as egos swell and the city's revenues shrink.

        Spring training opens with the Reds doing a Bengals routine — putting on the poor mouth while looking like losers.

        In Pakistan, kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is dead.

        Madness and mayhem ravage Israel and Palestine. War looms.

        Hundreds of bodies are discovered on the grounds of a Georgia crematory.

        Ten Americans are lost at sea when a U.S. Army helicopter crashes in the Philippines.

        Meanwhile, home on the range, a 1,500-pound cream and tan cow runs free for days in a city park.

Milk it

        For once, Cincinnati's chronic inability to act quickly paid off. While officials fiddled and fussed over what to do with the old cow, the story spread to other cities. Good news travels fast.

        The cow's supporters come from high places. Fifth Third Bank wants her to star in a “Holy Cow” commercial for prime rate home equity loans. Marge Schott said the cow's welcome to join her herd and romp around her back yard in Indian Hill.

        For a change, Cincinnati looks like a city with good sense and a sense of humor.

        No wonder Mayor Charlie Luken has vowed to give the cow the key to the city. He should also kiss her on the lips and give her free feed for life.

        She deserves it.

        She's become a symbol of what we aren't. Free. Running wild.

        She's taken our minds off our own self-importance. And our troubles.

        She's taught us to cheer the little guy. To root for someone who's beating the odds. Who's cheated fate. Who's showing her backside to those in power.

        She's brought out what's good in our nature. She's shown that this is a city that cares. We can work together. Even if it's for a few days for a cow.

        That's not time wasted. It's time well spent.

        Best of all, she's made us smile, given us something to laugh about. For a week like this, that's quite a gift.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; e-mail

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