Urban cows migrate into hearts and minds

By Todd Jackson

Maybe the rest of you have found a way to fit them into your understanding of Calgary. Maybe they slip smoothly into your day and you don’t even notice them anymore. But I’m just starting to get used to the fake cows downtown.

My favourite one has to be "Automoobile" at 4 Ave. & 3 St. S.W. A sleek black cow, legs splayed out to afford a more aerodynamic stance with its udder barely clearing the asphalt, flames shooting from its nostrils–obviously a very, very fast bovine.

We’re not alone in this either. Chicago also has a scourge of hollow cows. Toronto is full of fake moose. Still, these installations are a bit different. Obviously an urban metropolis has something to gain from a bit of nature. Think of the unique joy that must fill their hearts to see a calm and paint-soaked moose posing at the corner of Queen and Spadina. The mythic moose of the north meets the pallid urbanite.

But we have a different relationship with our molded animals. This is no juxtapositioning of urban squalour with folksy sculpture. This is Cowtown. We’re already used to cows. The greatest outdoor show on earth could rest its reputation on its bovine content. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you could hit a real cow with a stick from where you’re sitting right now.

A fake cow in Calgary is like putting a statue of a fake drunk in Dublin. Next year it’s bound to be a plague of molded fibreglass oil executives painted up like cows. And when we dress up the town with this kind of pride we’re swallowing our own kitschy image. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve endorsed the Disney-fication of our town. When we decided to build an arena what did we build? An enormous saddle.

It’s hard not to worry about the kids in all of this. What kind of Calgarians are we raising? Sure, the fibreglass cows are cute and anatomically correct, but I guarantee you some kids stopped eating cow when they saw "Tutu Moo Moo," ballet slippers, tiara and all. Real cows don’t dance–we know this. But do the kids? They must be confused and the real cowtown may just get obscured by the glossy paint and the stiff cold udders.

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