The Stolen Cow Caper


Back in my troubled youth, my friends and I used to like stealing things. Not your typical stolen stuff, like stereos, shoplifting and the like, but unusual items, such as lawn ornaments, certain boxes that sit by the side of the road, (hey, I didn’t participate in that, I swear!), and other assorted sundry that people don’t expect to be stolen. Some items in our stolen loot included bar chairs, bar stools, signage, glasses of all types, pitchers, and more.

The highlight of our stolen spree came during my first year at University. The object – a cow. The people involved – us, the police, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, and a very disgruntled furniture shop owner.

It started simply enough. My roomies and me lived about 20 blocks from the downtown bars. Pretty far, but not far enough to avoid walking if you were drunk and broke. In those days, we were all pretty broke, and when you have food, clothing, transportation, and beer to buy, something has to go – for us, it was transportation, and occasionally clothing.

So one night after a drunken spree in both downtown Ottawa and neighbouring Hull (in Quebec, where the bars are open two hours later), buddy Jeff and I were walking back home at around 3 am. We crossed over the Rideau Canal, taking the very small Victoria Bridge, and walked right by a tiny store called the Pine Emporium. This furniture shop was located in an old home, and was set back quite a bit from the street – which in turn gave it a huge front yard kind of thing happening. And it was the contents of the front lawn that caught Jeff’s eye.

Set up there, amongst the entranceway to the store were a bunch of farm animals, including a sheep, a goat, a few pigs, and a great big cow – almost lifesize in fact! Well, Jeff looked at me and said, “wouldn’t that look fucking awesome in our livingroom?”. I was too drunk to even offer a reply but next thing I know, Jeff had me walking towards it, with the intention of carrying it the remaining 10 blocks to our home.

It was when we tried to lift the thing that we discovered the cow was made out of concrete. The damned thing, about four feet high at the back, and about 5 feet high at the head, must have weighed over 700 pounds. There was no way we were going to get this thing home. After a rather futile effort of dragging it about 4 feet, we gave up. But Jeff didn’t really give up. His mind began formulating an idea, and as we walked home, he extrapolated it, expanded on it, and finally came up with the idea that 4 people and my Dad’s car could do it. Again, I was too drunk to even register the idea.

But, not 4 days later when I had the car, Jeff rounded up two friends, John and Frank, and convinced me to give it a try. We drove back to the Pine Emporium around 4 am, with the streets deserted, and got the thing to the curb, where I finally screwed up the nerve to say, “there’s no fucking way we’re putting that thing in my trunk”. An argument ensued, only to be won by my action of hopping in the drivers seat and pulling away.

Unfortunately, Jeff was not deterred, and while he admitted the car trunk idea was not a good one (the next day), he found another friend with a big cargo van to do the heist. So, a few days later, 6 of us piled into a blue rusting van, and set off. We arrived at the furniture store, very late (after 3 am again) only to find the cow back in it’s original spot, and some guy sitting on the steps to the store, smoking a cigarette! We circled the block a few times to see if he was just some drunk catching a rest, but nope, the guy was definitely guarding something… the cow!

By this time, getting that cow had become an obsession for Jeff, one he wasn’t prepared to let go of. We arranged with the van owner to try again in a few days, so when a Wednesday night rolled around, off we went on our cow stealing attempt for a fourth time.

This time, at around 3:30 am, the place was deserted. No cars, no people, no nothing. I think I saw a cat, but that was it. With six guys, this cow was ours. Did I mention we were all pretty drunk again, except for the driver? Ah, such is the life of an undergrad back in the mid eighties.

So we managed to get the cow to the curb, and as we started to lift it into the back of the van, the guy who owned the van started to freak – “it’s too heavy” he shouted. Pshaww Jeff said, yours is a cargo van – it can handle the weight. As he said it, Frank, the guy at the front, lost his grip and the cow crashed into the floor of the van, crunching a small but noticeable hole in the steel floor where there cow’s pedestal base hit hard. Frank was freaked. The van owner was freaked. But the sound of an approaching car freaked us more, so we quickly slid the rest of the cow into the van, hopped in, and drove off.

We got the cow home, with most of us deflecting the immensely pissed of van owner and his words. Into our living room it went, to become or new mascot. Jeff was definitely juiced because another of our famous kegger parties was scheduled for that Friday, and the big unveiling of the new mascot was sure to be a hit.

We even devised a game to go with the new cow. Basically, you had to shoot three shots of tequila (pay for them first, $1.50 per shot, then get up on the cow, and surf the cow’s back while wearing a huge sombrero we had, and downing a fourth shot. If you managed to do all of that, you got your money back for all the shots (the shot up on the cow was free).

So Friday morning rolls around, and as we head out to the Brewers Retail to pick up the kegs, we picked up a local paper, and I was reading it in the car when I hit the local section. The headline jumped out at me “Stolen Cow Reported”. Shocked, slightly amused, and definitely proud, I read the story with zest. It started off saying “it’s been a long time since the Ottawa Police have had to deal with a stolen cow report, but they have one on the books this week”. I showed it to Jeff, who’s only words were “kewl”.

That night, the party was a happening, we were making good coin off the door sales (10 bucks all u can drink, bring ur own cup) and the cow was a roaring success, though we started losing big time money and tequila over our cow game, so we upped the ante a bit by greasing up the cow’s back. No one could stay on after that! 🙂 The following week, word had spread through campus over the cow, and we became a bit of a campus legend over it.

Also during the next week, we made the paper a second time, with a follow up to the original story – more details on the cow theft, and an interview with a very pissed off owner from the Pine Emporium. He gave details that were basically bang on with what happened. “About a month ago, I noticed the cow was moved about 3 feet, but didn’t think much of it. Then a week later, it was down by the sidewalk. I moved it back, and my brother offered to keep an eye on things since he works late. For a few days, he hung out in front of my store, and inside, watching things, but nothing happened. He got tired of that, but only a few days later, I came to open the store one morning, and the cow was gone. I’m really upset about it because I picked it up in Alberta at an auction, and went through a lot of trouble to collect these animals.”

Bwahahahahahahaha was our juvenile reaction to this article. Now normally, we held keggers infrequently, like maybe 1 to 2 times a month, but Jeff was so juiced over our newfound rep that he wanted to have another party the following Friday night. So we did. We spread the word, and the party was on.

I should take a minute here to explain something. Our parties were pretty rowdy. We we terrible. We were the types who faced our speakers out the windows just to piss of a few neighbours. We were bad. If was a neighbour to myself, I’d be one pissed off person. Because of our loud and late parties, we were visited by the cops often, but we had one simple rule – never let the cops come in, unless they had a warrant. Usually someone “responsible” for the house would be manning the doors, collecting money for the beer, and watching out for the cops. If they showed up, we would politely tell them, ok, we’ll turn the music down, shut down the party blah blah blah, oh, you’d like to come in? sorry, I’ll have to ask you to stay outside unless you have a legal right to enter.

Well, the next big party, the Cow Madness II party as we named it, was a bit of a disaster for us. At around midnight, when Jeff was supposed to be watching the door, he was busy banging some “friend” of his up in his room. When the cops showed up, they were let right in by a rather young woman who was near the door. Apparently, the cops saw the cow right away, and asked to see “someone who lives here”. The young girl, whom I didn’t recognize at all, came down to the keggerbasement and saw me, asking “hey do you live here? The cops want you!”

So I go upstairs, and find two police officers speaking into their little shirt-held radio thingies while standing in my living room.

“Do you live here?”
“Uh, hrmm… yeah?”
“Where did this cow come from?”
“We found it.”
“You found it, eh? Where did you find it exactly?”
“Down by the canal (which has parkland on either side of it, and a bicycle/walking path).”
“Down by the canal eh? Wouldn’t be anywhere near the Victoria Bridge, would it?”
“Nope, uh, we found it down by so and so street”

And so forth. I stuck to my story, and they asked to see the other “residents” of the house. I started looking for Jeff. Luigi was standing next to me, and while he thought the cow stealing business was stupid, he basically nodded to all my story. As I was walking around looking for Jeff, the cops started following me. I was relatively sober enough to have the sense to tell them to stay in the front, and questioned their presence in the house. “We were invited in” they said. I asked by whom, and they pointed out the young woman. I explained she wasn’t a resident, and had no right to let them in, and basically demanded they stay in the entrance way. They looked at each other, and agreed to my “demand”.

I ran upstairs, burst into Jeff’s room right in the middle of his shagfest, and through his angry protestations, I explained how the cops were here, were looking at the cow and asking questions. I explained my cover story, and hustled him downstairs. Jeff basically corroborated my story with a few small mistakes, and the cops couldn’t do much. They made a few more radio calls, then left, saying that a detective would be by the next day.

So the next day rolls around but instead of a “detective”, two burly cops in a cop car pull up. Not knowing what was going on, we expected to be arrested or something, but the cops were there simply to take the cow back to the owner. They thought they could lift our mascot down to their car on their own, and boy were they wrong. So we helped… got it down the stairs, to the curb, to their trunk, and they went through the same thing I did a few weeks earlier – no way was that cow going to go into a trunk. So they called a police tow truck, and after it arrived, hoisted the poor cow up, and drove off with it.

End of story? Not quite. The following Monday, we made the papers a third time. This time the cow’s discovery was reported, complete with Jeff’s name and our address! At the time the rest of us thought – cooooool… but Jeff was worried. I should mention here that we were at the end of a month here – that Monday was the last day of the month. The new month started Tuesday.

Why is that important? Well, if not for that fact being used by our rather smart female roomie, I’d probably be dead right now… because on Wednesday night, Jeff, John, myself and Terry (our female roomie) were sitting in the living room watching the telly late at night when we heard a crash outside – a loud one. We jumped up and looked out the window to see a huge pickup truck had hit the telephone pole outside our front door… the front of it was pretty damaged. Not gone unnoticed by us was the large sign on the side of the truck, one that read “Pine Emporium”.

Three rather drunken huge guys staggered out of the truck, and reached into the back of it, grabbing baseball bats. The apparent driver was yelling “Is this where the fuckers live?”, as he staggered towards our door. We were, quite simply, freaking.

But Terry’s mind was already thinking fast. An aspiring actor and also a member of an amateur improvisation troupe, these skills would come to extremely good use, as you will soon find out.

The wallop of a bat against our front door, followed by the breaking of some of the glass panels announced our Pine Emporium buddies. Terry looked at John, Jeff and me and said “you stupid fucks stay right here, and shut up!” as she walked to the door. She whipped it open and immediately began yelling at the men in the doorway:

“What the fuck is going on here?? Who are you?? Why did you smash my front door??”

“We’re lurrking for those dumb fucks who stole my cow! The papers said they live here. Where the fuck are they??!!”

“I haven’t got a clue about what you’re talking about!” Terry shouted back. “I just moved in here yesterday with my girlfriends! The doofuses who lived here moved out on Monday.”

“Why would they move out?” The Pine Empinut asked, a bit puzzled, and a bit more quietly.

“Because, you stupid dick, it was the end of the month and they moved out! We rented this place last month, anyways, that’s none of your business. Who the fuck are you, going around with baseball bats, smashing peoples’ windows?”

As she leaned out she continued, “And is that your truck? Are you drunk? Are you driving drunk? What is your problem? Do you realize you could kill someone? A little kid on his bike, you could run him over? What kind of idiot are you? Driving drunk, smashing windows, threatening people…” and on and on it went for a full 3 minutes or more.

By the end of Terry’s rather impressive adlibbing, all the Pine Buddy could mutter is “sorry ma’am”. He must have said sorry about a dozen times. Terry went on and on. The guy was meek as hell. When Terry pointed out the broken glass yet again, the guy whipped out his wallet, offered $50 for it. Terry leaned out again, noticed the Pine Emporium logo, and said “sport, you think that will cover it? Maybe we should get the cops?”. The guy doubled the price he offered, of which Terry accepted. Pine buddy mumbled his apologies again and he and his buddies, totally bitchslapped, stumbled back to their truck.

But that wasn’t the only bitchslapping to occur that night. As soon as Terry watched them drive off she closed the door, came back into the living room, placed her hands on hips and proceeded with bitchslapping #2 for the night.

I was sufficiently embarrassed by the whole ordeal that I won’t bother repeating the dressing down I got that night. Suffice to say, it was at least a month or more before we even attempted to steal any more weird shit.

And as a postscript, we sort of started a trend at Carleton University. That poor cow turned up missing two more times before the Pine Buddy finally brought it inside his store. Other animals were stolen too. All the thievery was done by Carleton U students… how do I know? Because the thieves often sought one of us out to brag about their exploits. Our response? “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”.

Gee, I wonder if they all had visits from the Pine Buddy too?