Published: Oct 09, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 08, 2012 10:06 AM
For half a century, a plastic cow has watched over the intersection of Pickett and Chapel Hill roads. Now it’s about to get a new lease on life.
It only needs about $1,200.
Decades atop what’s now Taqueria La Vaquita, formerly a drive-through convenience store, have left the iconic bovine faded, stained and worn. In a posting to the Tuscaloosa-Lakewood neighborhood email list several months ago, Mary Wible-Brennan suggested that the cow deserved a renovation.
“Lots of people chimed in their moral support,” she said last week.
Property owner Charles Poe of Clarksville, Va. and La Vaquita (“The Little Cow”) operator Antonio Rodriguez have given their blessing to the cause. and Wible-Brennan has engaged Raleigh artist Matthew Mahler to do the restoration.
“Now it is raising the funds to get the work done,” she said.
Kickstarter, an online fund-raising service, is one tool under consideration, and neighbor Darby Dietrich, manager of the Piedmont restaurant, offered to arrange a fund-raising event. Wible-Brennan is open to suggestions.
Poe said he is “definitely game for this.” The cow, he said, has stood since 1963 — “since the year Kennedy was shot.”
Once upon a time, the Chapel Hill Road cow was part of a small herd marking several identical Fresh Farm Dairy – better known as “Cow Stores” – around Durham – on Washington Street by the railroad, on Hillsborough Road, on Roxboro Road in Bragtown. The other stores are closed and their cows are gone, but the La Vaquita and its cow remain, officially recognized as a historic Durham landmark.
In 1997, when the Chapel Hill Road location was still a Cow Store, a zealous city inspector claimed the cow violated a then-new sign ordinance. Amid howls of public protest, elected officials took the cow’s future under consideration.
State Sen. Floyd McKissick, then a City Council member, and County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, among others, pressured the planning department to exempt the cow, and other old signs with historic value as part of the city’s aesthetic landscape.
The late philanthropist Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans was “a big advocate” for the cow, Poe said. She, and the late Duke University President Terry Sanford, were among the store’s regular customers. Officials gave the cow’s removal an indefinite continuation as deliberations went along, and in May 1999 the Historic Preservation Commission officially assured the cow’s place in history and on Chapel Hill Road.
“I’ve had a bunch of people offer me money for that cow,” Poe said, but it’s not for sale.
“It’s not going to go anywhere,” he said. “It’s a landmark.”