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Photo Courtesy Ohio State University Photo Archives

Columbus 200: Cow Town, live with it

Columbus should?play to its historic strengths

By Doral Chenoweth

Published October 1, 2012

Editor’s Note: This month’s Columbus 200 piece is offered with two sides of history. Our esteemed contributor, Doral Chenoweth, is part of journalism history, having made a living for decades in Columbus as, “The Grumpy Gourmet.” He was as tough as he was fair in his countless reviews of the capital city restaurant scene. It’s (614)’s humble opinion that Mr. Chenowith is merely passionate, and loaded with more gristle than grump. We can’t help but think that phrase was directly influenced by his inimitable writing style. In this space, he pleads with us to reconsider our rejection of the Cow Town label so that we may honor one of the most delightfully strange symbols of our city’s history.

Surprise: Columbus has many reasons to be called a Cow Town. Good reasons: Wendy’s, White Castle, Mitchell’s and Hyde Park steakers ... and Maudine Ormsby.

Such use of the term Cow Town usually indicates the user doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about. Ignorance presides. Columbus and Ohio are major food providers; field, stream and manufactured foods to help feed the world. We should be praising Ohio’s ability to produce. We need a symbol that has been waiting since 1926 to take her place in our hearts and minds – again, Maudine Ormsby.

Maudine was a beautiful Holstein residing in what should be named and preserved as the Maudine Ormsby Memorial Paddocks, at the southeast corner of Ackerman and Kenny roads. She was introduced as OSU Homecoming Queen, legitimately elected in 1926, when agricultural students decided their campus student population should be praised. They ran Maudine against a gaggle of Greek frat entries. OSU footballers played the Illini that weekend.

Just which football team won that year has been lost to sports records and who gives a damn?

Maudine continues as a trivia question among the faithful. Even that is fading. This story will refresh Maudine in the minds of the populace.

Mere Maudine memories should be expanded beyond this story. It has been discussed among interested parties ... that a pole barn be erected over the watering trough at Ackerman and Kenny roads. While about it, OSU powers should finally take a study trip to the paddocks. They should consider fencing off a blacktop parking area at the Kenny road entrance ... no more than six vehicle spaces – make it exclusive. They should post a bronze (historical) marker noting the 1926 fun, and now ... the name for those peaceful acres: the Maudine Ormsby Memorial Paddocks.

Create visitor seating, possibly shaded picnic tables for families to use as a grassy teaching site...the meaning of all-things-cattle to children ... children who seldom if ever see a live and producing cow.

Origin of Cow Town ?...or is it to be Cowtown??We will use it as two words. Decades ago a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Paul Gapp, returned to Columbus from his then residence in Chicago. He was a Chicago Tribune reporter after starting his newsroom career at the Columbus Dispatch. At the Trib, he was the architectural reporter, which brought him the Pulitzer.

Gapp told it this way: From his focal point at Ackerman and Kenny, he could see tops of buildings on the OSU campus and edges of the Downtown in dead of winter. In spring and summer he became fixed on the grazing cows across the paddock fences at Ackerman and Kenny. When he was doing a story on Columbus, he tagged his typescript (no Internet in his work days) as “cowtown.” When some copy editor wrote the headline for the ink-on-pulp editions, the handle of Cowtown was the eye catcher. Now you know. (Webster does not get into the issue of Cow Town being two words; SpellCheck wants it to be two words by dropping the “check” part. So, opt for our two-word use.)

Black-and-White, in Color: The image of Ohio State’s homecoming queen, circa 1926, needs refreshing. David Hartz, a 1980 graduate with a masters of fine arts, has filled the bill. At the request of this author, he has created the image for Maudine Ormsby, the beautiful Holstein nominated by ag students to compete against the Greek entry. In those days, ag students outnumbered frat and sorority types. ?It was an honest election. The student body knew that Maudine had different packaging than homecoming queen entries in previous years.?Image creator Hartz is now an associate professor of Electronics Media Communications, Raymond Walters College, University of Cincinnati.

Hartz has an international reputation for playing with fire. He’s known as Cincinnati’s pyrotechnic Renaissance man. He’s set fires around the world ... all licensed and controlled in fire sculpture competitons, the most recent in Estonia in January. Hartz became fascinated with fire as a Boy Scout when he learned the hard way...rubbing two sticks together to make fire. Today he’s hot around the world. Google has his story beyond Maudine.

Seattle’s Food Focal Point: All visitors to this wonderful town make a first visit to Pike Place … probably the most appealing place to stroll and savor in the nation. More than half a hundred food choices on any given day. First they rub the nose of the brass pig at the entrance. Second, they pause to watch the flying fish ... memorialized here by a Columbus native, David Hartz, on a popular post card. Columbus lost its chance to play up food when the Borden powers ignored the potential of having a brass milk cow named Elsie posted in the northeast corner of Broad and North Third streets. Borden was interested, but departed the milk business before locking down at that address. In lieu of Elsie, a trademark departed, praise Maudine Ormsby.