June 4, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
In a town that prides itself on its uniqueness, the case of Petunia the missing cow is perhaps far from the strangest thing to happen in Ojai, but nevertheless is causing a community some distress.
“That cow was basically my neighbor,” says Ojai resident Genevieve Dillon.
According to owner Kitty Bartholomew, her fiberglass yard attraction went missing between May 20 and May 22. Bartholomew bought the cow from an antiques dealer in Santa Monica who obtained it from a dairy.
“It made me laugh,” says Bartholomew. “I believe whatever puts a smile on your face, stay with that.”
Bartholomew strapped the bulky statue to the roof of her PT Cruiser and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to her rented cottage on Aliso St., where she parked the cow in her garden. She named the over-sized figurine “Petunia” before closely examining its finer details. When she purchased a house on South Montgomery St., Petunia joined a seven-foot topiary rabbit and another folk art cow in Bartholomew’s front yard. Because a large oak tree occupies a chunk of Bartholomew’s front yard, she was originally going to place Petunia closer to her house, but her tree trimmers insisted the perfect place in front of the oak, where Petunia would be visible from the road.
“It became this wonderful landmark,” says Bartholomew.
Petunia began creating a stir almost immediately. Children would wave to the statue as they passed, neighbors’ dogs barked at the inanimate cow on their daily walks and neighbors began using Petunia as a reference point for directions to their own homes. Someone even left a big, red lipstick kiss between Petunia’s ears.
“It wasn’t cheap, but that isn’t the point,” says Bartholomew, a design expert who used to have a show on the Homes and Gardens Television network.
Bartholomew describes herself as “mischievous,” and says she can completely understand how someone would be drawn to relocate the cow to the top of the police station or one’s school as a prank, she just hopes after the shenanigans, Petunia returns safely home. According to Detective Michael Harris, in addition to the theft Bartholomew reported to the Ojai Police Department, there have been other yard statues stolen, one from Buckboard Lane, and another reappearing unexplained in an orchard off Carne Road.
“I do not know of any specific pattern, but suspect the thefts may be related to (high school) senior pranks,” says Harris.
Whatever the reason for the disappearance, Bartholomew just wants her signature kitschy cow returned, along with her faith in her town.
“I love Ojai more than you can imagine,” says Bartholomew. “I have fallen in love with this town. I call it ‘Oz.’ I found my bliss here. I have never found a place I love more. My soul is here. It’s kind of sad that this would happen.”
As soon as Bartholomew’s friends, family and neighbors learned of the theft, they began posting pictures and information on their Facebook pages. Bartholomew’s son created “missing” posters offering a reward for Petunia, which will be distributed around town. Tuesday afternoon Bartholomew stopped at the Ojai Post Office, and the employees inquired about her cow. One asked for a copy of the poster to place in the post office window.
“It’s big, and black and white. It’s not like it’s easy to hide,” says Bartholomew.
Anyone with information on the cow’s whereabouts can email email@example.com, or call the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414.