BARNESVILLE, Ohio — If you have traveled along Interstate 70 in Belmont County, you probably have noticed the billboard.
You know the one. The one with the large cow. It was missing, but now it’s been brought back.
Ranch hands at Dickinson Cattle Co. Inc. (DCCI) have vertically launched the larger-than-life cow-shaped billboard up to its historic prominence for thousands of travelers to view as they speed across Ohio.
In 1994, DCCI purchased the Belmont County reclaimed mine land for a Texas Longhorn cattle ranch. The existing sign, standing near the center of the northern part of the ranch, was owned by the Barnesville Antique Mall.
A deal was struck, the sign was purchased, and with a few special design touches, an abstract Texas Longhorn cow shape became the new look.
A cow head shape with over 10 foot wide horns and a 12 foot long tail was pendulously attached to become the hind-most appendage.
From the very first raise, it became a landmark of unique interest.
Joel Dickinson, who formed the original components says, “Kids love it. We receive reports that kids who frequently travel I-70 with their parents watch for the cow to see who spots it first. It gives them a landmark clue to determine — are we there yet?”
Nothing is simple in life. Let’s face it. Nothing!
As simple as the original concept was, complications with the sign have been numerous. Over the past 18 years, it has required repainting first to fire engine red, next to purple, then two different shades of blue over the last 10 years.
It is located on a hill top that receives the most wind-blasts of the entire area. New braces have been added, but the tail has been the biggest problem.
The first tail had a large beaver-type lower switch. As it swished back and forth it started to bang the paint off the nearby sign letters. Finally the whole thing just broke off.
If you think that no one would notice such a thing, you are wrong!
The ranch received calls every hour from travelers who noticed the absence of this special rear part. Children called on cell phones. Long-haul truckers called, each thinking they were first to notice. It had to be quickly repaired to stop the calls. One alternate design had an ill-fated large steel hinge, once a heavy duty rubber hinge and finally a steel brace to keep it stable, eliminating any movement.
The major disaster came a few months ago when a high velocity wind snapped down trees in the area and the blue cow went flat to the ground. Nine huge electric poles were holding it perpendicular, and all cracked at once. It smacked to the earth, face down, in pieces.
This sign should serve as a source of inspiration, if you are looking for ways to promote your farm and tell the story of your farm, this could be a great example.
It shows that people do pay attention to agriculture. That sign is more than just a way to tell people about the landmark at that exit. It is a source of pride for the farm that helps get them noticed by people who probably wouldn’t have paid attention to them. In addition, the sign also has a purpose on the farm. Like many farms, there are often many purposes for one thing.
The finishing touches have been completed on the blue cow. New beams, new braces and all the broken boards are all replaced.
The farm believes the hill top location provides the maximum summer breeze and the sign makes a cool shade for the calves.
I think this shows what a little thinking outside of the box can do for a farm or ranch.