I need a home. Where should I moo-ve next?

Gertrude the cow has a dilemma

Jan. 22, 2013

My name is Gertrude Basse.

I was happy over the holidays, even sporting a Santa's hat. But now, I have the winter blues. I'm all alone these days.

Sure, tons of people still look at me as they pass by on Delafield Street in Waukesha and that makes me happy. But people are only looking because of the dire situation the Golden Guernsey complex I reside on is in.

It's not hard to miss me. I'm 12-feet tall, made of fiberglass and weigh between 400 and 500 pounds.

I miss my friends who used to come here. We've had a relationship since the Golden Guernsey Dairy Coop purchased me for about $3,000 more than 40 years ago.

We've been through a lot together. When I was 7 years old in 1977 an 18-year-old rammed his car into me and broke off two of my legs. Luckily, a company in Sparta, now named Fiberglass Animals, Shapes and Trademarks Corp. helped repair me. But after a California firm that used to own me filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, the 112 people I saw every day are no longer here. Neither are the truck drivers I used to see deliver the milk that my friends and I made at the local farms that was delivered to schools and stores in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.

So what's next for me? I liked my current home for so long, but it just doesn't feel like home anymore and a lot of people seem to be wondering about me.

"Everyone has been asking about the cow," Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas said.

I'm 43 years old. Should I go downtown? Should I go to a local farm? Or should I rest in someone's yard?

"That's a good question," City of Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima said. "I say let the people decide. Perhaps Waukesha NOW could do a poll."

I can't read the newspaper, but I like what the mayor is getting at. So I asked community members for their opinion on where my next destination should be or if they think I should just wait it out and hope the facility gets new ownership and somehow reopens.

"It would be wonderful to have it on display," said Kirsten Lee Villegas, CEO and president at the Waukesha County Museum. "It's a cool artifact and we could provide historical information and context for it when we have tours so people could learn more about the dairy industry in Wisconsin and Waukesha County."

The Golden Guernsey's history dates back to 1930 when a plant opened in Milwaukee and later relocated to Waukesha in 1955.

"When it's outside it's exposed to the elements and over time it will become damaged," Villegas said. "It's such an icon and the best place for it would be in a museum so it's not exposed to the elements.

"People on staff know how to preserve artifacts, including a very large cow. I think it would be really fun and we would have an immediate space for it."

That's a possibility. But how about greeting people at the Waukesha County Fair near the Waukesha Expo in the summer?

"We would absolutely love to have the cow," said Shari Black, executive director of the fair. "We were actually just having that conversation."

But with Black telling me the fair's day-to-day operations are run in Pewaukee, she wasn't sure where I would go once the five-day fair is complete.

I don't want to become a traveling cow, so I went to get advice from former Waukesha mayor and current County Board member Larry Nelson.

His advice was to simply stay patient.

"I'm still hoping there is a way for someone to come in there and take over the plant and bring Golden Guernsey back to life and the cow stays there," Nelson said. "That's the best solution."

But he added if that doesn't happen, then maybe some "people in the community can do some brainstorming where it could fit in the city and willing to take on ownership."

That's all this cow is hoping for, too.


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