JANESVILLE — Bessie the Cow has been stripped of her horns. She is also missing her milk bucket, and her milking stool is gone.
If Bessie weren't made of fiberglass, you might suspect that the nearby Arby's restaurant had plans to slowly turn Janesville's sacred cow into roast-beef sandwiches.
The 46-year-old local bovine icon has had a tough time in recent weeks.
The giant galvanized milk bucket and wooden stool, which sat beneath Bessie on her knoll on the north end of Arby's parking lot at 3333 Milton Ave. on Janesville's north side, were stolen recently.
Reports vary, but some accounts hold that the stool was later found smashed to pieces.
The latest insult to the big cow: Residents last week discovered the 16-foot-tall molded milk cow statue had lost her horns.
Police late last week were still trying to reach local property manager Tom Lasse, the owner of the cow, to fill him in on the latest development.
In a report last week, police said they had no suspects in the horn heist or the bucket and stool capers. But a couple of days ago, an anonymous person turned Bessie's horns in to police.
Lasse, who The Gazette reached by phone this week, said that it appeared the horns had either been pulled off or had fallen off Bessie's head. The bolts that held the horns on were nearly rusted through, he said.
He said he has a few theories on how the horns came off.
"It could have been that someone was trying to lasso her by the horns. They may have even been trying to tip the cow," Lasse said.
It would be a shame if Bessie ever got tipped. The gargantuan Guernsey has been a Janesville mainstay since the late 1960s. Originally built by Sculptured Advertising in Sparta, Bessie is a symbol of the area's traditional ties to dairy.
She has moo-ved over the years, but she found her latest spot at Arby's near Highway 26 and Interstate 39/90 a few years ago.
Diners dropping in off the Interstate often pose next to Bessie to get photos of the kitschy roadside curiosity.
Lasse said it won't be long before Bessie is again made whole.
He said Al Utzig, who owns a local auto body shop, will reinstall Bessie's horns soon. A man who originally donated the large milk bucket plans to donate another one.
Monday was the first time Lasse heard about the stool being gone. He said it's clearly time to tighten the screws a little on Bessie and her surroundings.
"We're going to bolt the bucket things down. It'll make it a little more difficult for them to disappear," Lasse said.
At Bessie's current spot, no one had previously done anything to deface the doe-eyed cow. Lasse said Arby's likes the crowds the big cow draws. He said workers there have "kind of adopted" Bessie, and they keep an eye on her.
But the restaurant can't have workers on Bessie-watch at all times. Lasse said he's considered turning to 24-hour cow surveillance.
"We really might put a camera on her," he said.