Tricia Smith was driving along Harry S. Truman Parkway when her 4-year-old son started giggling about the "silly cows" and made mooing sounds from the backseat of the car.
"I didn't think too much of it," said Smith. "He has an active imagination."
It wasn't until she traveled back on the same road later that day that she noticed the cow sculptures at the main entrance to the headquarters of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. They were dressed in costumes and Smith laughed that her son noticed the "silly cows" before she did.
Like many residents and commuters who travel the parkway that is home to many Anne Arundel County offices, Smith assumed that someone at the agriculture department decorated the cows each month. However, no one knows the identity of the cow stylist.
"Their decorations remain the great mystery at MDA," said Julianne A. Oberg, public information officer for the department. "We're not sure who is responsible for the seasonal wardrobe changes of our cows, but we greatly enjoy their fun and festive outfits!"
While no one recalls exactly when the first cow costumes started to appear, they've been appearing regularly this summer with each passing month. In June, the cows were dressed as a bridal couple: one as a groom, complete with a black top hat and bow tie, and the other as a bride with a white veil and bouquet. In July, they wore red, white and blue hats (with stars and stripes) and flag bandannas around their necks. Sparkly party favors, reminiscent of fireworks, rested at their sides.
In August, the cows were dressed for summer fun wearing swim goggles, water squirters and brightly colored beach towels. They also had parrot-head masks, water bottles and plastic sand buckets with shovels. As September approached, it was time to break out the back-to-school gear. Now, they're wearing backpacks with giant school supplies peeking out of them and calculators at their sides. One cow wears a St. Louis Rams ball cap and the other cow wears a pink headband with a flower that matches "her" backpack. They both display white memo boards with a handwritten message, "Mooo … back to school."
According to the brochure from the Dec. 3, 1987 dedication ceremony at the Department of Agriculture, artist Raymond J. Kaskey created the original sculptures for the department as part of a public art project funded by the Maryland State Arts Council. The brochure states: "Integrated into the existing site are two cows, each reclining on its own brick pedestal at opposite ends of the crescent-shaped main driveway welcoming the visitors to the complex."
Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer has a message on the brochure that concludes: "I know that all Marylanders will enjoy these sculptures for many years to come, and I am happy to be able to dedicate these fine works of art for the state of Maryland."
Tom Sullivan, who often runs on Truman Parkway and travels it frequently because he lives nearby, revealed that he once saw the cow stylist making a wardrobe change.
"I was told not to say anything," he said with a laugh, refusing to provide any further details. "I think it's great."