Anyone who has spent time in Stephenville knows about the iconic fiberglass holstein, Moo-La, that keeps watch over the Erath County Courthouse.
The sculpture - which is logged in the Smithsonian’s Art Inventory Sculptures - is now sporting a fresh coat of paint and new signage done by Court Cole, part owner of Signs Express Plus with additional help from Les Bolling Construction.
Moo-La was established Sept. 23, 1972 after Joyce Whitis and county judge at the time Blackie Martin had a discussion about the dairy industry.
“We were talking about the dairy industry and how important it was here and I said, ‘You know we ought to have a cow on the square,’” Whitis said. “And he said, ‘Get that cow!’”
So Whitis took up a collection from folks and businesses all over the county and ordered the cow from Wisconsin. The name came a little later from Whitis’ husband.
“We thought, what’s a good catchy name? And he sat up in bed one night and said, ‘Moo-La! Dairy money, Moo-La!’” Whitis said.
Moo-La was officially unveiled by Dr. Vance Terrell followed by a big party with ice cream.
“For a few mornings after that there would be a fresh cow patty under the cow; never knew who did that,” Whitis said with a laugh. “Then different people would ride the cow from time to time. Considering everything, she’s been pretty well taken care of.”
Just one year after Moo-La was put in place, Erath County was No. 1 in the state and No. 10 in the nation in dairy production.
“The dairy is still very important here,” Whitis said.
After many years under the care of Joyce Whitis, she has passed Moo-La down to her new owner - Tommy Shelton, a firefighter with Erath County Volunteer Fire Rescue.
“They were the ones who called me and said they would take care of the cow,” Whitis said. “And I was really glad because I wanted her to be left in good hands and I’m glad she’s going to stay there.”
Shelton prompted the makeover and is happy with the finished look.
“The sign has now been redone and dedicated to Joyce,” he said. “It doesn’t have any numbers on it so it’s representing and recognizing the dairy industry as a whole and she’s been a big part of that so I wanted to dedicate that end of the sign to her.”
Shelton has also taken all the files to the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce where they are bringing Moo-La into the digital age.
“What they’re going to do is establish a link on their Chamber website where you can click on it and see the history of that cow and all the pictures of what it used to look like and how the signs have changed,” he said.
As long as Moo-La is in the care of Shelton, he says she isn’t going anywhere.
“Moo-La will stay here on the square as long as I have anything to do with it,” he said. “I’m technically the handler of the cow, so anything to do with Moo-La will have to go through me.”