Like the five others in its Fox Valley herd, the nameless concrete cow that grazed in front of Elgin's Colonial Cafe was well-liked by children.

The nearly 400 pound, black-and-white heifer always accommodated youngsters who climbed on its back, a sturdy symbol of the more-than-century-old ice cream company.

So after rustlers hauled off with the beast early Sunday, employees were even more perplexed when they received a telephone call demanding a ransom for the cow's return.

"All we want is our cow back," Clinton Anderson, operations manager for Colonial Ice Cream Inc., said Monday. "From here on out, it goes inside."

Elgin police think the cownapping occurred between 12:30 and 6 a.m., when the store at 600 S. McLean Blvd. is empty.

Hours later, an unidentified man called and said to stuff $500 in a hollow tree on Kimball Street in exchange for the cow's return.

Anderson said the demand might be met - if anyone could find the tree.

"We don't know where it's at," Anderson said. "One of our loyal customers went to look for a hollow tree, but he couldn't find one."

Though vandals often target the concrete cows in front of the Fox Valley's six Colonial Cafes - which, of course, also sell burgers - they have never before held a cow hostage.

Three years ago, hooligans toppled the cow in front of the Colonial Cafe in St. Charles and stole the animal's head.

In Aurora, a sign swiped from the Colonial Cafe was never seen again.

Anderson figures it took three or four people to carry off the cow from the Elgin store, a trophy valued at more than the $500 ransom.

Still, he's confident the so-called rustlers will safely return the cow, the icon of Colonial Ice Cream since 1901. "We believe in our residents and we know their hearts will turn and bring it back to its home," Anderson said.

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