Suppose you had to create a slogan for a butcher shop. Odds are you'd come up with something like "leanest cuts in town" or "best beef around."
It's a safe bet that "meat is murder" would be near the bottom of your list.
Yet that's the message painted in slashing red letters on the side of a large black fiberglass bull that sits atop Kelly's Butcher and Deli Shop in the 1800 block of East Joppa Road in Parkville.
"Believe me, it wasn't my idea," butcher and shop owner George Lohrig says of the graffito, blaming it on youthful vandals.
As Mr. Lohrig explains it, the graffito is the latest act of vandalism aimed at the 50-pound bull and its companion figure, a 100-pound fiberglass butcher that usually stands beside the bull with a knife poised above a cut of meat on a block.
The fiberglass butcher has seen better days as well.
Apparently at the same time that the bull was attacked, the aproned butcher figure was knocked flat on its back, then beheaded and relieved of its right hand, which held the knife.
Mr. Lohrig says the vandals tore the figure from the metal rods that had connected it to the roof of the shop.
They took the knife, with hand still attached, and stuck it into the bull's back.
As the crowning touch, they splashed white paint over the bull's back.
The incident occurred a few months ago. But Mr. Lohrig has not yet repaired the damage or even painted over the "meat is murder" message.
"It's wintertime now," he explains. "I'm waiting for warm weather in the spring before I take care of it."
Who could be responsible? Militant vegetarians perhaps?
"I think some kids must have done it," Mr. Lohrig says.
The bull, also fixed to the roof by metal rods, has been atop Kelly's since Mr. Lohrig opened the place a decade ago. The butcher figure was added a few years later.
Both are well-known to regular travelers along that part of Joppa Road and to customers of Kelly's, which is named after Mr. Lohrig's daughter.
"Everyone who comes in here says, 'Oh no, it happened again.' All the customers think it's awful," Mr. Lohrig says.
"It makes me mad more than anything else," he adds. "I liked the figures, and so did my customers. Why would someone want to do something like that? It's just mean."
The two figures are valued at about $5,000, according to Mr. Lohrig. He had stopped insuring the figures because he considered the $1,200 annual premium too costly.
As for the fallen butcher figure, Mr. Lohrig says: "I'll just leave him lying up there on the roof. You can't really see him from the road. It would just be too much trouble to take him down."
Twice in the past 10 years, says Mr. Lohrig, vandals have taken his bull.
In 1985, he says, a group of teen-agers rustled the bull at night and drove it in a pickup truck to Harford County, where they left it outside the home of one thief's girlfriend.
"A day or two passed, and some kid phoned and said he had the bull and he would return it to me if I didn't press charges against him. I said OK, so he drove it on back," Mr. Lohrig recalls.
Two years later, the bull vanished again. Within days, Parkville police received a call from an employee at a Perry Hall apartment complex.
L "Hey, there's a cow in our pool," the employee told police.
Officers retrieved the bull and took it back to Kelly's.
Mr. Lohrig admits he might be asking for more trouble by leaving the bull on the roof.
"I guess I am sort of tempting fate," he says. "I could be painting over graffiti every year, huh?"