Cow bones create frenzy at Empty Nest


I’ve known for a long time that there were bones under our hen house. A year ago this spring, when I was patching up the floor of the shed, getting ready to turn the shed into a hen house, I spied an old bone through a hole in the floor. There was a long bone attached to a knuckle with some cartilage and tissue still clinging to it. I pulled the bone out and threw it into the adjacent field. I figured it was an old cow bone.
Is the bone bovine, equine, deer or human? Since then, when I’ve been looking for a missing hen under the hen house, I couldn’t help but notice odds and ends of old bones. Once again, I figured they were cow bones. After all, this was a farm.
But when a cold-case murder trial came to Mt. Pleasant, things changed. A man was brought to trial for the unsolved murder of his wife 17 years ago. He was found guilty on circumstantial evidence. The body, murder weapon, and crime scene had never been found. The trial drew national attention. Police were still advising hunters and hikers to be on the lookout for crime-scene evidence. Hmmm.
I started wondering about those old bones. What little history I knew about our two-and-a-half-acre Empty Nest Farm was sketchy. The previous owners had moved the shed, now a hen house, onto the property and used it for storage. Before that, there was a trailer house, and before that, a farm house with farm buildings. Carcass bones of cattle and hogs aren’t anything unusual on a farmstead. But if this shed had recently been moved onto the property, why were the bones under it? My mind flew to all sorts of wild places, like a lost blackbird searching for its home.
I mentioned the bones to Ginnie, reminding her of the missing woman’s body. She freaked. Whenever she starts wringing her hands, I know I’m in for it. Ginnie’s a city gal (from Missouri) and doesn’t understand the ins-and-outs of farm life, although to her credit, she has come a long way since we’ve lived here—which is going on three years. She couldn’t understand, either, why, if the shed was recently moved onto the property, the bones were under it. It was almost like they were being concealed. “You’ve got to get out there and check those bones out,” she told me in no uncertain terms, waving her hand like a tomahawk. “If it’s human bones, we have to report it!”
So, the next morning, when I was doing chores, I laid down on the ground (this is not a pleasant task in a hen yard) and, using the long hook I use to snag chickens, I was able to drag a bone out from under the hen house.
Now what do I do? The bone didn’t really look like a human bone to me, but I’m no boneologist. I took a picture of the bone and emailed it to my veterinarian, asking him to identify. “Is it bovine, equine, swine, deer or human?” I asked. I got no immediate reply. The last thing I wanted to do was call the police and tell them about the bones. I could just imagine the hen house and hens being torn apart only to find out it was a cow bone. But then, if it was human, well, I had no choice.
I put the picture of the bone on Facebook asking if anyone could identify it. Of course, I got plenty of snarky answers like, “Not humerous,” “Mastodon” and “definitely Neanderthal.”
Ginnie came home from work, took one look at the bone and said, “Eww. Get that thing outta my house. It doesn’t look human to me, but I dunno.”
Finally, my veterinarian replied by email with one word. “Bovine.”
We can relax now. Just another story on the Empty Nest Farm.Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.

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