Bones from the sky?

Although I was born in Wisconsin, I spent my formative years growing up in Northfield, a town about 30 miles south of the cities that boasts of “Cows, Colleges and Contentment”. And sure enough, lived just down the street from Carleton College, on the appropriately named College Street.

Northfield is similar to many beautiful Minnesota towns and suburbs. Giant oaks, elms and maples created a canopy over our residential street, and when we’d drive down our street it felt like a foliage tunnel.

On one afternoon, when I was probably 12 or 13 years old, I remember I was skateboarding in the middle of our street, and seemingly out of nowhere a plastic mug landed on the pavement right in front of me. I remember looking around, and to the best of my recollection there wasn’t anyone else in sight. And no cars driving by either.

Naive or not, I came to the conclusion that the mug must have fallen from the sky. Since I could see no other explanation from where it had come from, my assumption was that it fell from a plane, and because the dense tree canopy was so thick, it had slowed the speed at which the mug fell and kept it from shattering when it hit the pavement.

I can’t say that “a mug falling from an airplane” was a clear application of Occam’s Razor, but as the conclusion of a young teenerager, looking back I’ve decided not to be too hard on myself. Especially because I came to a similar conclusion about some bones just last week.

It was during the cold snap, maybe fifteen or twenty below zero, and I walked out to where the cows were lounging to perform the morning check-in and hay feeding. Many of the cows were laying down in the spilled hay, and right in the center of them was a gnarly chunk of bone. The bone had not been there the night before, so I quickly walked up to it to check it out.

It was a single bone, but large and complex with a round recess in it that looked like a hip joint. There was still meat residue on it and aside from being frozen solid, it looked fresh.

Suddenly I felt the need to look for our youngest calf.

I rotated around the dozens of lounging cows and calves, with steam rising from their noses and mouths, and thankfully caught the gaze of young Pearl. (My neighbor named her Pearl because she was born on Pearl Harbor day in early December).

I then proceeded to count the rest of the calves, and once I was satisfied that the grisly bone was not bovine in origin, I looked closer at it and began to go through the possibilities of how it arrived right in the middle of my herd. After some closer examination – with a clearer head – I decided it was far too small to have come from anything bigger than a small deer, so my counting of calves had been an overreaction. But how had this bone come to rest in my pasture, and who or what had brought it there?

I started walking in concentric circles looking for prints in the snow. Anything canid-looking – fox, coyote, wolf (or even domestic dog) – but the only prints anywhere nearby were from the large round hooves of my cows.

I stood and thought for a few moments, and I then I remembered seeing a deer carcass about a quarter mile away, on our gravel road. I couldn’t say for sure, but my memory suggested it was in a similar state of consumption as this wayward hip bone, and a scenario began to play out in my head.

Maybe a bald eagle, or large crow or raven, had been at the deer on our road and decided to take some leftovers back to the nest for a midnight snack. And maybe the bones got too heavy on the flight, or maybe they were too slick from the cold, and they just happened fall from the bird’s talons and land right in the middle of my cows.

Maybe its a little far-fetched. And certainly I’ll agree that I can’t say for sure how the bone got there. But having fallen from the talons of a soaring eagle sure seems like a fun possibility. So unless someone gives me a more plausible explanation, I’ll assume that this was the second time something has fallen from the sky in my tiny world. And I’ll consider myself lucky.

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