Copyright 1997 by Ted Oliphant III
All rights reserved.
Bill and Jean Barton have been cattle ranchers all their lives. Jean's family has owned the same 1,600 acre cattle ranch in northern California for over a hundred years. They have always been cattle ranchers; and they have lived simple, normal lives most of that time.
Then, something terrible happened on October 16, 1995 -- something that would change their lives forever. One of their cows was found dead on their land near Eagle Lake. It was found missing teats from the udder, its jaw had been stripped and an ear was missing. Then it happened again, and again and again. By the time the first year had passed, the Bartons had lost four head of livestock. Then, exactly one year from the first grizzly discovery, it happened again. On October 16, 1996, a cow was found missing its entire udder, its rectum had been cut out and its jaw was also missing.
The Bartons had never seen anything like this before, not in a lifetime of raising cattle. But the nightmare wasn't and isn't over. By the end of 1996, the Bartons had lost seven more head under the exact same circumstances. This brought the head-count to eleven.
On March 2, 1997, I received a call from Jean Barton, asking me to come investigate suspicious cattle death number 14.
When I and another investigator, Stan Musselman, arrived at the ranch, Jean took us to the crime scene. This cow had been dead for three days. It was in a state of typical decomposition. That's the problem when you own such a large ranch; you can't police it. It might be two days before you discover something wrong. The circumstances and logistics ensured the Bartons' continual victimization.
There was the attendant smell of rotting flesh. I had learned early on to stand up-wind of bovine carcasses, when I first examined similar cases in Alabama in 1992 and 1993. If you don't stand up-wind, you'll get sick.
This cow looked identical to what I'd witnessed, over and over, thirty-five times before on Alabama ranches. Under the right front shoulder, there was an eight inch diameter circle of flesh. The udder was missing. There was an enormous gaping hole where the rectum and vagina had been. It measured over ten inches across. Where the udder had once been, there was an even larger incision which led halfway down the right rear leg. The leg muscle had been removed all the way to the bone. Then I saw something I'd seen once before.
Along the edges of the incision I could see a swirling, stepped and notched cut made by something similar to pinking shears. Again there was no blood on the incisions where hide, muscle and organs had been extricated. I might as well have been back in Alabama -- the same damn thing, over and over and over again. "What the hell is going on?" Stanley and I asked each other.
The animal was "too far gone" to order an autopsy. If we had known sooner, within hours of the animal's death, we could have learned more. What else had been "done" to this poor animal?
The Bartons used to make a simple, honest living. Now, with the substantial economic loss they've sustained, they aren't even allowed that "luxury." These ranchers cannot afford this: it's killing their cattle, their business and most importantly, them. Surely they deserve better, but who will help them end their agony? Who will answer the question of what's happening to their cows? They deserve an answer, just like the other ranchers who have found themselves in a similar predicament over the last 34 years. What makes the Barton case so unusual is the sheer number. I have never heard of anyone being victimized 15 times in two years. There's something very wrong at the Barton Ranch, but what?
Are devil worshippers performing surgery on animals in time for their monthly celebrations? Or are aliens visiting for snack food? Is this the work of coyotes? Or is it your tax dollars at work?
I'm a student of Arthur Conan Doyle and his alter-ego Sherlock Holmes. I must conclude, as they did, that after you have ruled everything else out, what you are left with MUST be the answer. My personal choice has to be: "Your tax dollars at work." But why are they at work on the Barton Ranch? What's the attraction? By August of 1997, the Barton's ranch had fallen prey to the same phantom surgeons for the fifteenth time. Why?
Original file name: CNI - Oliphant.Bartons.final
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