Tag Archives: Podcasts

Things That Influence My Writing: Montana Cow Mutilations

Newspaper clipping from the Billings Gazette, October 10, 1975

**Content Warning: This post discusses the killing and mutilation of animals by unknown perpetrator(s) over the past 50+ years in the United States. As a non-beef eater myself, reader discretion is advised**

While the world is caught up with everything that is 2020 (do you have your apocalypse bingo card yet?) I’d like to visit an ongoing state and national news story that captured my attention when I first moved to Montana in 2013. In October, 2019, new developments arose. I think it’s time to share this news with readers for the purpose of distraction. So, I’ll compile some basic information here. While I have some thoughts on what the possible explanations could be, I will save those for the end.

Cow Mutilations

From the GIPHY keyboard

On October 2, 2019 the Billings Gazette reported a new report of 5 dead cattle being found in Salem, Oregon. While tragic, the random death of cattle in the Pacific Northwest would not turn heads under normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances. Instead, this was the newest report in an ongoing series of documented cow mutilations throughout the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, with the majority of documented cases in Montana, dating back to the 1970s.

According to the original newspaper clipping from the Billings Gazette on October 10, 1975 (shown above) about 175 reports of mutilations were gathered from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho in addition to Montana at that time. At that time, given the cost of the equipment necessary to cause the types of mutilations and damages found, the issue stumped authorities, leading to the concern of a cult traveling throughout the country traveling “by helicopter”. Reasonably so, this was thought to be ridiculous.

There is a Wikipedia page on Cattle Mutilation as a general concept, but it is important to note that this page includes international and domestic horse, goat, and other unidentified livestock incidents. These non-bovine and international incidents have mutilation patterns not matching those specifically found in the mutilated cattle of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. That said, they may still be worth discussing for contrasting purposes.

The Investigation

From the GIPHY keyboard

The common pattern with these mutilations is that the sex organs and tongues are removed with all blood drained from the corpse. An investigative report mentioned in a 2001 article in the New York Times mentioned that a group that researches these incidents, The National Institute for Discovery Science, did find one interesting variation in a case in Utah where there was a hole in the head of one of the cattle with both BHT and Formaldehyde present, indicating that an embalming/preservation process took place. This group is/was funded by Robert Bigelow – a man that became obsessed with aliens and the Skinwalker Ranch – a place so notorious even the History Channel has added it to their questionable line up.

As their website is now defunct and it is hard to find information on anything other than his alien focused ventures, I am not going to spend much time focusing on this aspect for now.

I used the Wayback Machine to look up their website and I have to admit it’s hard to take this seriously. Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20071009234743/http://www.nidsci.org/

Another common element between all of these cases? They remain unsolved. To give readers an idea of how extensive and compelling these reports are, there is an open case file with the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the recurring ritualistic serial mutilation of cattle. At this time, the FBI only investigates mutilations that occur on tribal land and all have been closed unsolved according to the Billings Gazette.

Private and public reward monies for information regarding cattle mutilations continue to accumulate, including a $25,000 reward for the recent mutilation in Oregon.

My Interest And Thoughts On These Events

From the GIPHY keyboard

Shortly before moving to Montana, on March 1, 2013, a rancher found more mutilated cows approximately 5 miles outside of Browning. Given how current it was in the news, this provided the opportunity for me to learn more about these incidents and start compiling information on this truly bizarre fascination.

Spoiler Alert: I don’t think this has anything to do with aliens. While I do not dismiss the possibility of life in this universe more intelligent than humans, I don’t think it is coming to Earth and messing with our cows.

I have 7 years of research and thoughts on these events and there are a few options regarding what I can do with this information. The option currently in the lead:

  • Start An Investigative Podcast/YouTube Series With A Funny Name

I would present each individual documented event in chronological order, the information available that I’ve been able to gather, any additional leads people are able to provide, and similarities between the events that I’ve been able to observe. This would then include leads from listeners that have been followed up on in later episodes.

The reasoning behind presenting the same information in two formats is because I want to be inclusive of non-auditory individuals, and those needing closed captioning and/or lip reading to assist with auditory processing. For more information on auditory processing disorders you can visit that website or read the Wikipedia page here.

Possible Explanations

From the GIPHY keyboard – credit to Trey Parker and Matt Stone

The big rule here driving my investigation: It’s Not Aliens. The perpetrators could be many things, but the response of “aliens” has become the standard cop-out. There is a lot of additional evidence, even from those that do believe aliens visit earth, to suggest these mutilations are not being performed by aliens.

I mentioned before that I have thoughts on alternative explanations. I don’t think these cases are going to be a “one explanation fits all” kind of thing. These potential explanations include: insurance fraud, publicity, public diversion from other questionable activities, ritualistic or cult activity, and intimidation. That said, I absolutely expect that there are potential explanations that I have not yet thought of. Who knows – maybe I will be proven wrong and there are aliens. I have to be open to that possibility, no matter how skeptical I am and how little I think it makes sense.

TL;DR

If you are interested in this kind of investigative podcast about the unsolved mysterious cow mutilations that have been ongoing throughout the United States for at least the past 50 years, please like this post and/or comment your suggestion for title of the series, what excites you the most, or if you have any thoughts you would like to contribute. If you think a friend would like to listen to this podcast or would have anything to contribute, please share this.

I’m excited to have as much input as possible in this 100% bizarre side project, even if you disagree with me and want to tell me you think I’m wrong; even if you insist that it’s aliens.

If this gains enough interest (100 likes) I will launch the first episode of the podcast.

Until then, I will continue to focus my efforts on reviews, my book becoming available for pre-order later this summer, “A Hundred Different Skies”, and my short story collection coming out early next year.

As always, thank you for reading. Without you, this post would have been meaningless electrons sent out into the void.

Thoughts On YouTube, Podcasts, And Accents

I was 18, sitting on a dock over Lion’s Creek.

The Article

Today there is a repost of an article by Jessica Love in The American Scholar titled The Disappearing Accent. In this article the author goes on to discuss how certain age groups have more difficulties distinguishing English accents than others, particularly younger age groups to focus on only familiar accents and will tune out unfamiliar accents.

Accents and dialects play an important function socially by helping individuals distinguish locals from non-locals. This gives an immediate sensory input of “in-group” vs. “out-group” and based on the associations with that group a person will have a response. Accent responses contribute to a global issue of systemic racism and sometimes, these responses aren’t so friendly (see: almost every anti-immigrant accent joke ever – even Disney is guilty of a long history of these).

Accents do help individuals determine where, geographically, someone is from rapidly without conscious thought. Interestingly, accents can tell us a lot about the history of human migration as well.

Expanding on this, even English accents and dialects demonstrate this history of human migration. The accents found throughout the former British Empire are based on the timing of colonization compared to when the Great Vowel Shift occurred, when and where the colonists originated from, and whether their English dialect originated from Victorian or Elizabethan English.

As someone from the Chesapeake Bay my accent originates from Elizabethan English prior to the Great Vowel Shift. This is unique and part of what makes accents from this area special and different sounding from all other Southern accents. Tangier, Hog, and Smith Island are the famous Chesapeake Bay islands, but there are so many others no longer occupied by more than one or two houses, if any. The watermen lived along the shorelines and worked the bay.

My grandfather was born north of the Bay and we came into the area. My parents lived most of their lives elsewhere, then raising us in towns always on the Shore as opposed to on the Islands. This is an important distinction. My accent is not multi-generational, and therefore not as thick as others.

The Accent Tag

If you haven’t been exposed by now, there’s an incredible thing called the Accent Tag. This has been used extensively for documenting the way people speak through YouTube videos and is a wonderful resource for authors who want to research how someone from a particular area would sound. I decided to read off the words from the word list after several hours of silence and white noise as auditory input to provide a baseline of my accent.

Here’s a recording of me saying the Accent Tag words

What About Youtube Videos And Podcasts?

I would love to! Based on my pronunciations above, do you think people could understand me if I slip into that? Do you think I’ll need subtitles? I’ve had students accuse me of needing subtitles before, during classes while teaching and that’s been embarrassing. In the past my accent has made it difficult for people to understand me.

In past relationships it meant I was lectured on correct pronunciation, and it may have played a role in why they never introduced me to their family. I have been told that my accent makes me sound “low class” and “uneducated”. I’ve had to explain to my own husband that he needed to back off with the “you’re pronouncing it wrong” bull crap.

Long story short, people experience accent discrimination by losing job opportunities and by experiencing people being dicks to them, sometimes their own spouses and friends. The moment this is combined with any other factor their lives get way worse. To be blunt: it’s a lot of effort to keep constantly worrying about how I’m pronouncing things. You can hear me trip up in the word list with “Spitting Image” because… That’s not how I would even begin to say that phrase because it’s not even spelled that way in my head.

For these reasons, I’m nervous about being public with my voice. I know my accent that slips out is not as thick as a Tangier Islander accent:

That said, my accent is something I think is special and unique. It is one of the most beautiful things about where I am from and about the history of the United States. And it’s disappearing. Accidentally, I may be part of the last generation of Americans to have a Chesapeake Bay accent.

The Delmarva peninsula and the Chesapeake Bay are the settings of many of my stories. I look forward to sharing these with everyone so you too can know the joy of stories of Accomack, Onancock, Harborton, Onley, Wallops Island, and more.

Concluding Thoughts

Accents are complicated. They are used to make judgments that are often unfair and completely uncalled for. They are used as a deciding factor in job interviews and by random people we meet in passing for an introduction.

“An accent comes with a connotation. You think you know if someone is smart or stupid because of their accent. And yet the truth is an accent is not a measure of intelligence, it’s just someone speaking your language with the rules of theirs.”

Trevor Noah Afraid of the Dark

In Trevor Noah’s quote, which I love, I think dialect comes into play. A dialect is a particular form of a language specific to a region. Think about an accent as a language being spoken with the rules of a dialect or another language than the one the listener thinks is “normal”. That’s it.

So… Next time you want to correct someone for pronouncing something “wrong”, pay attention. Is that how they always pronounce it? Are they consistent? Is that how everyone pronounces that word where they’re from? Maybe it’s okay to not correct accents that are different from your own. Besides, it’s on both of you to adjust during the conversation to improve communication.

So what do you think? If I slip up and say a word (or a lot of words) with my rounded, drop vowels and soft start consonants will it bother you too much for me to make videos or podcasts? Should I do both formats and put subtitles on the videos? Let me know in the comments!

Things That Influence My Writing: Missing And Unidentified

Why Am I Drawn To The Stories Of Missing People?

I have a tendency to wander off – in grocery stores, in parking lots, in Costco. I get this trait from my father. At one point this led to an interesting scenario where I was 17 and in the back of a police car, but that’s a story for after I’m dead.

This is why I wear a GPS enabled watch with Find My Friends and cell service. It’s because my husband loves me and genuinely cares for my safety and is the only person on this planet that has access to that information in case he can’t find me one of these times I’ve wandered off somewhere. Flowers and books can be distracting when you’re in the woods.

There are a lot of people like me in this world. And there are a lot of people mixed up in bad 💩 one way or another. I look at these cases and I see missing people that could have been me, but I’ve always found my way back. I’ve never been lost – for some reason I have a confident sense of direction even when in wilderness areas. I can’t explain that part, but I bet many of these people felt the same way – they tripped and fell without a way for someone to find them.

I think about their families and that’s where I get stuck. I struggle with understanding extremes of emotions – I tend to shut down instead. I think about how many of those families also shut down and the generations down the line that shutting down impacts. It’s like a death with no closure – it’s so much worse because it’s unknown.

Montana has a huge number of missing persons and cold cases. A lot of these cases are children and there is some suspicion that some of these kids end up in Canada, human trafficking, (sometimes both of those), and worse.

Unidentified Remains

For more information: https://canadasmissing.ca/index-eng.htm

The world is full of unidentified bodies and missing persons. Some of the reconstruction methods for unidentified bodies are better than others – the (Combination) Manchester Method used in the video above is one of the better methods and is a more recent improvement. And all of these bodies are missing their stories.

With these newer methods we are finally putting faces to the skeletons of unidentified remains. These faces have helped family members identify lost loved ones years after their disappearance and finally put what happened to them to rest.

Last autumn I listened to The Disappearance of Des on my commute. It’s a podcast about Desmond Francis Carr – an Australian man who died in 1979. It was when I started listening to missing persons podcasts that I realized just how many unsolved disappearances. In fact, every few years a news network like NPR in 2013, or even Local News Stations in 2019 notes just how many cases go unsolved and that some states seem to have more than others – in that report Alaska, Arizona, and Oregon has the top 3 lead, with Georgia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts having the fewest missing people per 100,000 residents.

According to NAMUS the United States has 4,400 unidentified bodies found every year and 600,000 people go missing. I think of the number of lives impacted by those 600,000 missing stories and then I realize that’s why all of those podcasts exist. That’s why people need to keep talking about these missing people.

Recent Cases In Montana

As of Friday, 56 children are missing in the state of Montana. The demographics break down as follows:

Here’s a nifty chart I made for everyone to show the comparison.

Without equal representation in both sex categories, I can’t run a full analysis, so I had to throw one of the categories out. If we focus on just the white and native children and look to see if there’s any statistically significant difference between the numbers of children missing in these groups, there isn’t (this is assuming boys and girls all have equal representation within the population).

There are going to be those that argue with me about the inaccuracies of this analysis because of the identities of these children. If the identity is impacting the way the child is now presenting to the world that’s important information that people should come forward about, but that is not information available on the sheet provided by Montana DOJ. I am working only with that information.

I ran it with a generous 95% confidence interval:

The chi-square statistic is 0.1922. The p-value is .661126. Not significant at p < .05


The chi-square statistic with Yates correction is 0.0195. The p-value is .889073. Not significant at p < .05.

There is one thing that is significant though – these populations are supposed to be statistically different. Only 6% of Montana’s population is Native American, so why are 37.5% of missing children from that demographic? If children were being selected randomly from the population, then the distribution should be proportionate to our population, not insignificantly different between the two groups.

That would mean that if missing children were proportionate we would expect only 3.36/56 missing children to be Native American versus the reality of 21/56 missing children (following the percentages mentioned above). Comparing these proportions with a one-tailed Z-test and a generous significance level of 0.05:

The value of z is -4.0403. The value of p is < .00001. The result is significant at p < .05.

NAMUS has a special program in place because of this issue. You can check out the United States Department of Justice’s data sheet here. Montana is one of the states that has not yet passed legislation mandating case entry into this database. I understand that a lot of decisions will need to be worked out.

Anyways, that’s a lot of rambling. This is a heavy subject to write about. If you have any interest in this topic consider volunteering your time to write about a missing person cold case for some form of media. There are a lot out there – more than have been written about.

Thank you for reading. Without you these little bits of data aren’t anything – communication requires a recipient and for you I am grateful.