campfire recipes into recipes that could cook on a propane stove (so cooking meals turned into a 6 hour affair), and we spiced things up by going swimming in the Verde River on Sunday afternoon. On Monday morning, we began clean-up, and Dan picked up his shirt from the rock that he'd tossed it onto the day before to dry. The shirt was dry, alright, but as he picked it up, a countless number of the biggest Daddy Longlegs spiders I had ever seen boiled out of the arms and neck of the shirt in a fashion that could only be compared with Harry Potter. (They had nestled in it overnight to drink the water, and I may or may not still have nightmares about that image.)
And as if screaming and sitting on top of the cement forest service table wasn't exciting enough, we discovered that my car wouldn't start.
All of these things aren't nearly as weird as finding a body.
When we left Mingus Mountain Campground, we drove downhill for a while on highway 89a, characterized by it's steepness and hairpin turns. It was at one of these hairpin turns that we stopped at the pull over spot, because Sean wanted to take us across the highway for a hike to look at petroglyphs. I was tired from 3 days of camping so I asked him how long the hike would be. "Oh, it's about fifteen minutes." Sure, it was about fifteen minutes, if we jumped into a time-warp and fifteen minutes turned into an hour. Exhausted, we finally made it back to the cars.
And then my car wouldn't start. Again.
As Michael hooked up the jumper cables and began to repeat what we had done earlier, Sean kicked around in the wash alongside the highway. He found the routine garbage, and nothing you would really consider out of the ordinary. But then something was out of the ordinary: a broken piece of sandstone with a man's name on it and the image of crossed tomahawks with the years of his life underneath. You would think finding a headstone would make finding a body less unusual.
But signs that finding a body is unusual:
1. It's off the side of the highway.
2. Not only is it off the side of the highway, it's buried in an unseen wash off the highway, seen now only because an animal clearly dug up part of it.
3. Not only is it buried in a wash off of the highway, but it's in a black plastic bag.
4. And the bones were cut with intention.
5. And now I want to throw up. Or investigate. Whatever comes first.
(Warning: Images are closer than they appear.)
So, I would by lying if I said I wasn't excited about the find. I would also be lying if I said I didn't think of every crime show or movie that featured CSI-like people excavating similar bodies with brushes and tools that look strangely familiar to my dentist's.
Yes, I continued to have car trouble, and at one point I was coasting down the steep 89a with no power steering and no power brakes, but even then I couldn't get my mind off the find. When I contacted the Sheriff's Department to report the found evidence via email (so that I could attach the picture), I offered to take the responding officer to the location, whereafter I actually popped onto ABC's shop website to see if they sold the bullet-proof vest that says WRITER.
Alas, the officer's reply said that he would go out there himself to check it out, and could I please provide a mile marker or a detailed description of the location? Because I didn't know the mile marker (dumb automotive distraction), I described the pull-off location, something that he later described as "shockingly detailed and accurate." He also said that the spine of what he now called the carcass was cut with a band saw (something a butcher would have done) and the size of the scapula (shoulder blade) was so large that the carcass couldn't have been anything other than an elk. The fact that the body was in a trash bag and thrown off the side of the highway was not only common in this area, but evident that it was poaching or unapproved hunting. In other words, thank you, ma'am for overreacting at garbage, but we have it under control.
1. If elk are at minimum two hours away and to the north or the east, why would the bones show up on Mingus Mountain?
Assessment: Either dumb poachers who don't plan ahead, or an elaborate method of disposal.
2. If the body as I still call it were evidence of poaching, why would it be buried off of the highway, and not merely thrown out of the back of the truck onto the side of the highway as is the more common poaching disposal?
Assessment: You may have something there, Watson.
3. Maybe the body wasn't buried, you say, but flooded or covered by mud due to natural sediment in the wash? Okay, we'll play your game: even if the entire wash flooded with mud in Noah-level proportions, do you really think all of that mud could cover an animal that normally weighs 700 pounds and stands up to 5.5 feet at the shoulder? Even if you take all of the meat off of those bones, and even if the poachers were to take a couple of souvenirs like the skull and the rack, there would still easily be a volume that is way too large to merely assume that the mud would naturally cover the whole thing. Maybe it's only half of the bones? Still, it's in a wash, which means the volume of Noah-level flooding automatically has a current to it, something that a wash is naturally designed to redirect. Therefore, the entire wash would have to be filled in with mud for the bag to completely submerge, whereby filling said wash. It would take years worth of rainstorms to erode that mud back out to create the wash again, and it's unlikely that the bag would not likewise be uncovered in those multi-year monsoons. It took an animal to dig into the mud and carve the bag and the pieces out -not 1 million years and a paleontologist.
Assessment: Weather-related burial ruled out.
4. If the elk was cut with a band saw commonly used by butchers, you would naturally assume that the lying poachers would have taken the carcass (okay, I give in) to said butcher, thus displaying not only their non-repentance but also a lack of fear of getting caught, right? So if they weren't afraid of getting caught, why would they have buried the bag?
Assessment: Burial doesn't match the behavior of other poachers.
5. Here's a what-if for ya: What if the bag contains not only the remains of an animal such as an elk, but also the remains of a human? After all, wouldn't a sociopath know that the cops would identify the large scapula and thus decide that investigating the bag wasn't worth his/her time? After all, doesn't it take taxpayer's money to deeply investigate such things in a time when each expense needs to be justified? Wouldn't the killer -yes, killer- know this?
Assessment: I watch too much Sherlock Holmes.