Writer/editor/audio producer

When You Find a Mammoth on Your Farm


When You Find a Mammoth on Your Farm

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Most mornings, James Bristle is up by 6:30. When the ground is frozen and the corn, soy, and wheat have all been harvested, maybe he can take a moment to sit and read the paper over breakfast. But not for too long. Bristle also raises Angus steer on the gently rolling farmland his family purchased in 1956. No matter how tired or cold he is—and Michigan winters are long and bitter—Bristle has to feed the herd, more than 100-head strong, and shake loose bales of hay for the cattle to bed down on.

Then there’s the paperwork to sift, or deliveries to shepherd, or seed corn to store for other farmers until the thaw. The land itself requires upkeep, too, on patches that are too dry or where water is pooling. Even in that narrow window when the fields aren’t full, Bristle’s schedule isn’t fallow; he’s crisscrossing the barns, toolshed, and bunker silos, or working some corner of the 585 acres.

That’s what he was doing, one day in 2015, when he struck a woolly mammoth with a backhoe.