I Had a Boneyard in the Dakotas

by Michael Carter

It was on twenty acres at the border of the two states. I didn’t do a damn thing wrong, but they shut it down. Thanks to the man with little yellow teeth, you’ve got to go elsewhere for your bones. 

It was like a wrecking yard, for bones. The slaughterhouses and gelatin factories would bring bones by the truckload and dump them in my boneyard. Sometimes hunters would give me bones they found or no longer wanted from their kills. Taxidermists would send me unused portions of mounts. They’d release the beetles on the carcasses until every piece of tissue was devoured and the bones were licked clean, and then they’d bring them to me. 

I had some bison bones for a while, but most were picked up. A virus had wiped out a local herd and ruined the meat. We had to bring in our own beetles for that job. We did it in the plains so the wind would sweep away the stench from rotting flesh and beetle excrement. 

You’d be surprised who wants bones. Collectors, outdoorsy folk looking for skulls to mount on their walls, kids looking for animal teeth. Some people just want a few antlers to throw in the flowerbeds of their home to give it that Western look. A couple hauled away a ton of bones to give to their Siberian husky sled team. They needed the thicker bones that would not fragment easily to prevent the dogs from ingesting splinters. 

People came from all over to search my boneyard. I even put up a sign, “World Famous Boneyard.” 

I’ll never forget the day the man with little yellow teeth showed up. He was a scrawny guy of small stature. He had those little teeth that made me stare at his mouth when he talked. He milled around and then came to the front counter with what appeared to be a human femur. I asked him where he found it. He pointed and said, Right out there in your boneyard with the rest of the bones. I asked him whether he thought it was human. He assured me it wasn’t. He said he was a bone collector and that it was probably a baby bison leg. 

I sold him the bone hoping that would be the end of him, but he came back a few weeks later. This time he found what appeared to be part of a human foot. I asked him about it and he said he thought it was an ape foot, possibly from a zoo. I told him we couldn’t have human remains here, or any protected animal, and all my vendors knew that. I didn’t want it on the premises so I told him to take it, free of charge, and to keep his trap shut. 

I left my cousin in charge that summer while I went to Wyoming for a dig. They were finding all sorts of dinosaur bones in a quarry. When I got back in the fall, my cousin told me a guy had come in and found a human skull. I said, Little yellow teeth, right? You didn’t sell it to him, did you? I knew we had a problem when he didn’t answer. 

It wasn’t much later when the Feds showed up with a warrant and shut me down. They said the guy built a human skeleton with wire and metal hinges to hold it together. It roamed around a neighborhood terrorizing people with a hatchet. I knew what they were talking about because the whole thing was on TV. 

Officers got into a shootout with the skeleton, but without flesh, it was hard to hit. A convenience store owner eventually put it down with his 460 bear gun. The old bones shattered to pieces and metal scraps clanked to the ground. 

They didn’t prosecute me. Instead, they shut down my boneyard and hit me with a heavy fine for selling human remains. They said I couldn’t operate another business for five years, then I could reapply for a license. 

I did so, but I knew bones were no longer for me. I heard the hide business was good, so I got into skins. I don’t even want to tell you what happened when the man with little yellow teeth showed up in my hide shop.

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