It was February 2014 when the first of Buck Birdsong’s calves turned up dead. He’d heard the unnatural wail of its despairing mother, and after investigating he discovered the calf lying cold and stiff beneath a tree. Finding dead animals on his ranch was not all that out of the ordinary, but Birdsong couldn’t immediately identify what had caused the calf to die. He might have chalked it up to bad luck or a freak accident, until the same thing happened again a few days later, again with no clear cause. And then again a week after that, another calf died. Pretty soon it was clear that something—or someone—was killing his calves, and he set out to learn what, who, and, most importantly, why.
For the September issue, writer-at-large Leif Reigstad traveled out to Longview to meet Birdsong and try to get to the bottom of this mysterious killing spree that has now seen eighteen of Birdsong’s calves killed. It’s a mystery that has left local law enforcement, as well as the Birdsong family, desperate and disheartened, and Buck at the end of his rope. The Birdsongs have long been a fixture in the Longview community, and Buck’s neighbors say he is a standup guy with few if any enemies. Who would be doing this? Neither Birdsong, nor law enforcement, could say, but investigators are certain of one thing—the killing of the calves is almost surely intentional.
In this month’s episode of Behind the Lines, available only for subscribers, listen as writer Leif Reigstad takes us through his trip to Longview, his impressions of Birdsong, and where the investigation currently stands. It’s a story that will confuse and enrage you, and one that isn’t yet over.