You come across some unusual things in the NYT archives every now and again:
On the rolling prairie that rises up here to become the wall known as the Rocky Mountains a few miles away, Mark Taliaferro points toward the field where the carcass of a cow was recently found. ''It is not a natural death,'' said Mr. Taliaferro, a cattleman who has been ranching in north-central Montana for more than 25 years. ''When you see it, I tell you, it makes a believer out of you that something weird is going on.''
Eight cow killings have been reported in Montana since June 12, the most recent on Aug. 31. And they all appear similar to the ones that occurred in the 1970's.
For ranchers and law enforcement officials in this remote part of Montana, the last few weeks have dredged up those memories. For several years the prairie country along the east front of mountains was rocked by dozens of cattle deaths in which the carcasses were mutilated. Some law enforcement officials and veterinarians who investigated said they had never seen anything like it.
''We had a bunch of them,'' said Pete Howard, the Choteau County justice of the peace, who was sheriff when the first mutilations hit their peak. ''I've lived in this county all my life and worked on ranches and seen plenty of dead animals, but never did I see an animal with its face mask removed like that.''
Brian Schweitzer, a cattle rancher near Whitefish, Mont., who was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the United States Senate last year, recently found one of his cows killed in the same inexplicable way as the others. ''The brand inspector said it was lightning,'' Mr. Schweitzer said, ''but there was no lightning that night. And it very much looked like those incisions were done with instruments. But I said fine, there's a lot of things I can't explain.'' Mr. Schweitzer valued the loss of one grown steer at about $850.