Beck's Blog

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CropTalk: Unearthing Alfred

July 2019

Published on Thursday, July 04, 2019

A really long time ago on land 100 miles south of Beck’s headquarters in Atlanta, Indiana, a six-ton mastodon found his final resting place.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the spring of 2019 when Joe Schepman, a farmer and Beck’s President’s Club member from Seymour, Indiana, received an unusual phone call – a call that turned Joe into a bit of a local celebrity. Joe answered the call from the Jackson County Conservation Officer who alerted him that the excavation crew putting in a city sewer line discovered bones on his farm.

At the time, all Joe knew was that they were not human remains. His first thought was that they were probably cow bones or something similar. But once he arrived on the farm, what he saw laid out in the back of a pickup truck was like nothing he had ever seen before, and he knew they most certainly were not cow bones.

After a call with an expert at the Indiana State Museum, it was clear these remains were from a mastodon.

“I’ve learned more about mastodons than I probably wanted to know,” Joe laughed. “I’ve heard of mastodons just by watching the Discovery® channel, but I had no idea how big these animals were. Looking at these bones, you really get a good perspective on how big this thing might have been.” 

Based on the size of the tusk, it was estimated that this mastodon was a male and was about 9 or 10 ft. tall at the shoulder. A 4-ft. section of the tusk was discovered, along with a portion of the animal’s leg and skull bones. Thanks to radiocarbon dating, it was estimated that this mastodon roamed the earth more than 13,000 years ago and died at about 40 or 50 years old.

“I had the bones at my farm for probably a week after the discovery,” Joe said. “I decided I did not need to keep them. The bone, especially the tusk, changed so much during the time I had it. It started drying out and needed to be taken care of.”

Ron Richards from the Indiana State Museum came out to the Schepman farm to look at the bones. After review, the museum graciously accepted the remains from the Schepman family. After going through a preservation process, the bones will be displayed at the museum as “Alfred: The Schepman Farm Mastodon.”

“My grandpa’s name was Alfred, so we decided to name the mastodon Alfred,” Joe smiled. “My favorite thing about it is knowing the bones are at the state museum and are going to be preserved and taken care of. People will be able to go there and see there are bones from Jackson County. My kids and grandkids and their kids can go there and see them someday. They’ll get to see them years and years from now.” 

Joe has become a local celebrity, according to friends at home. He has made appearances on news stations and in print publications in Louisville, Indianapolis, and small towns across the region. A friend even spotted him on the CBS morning show while at the Denver International Airport.

Even with the national media attention and the honor of having an ancient discovery on display at a museum, Joe remains a humble farmer from Seymour, Indiana, working the land where he was born and raised. 

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Author: Ashley Heyen

Categories: CropTalk, 2019

Tags: CropTalk, 2019

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