ASSAWOMAN, Va. (WAVY) - A teenager on the Eastern Shore says a piece of raw chicken fell from the sky and grazed her helmet during a horseback riding lesson.
Officials say it happened last Wednesday at Queen Hive Farm in Assawoman. Cassie Bernard, 15, says she and a horse named "Sparky" were about to clear a jump when the chicken hit her riding helmet.
"It felt like a little piece, like something just tapping," said Bernard.
She and Sparky were one of three pairs out in the ring that evening receiving instruction from farm owner Jennifer Cording.
"I looked down at it and remember thinking...is that a raw piece of meat?" said Susan Dedicatoria, another student in the riding lesson.
Cording says there were three pieces, one as long as a foot. It was one of the smaller pieces that hit Bernard.
"It didn't have any feathers, nothing like that," she said.
Bruce Penland, a parent who also helps out around the farm, saw the chicken fall from the sky, too. He says the raw pieces were very fresh and appeared to be clean, aside from the dirt on the ground.
And they joke, if it weren't for that dirt, they could have had chicken for dinner, if only they knew where it came from.
A local bird expert says sea gulls probably dropped the food mid flight. The expert says the culprits also could be crows, but gulls are known to fly in large groups and fight over food.
"We all immediately looked up because we thought a bird or something had dropped something," said Cording. "But there were no birds around."
WAVY.com found gulls and other birds circling the Tyson poultry plant, located three miles from the farm.
Tyson spokesperson Worth Sparkman issued the following statement: "We don't know the source of the materials that were seen on this farm. We can tell you we don't have the only poultry plant in the area and that when we transport by-products our trucks are loaded inside, are covered with tarps and that we minimize the time each truck sits idle. The trailers are unloaded in covered areas and each trailer is washed once it's emptied."
WAVY.com also asked the Department of Environmental Quality about the incident. The DEQ is investigating and inspectors say they searched both the Tyson and Perdue chicken plants on the Eastern Shore and found no evidence that either was the source.
And, to add to the mystery, there's no way to test the chicken, because another animal dug it up back at the farm.
"It was missing," said Penland, who buried the chicken with a shovel, deep in the dirt at the farm. "The evidence was missing the next morning."
Gone, like it came, without explanation.
"Strange things happen on a farm," laughed Cording.
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