Are we alone in the universe? It’s a question as old as humanity. Since the dawn of time, man has stretched out on cloudless nights and gazed up at the stars. It is in our nature to wonder. We were designed to do so.
Personally, I have my own opinions. If the sun was the size of a basketball and it sat on the goal line of a football field, then the earth would be the size of a BB, and it would sit on the far goal line. There are more stars in the known universe than there are grains of sand in the Sahara Desert. We are truly unimaginably small. If some extraterrestrial intelligence was searching for us, they’d have to be really lucky to tease us out of all the background nothing. However, there nonetheless remain some compelling anecdotes.
When I was a kid, there were apparently not so many lawyers. Whenever my dad would buy a car, the first thing he’d do was cut the seatbelts out with a razor blade. Who wants to keep sitting on those stupid things anyway? As a wee lad, my standard duty posting was standing on the seat next to my dad or stretched out in a position of repose on that shelf underneath the back window. In the event of an accident, I obviously would have made the most horrible squishy little projectile. Alas, dad is a great driver, and God smiled upon us.
Late one evening, we were out driving someplace, and I was stretched out on that shelf staring up into the dark night sky. The family car was one of those ginormous land yacht Oldsmobuicks. The thing was big enough for its own zip code and likely got about the same gas mileage as might your typical aircraft carrier. However, it was the early 1970s, gas was cheap and plentiful, and folks weren’t screaming about climate change all the time. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.
I remember this like it was yesterday. I saw a flying disc swoop down over a nearby cotton field in the darkness. It was round and spinning with multi-colored lights distributed around its circumference. The thing dove low and then banked up and over the road before jetting off into the distance and out of sight. I was perhaps 4- or 5-years-old and didn’t think it remarkable enough to mention to my parents. Maybe I hallucinated the whole thing, but it sure seemed real at the time.
Meddling With Madness
My dad and a college chum were heading out to the deer camp in his old surplus Army jeep sometime around 1958. The moonless night was clear, crisp and cold. The camp house was a big tent built atop a wooden platform, all situated at the apex of the old levee in the Mississippi Delta. As there were no other sources of illumination, my dad pulled the jeep up so that the headlights washed across the structure to ensure nothing was in the way before killing both the jeep and the lights. Everything was instantly engulfed in inky darkness.
Dad got out of the driver’s side while his buddy exited shotgun. As they each reached the approximate respective front fenders, the night was instantly split by a series of piercing white flashes of light. Dad said the light was unimaginably bright and adequate to utterly displace the darkness. He likened it to a strobe on a camera. He said for the moments when it flashed, he could see deep into the woods as though it were mid-day.
The light flashed in a rhythmic series over perhaps three to five seconds. There was no sound at all. As you might imagine, this was a fairly traumatic event for these two unsuspecting young men.
Dad said he fell face down into the leaves involuntarily. He said the shock of the moment was such that his arms and legs simply failed him. His buddy was similarly afflicted, but he fell onto his back. Dad’s pal later described the flashes as a series of bright white balls tracking across the sky. And then, all was black once again.
Dad and his buddy regained their wits in short order and scrambled up the levee into the tent. They got the Coleman lantern ignited with no small difficulty and then sat across from each other at the camp table, trying to make sense of what they had just experienced. Dad confided that had he been alone, he likely would have simply lost his mind and gone screaming off into the woods.
As you might imagine, the etiology of this extraordinary event has been the topic of many a fireside family discussion. Dad always suspected some kind of 1950s-era spy plane. My working theory is a ferrous meteor flashing as its iron core vaporized in the atmosphere. Or perhaps it was indeed an alien spacecraft crewed by some interstellar pranksters, the extraterrestrial versions of teenage boys. If that is the case, my dad tells me they likely got an eyeful. He said that, as he cowered helplessly and prostrate in the wet leaves, he did not feel that he was a terribly impressive representative of the human species.