Sunday, May 09, 2010

 

Night of the Saucermen


Hokay, fess-up,muchachos. How many times have you been asked whether you believe in flying saucers? How many times have you wondered whether you do or not? Truth is, flying saucers, UFOs, have little to do with astronomy, amateur or professional. They could just as easily have been “assigned” to meteorology—perhaps with some justification. They really only intersect with our art and science when it comes to identifying the commonplace sky objects the public typically and often confuses for spaceships. You would be absolutely gobsmacked to learn how many Joe and Jane Sixpacks have mistaken the good, ol’ friendly Moon for maleficent visitors from Zeta Reticuli II.

What is the truth behind what Karl Jung called “a modern myth of things seen in the sky”? That tale is a long, twisting, and slippery one. Maybe one that deserves more real study than it gets despite the seeming absurdity of the subject. Which doesn’t mean I necessarily think the saucers are objectively real. I do think a subject that’s had such legs (people have been seeing things that sound a lot like flying saucers since the dawn of recorded history, apparently) deserves some serious attention, whether or not it really is what it appears to be. What you tell Mom and Pop when they ask after the saucers at the Hoot ‘n Holler AS’ yearly public star party is for you to decide, but here’s what I know and think about ‘em starting with a very brief, a way too brief, outline of the history of this tortuously complex phenomenon.

Yeah, it seems pretty clear (as clear as anything ever gets in the saucer business) people have been seeing and reporting odd things in the sky since, well, since forever. There was a substantial “flap” (as a large number of sightings is called) in the 1890s, with Earthlings reporting things they called “airships,” which the objects seemed to resemble, maybe in the same way our saucers seem to resemble spacecraft. But the story stretches far back beyond that, at least to medieval times, if not much earlier, with “dragons” and “demons” in the heavens. Maybe, anyhow. Once you get earlier than the Enlightenment, it’s often hard to tell what is a report of a physical event and what is a depiction of a religious experience.

The figure carved on an Inca temple wall LOOKS to us like a man in a spacesuit, but the makers quite likely meant nothing of the sort. It may not have been designed to represent any sort of external reality at all, but, instead, an internal, mystical reality. That’s not a spacesuit; that is the HOLY SPIRIT. “Well, Unk Rod,” you might say, “what if that GOD WAS REALLY A VISITING SPACEMAN?” Anything is possible, I reckon, but without evidence, concluding, as Erich Von Daniken has notoriously done, that any ancient artifact that looks remotely like a spaceship or a spaceman is indeed that, is foolish. I discount any “sightings” from times prior to the industrial revolution. Much earlier and it is just too hard to tell—often even for trained anthropologists and archaeologists—what our ancestors intended. We’re safe to ascribe most odd-looking ancient artifacts to religious myth and nothing else, I think.

Anyhoo, there is no doubt when the modern Flying Saucer Era begins; it begins in 1947 with Kenneth Arnold’s landmark sighting. Mr. Arnold was a business man, but also a member of the Civil Air Patrol and an enthusiastic and experienced aviator. On June 24, 1947, he was buzzing along near Mount Rainier, assisting in the hunt for a downed aircraft, when he caught sight of a formation of funny-looking craft. What he saw he summed up in a relatively few descriptive words:
It was while I was searching for this crash that I noticed a terrific blue flash pass the nose of my airplane. I noticed that the flash came from a train of very peculiar-looking objects that were rapidly approaching Mt. Rainier at about 107 degrees. This train of objects were 9 in number. I assumed at the time they were a new formation or a new type of jet, though I was baffled by the fact that they did not have any tails. They passed almost directly in front of me, but at a distance of about 23 miles, which is not very great in the air. I judged their wingspan to be at least 100 feet across. Their sighing [sic] did not particularly disturb me at the time, except that I had never seen planes of tha[t] type.
There are a couple of notable things here. Firstly, the character of the witness was such that his veracity wasn’t much questioned. Oh, the Air Force folks said they’d thought he’d seen some kind of reflection or mirage, but nobody seems to have doubted the pilot had seen something.

The most interesting thing about Arnold’s sighting, though? He described half-moon, crescent shapes that he went on to say moved like saucers skipping across water. He didn’t say they were shaped like saucers, but, again, that they moved like saucers. The press immediately produced the wonderfully evocative “flying saucers” from that. The odd thing? The truly weird thing? People immediately began seeing craft that didn’t just move like saucers, but which also looked like saucers. What does this say about the Phenomenon and/or its witnesses? That I do not know, muchachos, but I suspect it is something important.

And so it began. Through the 1950s and into the 1960s, on to the 1970s, and to this day normal, average folks, and not just the naïve backwoodsmen as the more sophisticated among us find comforting to believe, have looked up and seen the weird, the bizarre, the outré, the ALIEN. And the longer this has gone on, the more confusing and strange the reports have become.

Way too strange and elusive for the USAF, anyhow (or so they’d have us believe). The Air Force, finally tired of chasing its metaphorical tail over the UFOs, attempted to wash its hands of the whole affair in the late 60s, closing down its (public) investigatory organ, Project Bluebook, after the Government paid for a study of the Phenomenon, which came to be known as The Condon Report. Even that did not come easy, as the study was fraught with internal dissent. Some of the participants realized they were not being paid to do a serious study of UFOs, but merely to debunk them, and objected strenuously.

The damned saucers would have none of this, of course, barely pausing their capricious reconnaissance. After The Condon Report was released in 1968, there was a dearth of UFOs for a little while. Maybe because fewer people were looking for or expecting to see them. Or simply because the Phenomenon was following its own schedule as it had been doing all along. Even a bare two decades into the mess, it was apparent there were periods of lesser and greater activity. Strangely, these flaps seem to correlate, as I believe the French astronomer-cum-UFOlogist, Jacques Vallee, first observed, with the oppositions of the planet Mars. What the UFOs and their drivers—if any—have to do with the apparently barren Red Planet is, like most things in saucer-land, not at all clear.

One thing I do know: the flying saucers had a noticeable impact on American culture almost right away. Not only were saucers everywhere by the early 1950s—on the new TV sets, in the movies, and in cheap paperback books—they were in the collective consciousness, or maybe collective unconsciousness to an amazing degree. So much so that some saucer followers began to treat the Whole Big Thing as a quasi-religious experience. They flocked to goobers like George Adamski, who claimed not just to have seen UFOs, but to have ridden in them. It didn’t take much looking to see these “contactees” were either self-deluded or were charlatans, but still the public threw boatloads of cash at ‘em.

Why? To some extent, the saucers were tied up with the Cold War. The constant fear of thermonuclear immolation, which you sprouts thankfully have not had to endure, was bound to manifest in some weird ways. And saucers were likely one of ‘em. When there doesn’t seem anywhere to turn in desperate times, the human mind latches onto any “out” it can find, and the beautiful, human-like Space Brothers the contactees found inside the flying saucers were that. These aliens, sometimes from unknown planets with strange mellifluous names, sometimes from more mundane places like Venus, promised peace if only we would listen to messengers like ol’ Georgie A.

It’d be nice to tie the UFOs up in a neat package with the U.S. – Soviet nuclear standoff, but, as usual, them dadgummed discs just won’t be pinned down. They continued to fly e’en during the few thawings of the Cold War, and continue to patrol our skies now that it is over. The contactee period is an interesting part of saucer history, but it has no revelations to offer, other than ones about human psychology. Amusingly enough, and typical for the constantly elusive and morphing Phenomenon, serious saucer researchers, who looked down their noses at the contactees and their fans, would soon have their own contactees, even if they weren’t called that and didn’t (always) preach Cosmic Brotherhood.

Flaps have come and gone over six decades, and the Phenomenon, or at least our take on it, has changed and evolved. In the beginning, in the 50s, it was shiny saucers seen in the sky from afar. The sixties brought tales of landings and encounters with “flying saucer occupants” (as the late Coral Lorenzin called them) like the famous Lonnie Zamora case, and, most of all, the one that set the stage for what was to follow, the Barney and Betty Hill “interrupted journey.”

In this odd story (or event, if you prefer) the Hills were taken aboard a craft for (apparently) a medical exam. It wouldn’t be long after Betty and Barney’s terrifying experience that abductees, as these experiencers would come to be known, would take center stage in the saucer game, becoming the major focus of even the more lucid saucer enthusiasts, who were now callin’ themselves “UFOlogists.”

With The Condon Report’s debunking at least tentatively accepted by a fair portion of the public, some 1970s UFOlogists switched gears for a while, ignoring the saucers in the skies for the ones in the history books. No doubt quite a few were inspired by the surprising success (in making money, at least) of Erich Von Daniken and the ancient astronauts he championed in his bestseller, Chariots of the Gods. There was no sweeping the Phenomenon’s ever present High Strangeness factor under the rug, however. Those Ufologists who now preferred to concentrate on combing archives and archaeological digs for The Truth or battling the Air Force for secret documents that would REVEAL EVERYTHING, soon found themselves eclipsed.

Almost unnoticed at first, some disturbing and strange goings-on were taking place in the less visited corners of the U.S. of A.—if you chose to believe the stories the few remaining and more colorful flying saucer magazines were publishing. Firmly in the strange category was the tale of a young lumberjack, one Travis Walton, who claimed he was snatched from an Arizona forest in 1975. He went on to describe his abductee experiences, which included a horrifying medical exam, in graphic detail. How much credence you put in Walton’s story depended on, as it usually does in the UFOlogy biz, whose “facts” you chose to believe. One thing was obvious: quite a bit of cash was made off the book and movie about Walton’s purported encounter, Fire in the Sky.

More disturbing and certainly more credible, were the scores of sighting reported at Strategic Air Command ICBM missile launch and launch control facilities and at least one nuclear weapons “dump” in 1975. There is little doubt something was seen and something happened in these cases, but, as always, it’s not clear just what that was.

In the 1980s, the abduction dam broke. The focus was off the saucers themselves and on to the folks (?) flying ‘em. Which, it appeared, were little gray-colored dudes with big black eyes and a lust for subjecting unwilling humans to painful medical examinations and seemingly nonsensical “experiments.” Soon, the “New Age” or “Occult” or “Sociology” section of the local book store was burtsing with scare stories of this sort, led by one called Communion.

Communion wasn’t a ghost-written repetition of some hillbilly’s encounters with the “Greys” and their dreaded anal probe, but, instead, was the firsthand account of a second-string horror writer (ferociously talented but not making money like Stephen King), Whitley Streiber. I was gobsmacked by the book when I read it. Whitley’s tale of nights of alien terror that eventually culminate in some glimmer of greater understanding, and, yes, communion, with entities he doesn’t necessarily identify as aliens, has the ring of truth. The flip side of that, of course, as it always is, is that Mr. Streiber made a lot of money (and, yep, a movie) off the book, is skilled at making his readers believe, and that there was no hard evidence. All we have is testimonials as to his truthfulness and marginally corroborating eye-witness testimony. Sigh.

That is the hell of the thing. I don’t know about you, but there is within me the will to believe in UFOs. Yes, I WANT TO BELIEVE. Oh, I don’t care pea-turkey about the silly stories of UNDERGROUND ALIEN BASES which are PART OF A MASTER PLAN FOR ALIEN CONQUEST. That is risible. But how fantastic it would be to finally have indisputable proof of the existence of an intelligent, advanced alien civilization, not via some faint hum heard in a radio telescope, but from a nuts-and-bolts spacecraft landing in the backyard! Alas, the final revelation, whether from the skies or from some hidden Air Force file, is always just around the next bend in the river. I’ve heard some good saucer stories over the years, but, in the end, that is all they were.

My personal experiences with the UFOs? Few. None, really. My saucer story, such as it is, begins with a movie. Not Invasion of the Saucermen, which featured the bug-eyed louts seen at the top of the page, but The Mysterians, who I encountered at the normally friendly ol’ Roxy Theater. I met ‘em because Mama, a huge Frank Edwards and Donald Keyhoe fan, was positively hooked on UFOs for a while. The Mysterians, which she was all het-up about, was one of Japan’s Toho Company’s epics. Toho? You know, the people who did Godzilla. It was much like the giant lizard film in many ways, except that in The Mysterians the hordes of plastic Japanese tanks were facing their inevitable melting not from a radioactive lizard, but from radioactive flying saucers jam-packed with radioactive aliens. Everything in these movies, it seemed, was radioactive. I suppose because what all these films were really about was Hiroshima and Nagasaki being replayed and dissected in the Japanese subconscious.

I was way too unsophisticated to recognize that fact, however. All I knew was evil flying saucers were on the attack, led by a terrifying GIANT ROBOT, the Moguera. I just looked at the film the other night, for the first time in near fifty years, and found the robot far more comical than terrifying. Despite the fact that he stomps plenty of buildings (and people), and shoots radioactive rays from his eyes, his pointy snout (“Moguera” is Japanese for “mole”) makes him look benign and friendly. Nevertheless, back in the hallowed Day I and plenty of the other kids in the theatre on that Saturday night were absolutely terrified. That damned Moguera was huge on the big screen, and the droning air-raid sirens and terrified villagers trying to evacuate their town were all too evocative of the frightening duck-and-cover drills at school—even if I couldn’t put that into words. Yeah, I was scared. But also fascinated.

That was the start, and for one summer Mama and me positively doted on the discs, much to my Old Man’s amusement and chagrin. We bought and read every UFO book and cheap saucer magazine we could get our hands on (Brad Steiger’s Flying Saucers are Hostile was one of our faves, along with his Strangers from the Skies). Mama seemed to delight mostly in the weird and frightening aspects, but for me it was a two edged sword. I was just delighted that evidence of an alien civilization was OBVIOUSLY right around the corner. That other edge, though, which began to saw at me in right smart fashion, was that the Mysterians were terrifying, and I suspected the real thing, as Mama feared, would be too.

Which began to affect my observing. I’d be glued to the eyepiece in a vain attempt to discern M74 in my puny Palomar Junior, when I’d begin to get spooked. Yes, I was in my friendly backyard, but those derned Mysterians had kidnapped Earth women right out of their houses. Snatching me from the backyard oughta be like shooting fish in a barrel for real aliens. Yeah, even in my slightly demented state the whole thing seemed faintly ridiculous…but only by the light of day. Out in the dark, it was sometimes all I could do to keep from running inside, ducking into my room, and hiding under the covers. I persevered, but there were some nervous nights out there by myself.

Luckily, this phase didn’t last long. For one thing, I began to wonder why a race who could traverse the dark light years with ease would be at all concerned with dumb little ol’ me. I certainly wasn’t a pretty, young chick. Didn’t have much to offer ‘em as far as Earthly knowledge, either; I’d made a “B” on my last Geography test. I also began to believe that any race that could perform such marvels must necessarily be more wise than evil, even if they might seem scary to the primitive likes of us. Even more than either of those things, I began to wonder where the hell they were.

Despite night after night out in the dark, often into the wee hours on the weekends and during the Summer (when I could fly under Mama’s radar, anyhow) I never saw anything that even hinted at saucerness. Closest I came was early one June Saturday morn when a blindingly bright light skimmed toward me over the trees. Was this it? Should I run? Should I greet the visitors? Should I at the very least try to snap a picture with my trusty Argus Seventy-Five with which I’d been making Moon Pictures just a few hours earlier? As I was reaching for the camera, the familiar sound of multiple jet engines broke the silence, and I understood I’d been fooled by an all too Earthly airplane heading almost but not quite straight at me with its landing lights on. This encounter with a USAF KC-135 was purty much the end of my expectations of experiencing the Visitors for myself, and put a big Swiss cheese hole in my belief in the reality of the Phenomenon.

That hasn’t changed over the intervening years. I have seen plenty of odd things in the sky, including a group of satellites flying formation. That looked spooky, lemme tell you, but turned out to be nothing more otherworldly than the U.S. Navy’s Ocean Surveillance Satellites.

Occasionally, I have been totally stumped for a while, but only for a while. My friend Pat and I were puzzled for quite some time by an odd-looking thing we saw from his observatory one dark night. Bright light. In binoculars, part of it seemed to be rotating. Suddenly, smaller bright objects were emitted and seemed to fly away. Was this THE MOTHERSHIP? The reality was not nearly so romantic. What we saw was, I eventually decided, a Navy E2-C or similar aircraft with a rotating radome running an exercise, dropping flares to counter “enemy” heat-seeking missiles. Probably. Shucks. Since I hadn’t seen a saucer in damned near 50 years of nights, I finally reluctantly concluded they must be rare—maybe to extinction—darnit.

Don’t get me wrong. I still find the Phenomenon interesting—and certainly entertaining—but it’s been a long time since I put as much credence in it as I did when I was a young sprout ogling the pictures of flung hubcaps that graced the pages of True’s Report on Flying Saucers. I found myself increasingly unable to believe the accounts of even the seemingly honest souls who saw the damned things. Years of doing public star parties, watching lay folk look at and talk about the sky, and hearing their questions about it has led me to believe that almost all sightings that do not involve the usual culprits—aircraft seen in unusual aspects, balloons, and weather phenomena—are nothing more strange than everyday astronomical objects: the Sun, the Moon, the planets, spacecraft, and meteors.

Hell, you don’t even have to go to bolides or reentering satellites to explain most UFO encounters quite satisfactorily. I used to be skeptical that the Moon or Venus could be mistaken for an alien spacecraft, and looked at explanations that blamed those easily identifiable (I thought) objects as utterly disingenuous. Till I came to understand that people who never much look at the sky can mistake anything for a UFO. The Moon is big and oddly colored when it’s near the horizon and seems to pace you as you walk or drive along. Mix in the power of suggestion and some flying saucer specials on the cotton picking History Channel, and what do you have? ALIENS! Venus is bright and noticeable. Stare at it for long and small motions of the human eye will make it seems to jog around. SAUCER!

What about the current craze for abductions? It’s leveled off after being the ne plus ultra of UFOlogy through the 1990s, but the idea that small, gray aliens with big heads are creeping into our bedrooms, often to abduct our women just like the Mysterians did, hangs on. What do I think of that? I don’t know. It’s possible these people are experiencing something, perhaps some “alternate reality” like the late John Keel talked about in his many thoughtful and thought provoking books. Or they may not be experiencing any reality, alternate or otherwise. Frankly, muchachos, when you read, really read, some of these accounts (usually given under hypnosis), it becomes pretty clear some Abductees are describing nothing more unusual than a bad dream

“But Uncle Rod, but Uncle Rod, how come they all describe the same gray aliens with big heads and big eyes?” Not much mystery there, Skeezix. Every tabloid magazine and tabloid TV show has been using that archetypal figure as the standard alien since abductions became hot-hot-hot. The “Grey” has been in the public eye for damned near two decades. I also note our old pals, The Saucermen, looked a lot like the Greys (and had a similar yen for Earth girls) and predated them by at least a decade.

There is one other 400-pound gorilla in modern UFOlogy we have not touched upon yet, the Roswell Crash. Something does appear to have happened out in New Mexico in ’47. The members of the Air Force’s 509th Composite Group stationed in Roswell, the Wing that dropped The Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, seem to have thought they’d found something very unusual—for a while at least. The problem with Roswell is that a couple of generations of researchers, both for and agin the saucer crash hypothesis (including the Air Force in the latter category) have so muddied the waters and contaminated the few remaining witnesses and the scene that, unless some previously unknown data is unearthed by some responsible person, we are never likely to know The Truth—whatever the hell that is.

So, in my estimation, there is nothing at all to the UFO phenomenon? Given the lack of evidence—that much wished-for alien ashtray ain’t turned up despite sixty years of ardent UFOlogy—I must reluctantly admit that, no, there probably ain’t, after all, anything to it. Probably. There does remain that residue, those cases, like the multiple sighting in the Midwest ICBM fields, that are not easily explicable. If we had a little more data, would even these cases evaporate? Well, maybe. On that other hand, some of our own, some astronomers, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, and Clyde Tombaugh, for example, came to believe there is indeed something to the wily Phenomenon.

Ground truth? For me? I believe any definitive answer to the UFO question, yay or nay, is likely to be a long, long time coming—if ever. Generations of true believers, skeptics, and our Government haven’t just muddied the waters of Roswell, they’ve so fouled the nest of UFOlogy with disinformation and confusion (sewn for various and sundry reasons) that even if The Final Answer did come, nobody would ever believe it.

The saucers seem to be in abeyance in this new century. There are still sightings, but it’s been a long while since there’s been a big flap or even a headline-grabbing case like the one down here on the coast in 1973 where a couple of Pascagoula river fishermen claimed they were abducted by “space robots.” Given the discs’ habits, I suspect they will soon be back, though, treading their inexplicable paths across the sky, confounding the skeptical and gullible alike. Me? Let ‘em come, I say. It’s been a long time since I’ve let them pesky flying saucers disturb my quiet contemplation of M74, muchachos.

Comments:
Great post Unk.

I remember when I was a wee lad (back in the 70's) hearing stories on the news and seeing some of those UFO magazines on the newsstands. And of course, the TV show In Search Of... with Mr. Spock as the narrator was always full of great stories of UFO's, lake monsters, and ghosts.

A lot of nostalgia in all that. I never really grew out of it, though I matured quite a bit when I read Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World. And now, even though I'm much more critical about what I see and read, I still take a lot of pleasure in watching "documentaries" on the History channel.

By the way, I've gotten into a bad habit of searching out copies of the classic sci-fi movies you mention from time-to-time. My wife rolls her eyes a bit when I put them on, but it gives me something to do on cloudy nights. :^)
 
Hi Mike:

She's probably sneakin' off and readin' 'em when you are not lookin'! :-)
 
Err..."watchin' 'em"... ;-)

BTW, I have seen a copy of _The Mysterians_ in BestBuy in fairly recent times, and it's probably a better print than what I orderned off'n eBay, which turned out to be, big surprise, a bootleg. LOL.
 
I'm surprised you've never seen a UFO, since they seem to be drawn to the swamp lands like the Virgin Mary is to French toast. I've only had one scary episode in my nearly 50 years of observing. The object turned out to be a blimp, and now that I live near a small airport that frequently hosts blimps, I'm convinced that a lot of UFO reports were due to blimps, possibly military, possibly experimental.

I do think Hawking is right when he says we really should hope the aliens don't come. It's quite possible that we would not like them at all, and they would not like us, if they deigned to regard us at all. They might simply exterminate us on site, or colonize Earth, or take vast quantities of resources before leaving.

Ultimately, the world is not like Star Trek.
 
Wow, Unc' Rod - Great article! Kinda parallels my own journey through this bizarre minefield. "CE3K" (Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind) was another unit impulse in the public mind's reaction to all this.

My "UFO" experience was during a *very* late drive up California's very long and boring Route 5. While desperately trying to stay awake (with limited success) in the middle of nowhere my car was suddenly blindingly lit up from above - just like the truck and mailboxes in CE3K. The beam of light silently and swiftly arced away from me along the highway and vanished. All was silent.

I immediately snapped to full attention and looked everywhere for a cause. Just starlight as far as eye could see.

Suddenly, there it was again, about a quarter mile away. Then came the roar of the cropdusting airplane as it made its hard wing-over turn and zoomed back to the field it was spraying.

Turns out the light is one it used only during the turns to judge height and orientation during the turns - and to avoid power lines. The rest of the flying was downwind of me so I didn't hear it or see it in the starlight.

Shook me up plenty indeed - that I almost considered considering extraterrestrial causes for such a mundane event.

I'm sure many folks have seen things that they didn't discover the causes of, leading to the outrageous "sightings" we've all had to endure...

Jim, 80f5
 
Well, I guess I've always had the attitude of "why not?". Alien spacecraft? Why not? Ghosts? Why Not? Who really knows?

Ah, The Mysterians. What a favorite. I still remember seeing it at the local movie house.

Something that's a lot of fun is a 1950's British sci-fi TV serial called "Quatermass and the Pit". What first appears to be unexploded ordnance dug up during street building outside of London ends up being "something else".

Rod, I hope that the Mrs. is doing well.

Ron
 
I guess I've always kind of believed in "why not?" Alien spacecraft? Why not? Ghosts? Why not? Who really knows? Science does not, and never will, have all of the answers.

Ah, The Mysterians. What a classic. I still remember seeing it at the local movie house.

Here's fun one. British TV showed a Sci-fi serial back in the 50's called "Quatermass and the Pit". A street building team finds what they think is unexploded ordnance while excavating for a new street. But, hmmm, what is it, really?

Rod, I hope that the Mrs is doing well.

Ron
 
Ron, I think this kind of explains it all- works for me....

http://www.terrybisson.com/page6/page6.html

Who wants to meet meat?
 
I enjoyed your UFO post although it's brought to mind many, many troublesome questions over the years from earnest folks asking if I believe in BEMs buzzing around the Earth on 1950s chic dinnerware. These questions trouble me because by inclination and poor training in my long-gone tender years, I'm a smart aleck. I earned a few lumps on my head while learning the tough lesson of biting my tongue before it runs off, dragging me with it, into some trouble or other. Of course, I don't follow that hard-learned lesson every time I should, but I'm old and grizzled enough that an extra knot or two on my head won't make me any less pretty. Heck, they might even improve the view for those unlucky enough to be looking my way.

In spite of my inner smart-aleck shouting otherwise, I do bite down on my tongue, and try to answer these questions rationally. Yet, in spite of my best efforts to not bust a gut while giving a rational answer, the earnest questioners are always disappointed when I say "No, I've not seen any proof that aliens are cruising around the Earth lusting after our women and molesting our cattle." Well, I don't say it quite that way, but no matter how pretty I say it, I see disappointment in their eyes. They didn't really want an answer so much as a blessing. Thank goodness I'm just a simple star gazer, the preacher business is too tough a row to hoe.

Charles
 
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