Monday, July 26, 2010

The Aliens Have Landed

A brief discourse on appearances: What you think you see isn't always what you get.

When I was a boy, there came a strange occurrence one fine summer evening. Residents of a neighborhood not far from where we lived heard an eerie whistling noise, described variously as the sound of a falling bomb, a sound-effect from a monster movie, and the scream of a demented banshee. This was followed by something impacting the ground in somebody's front yard hard enough to shake nearby houses, splash grass and dirt every which way, as if they were liquid, resulting in a small, but deep, crater in the lawn.

Oh, my -- it's the Martians!

Well, probably nobody really believed that except the truly paranoid mid-1950's woo-woos, but it certainly it did seem as if a meteorite had impacted. Somebody called the fire department, the police showed up, and eventually, somebody with a shovel started digging.

What they found was a hand-sized mangled chunk of steel, obviously man-made (or maybe alien-made!), and for a few hours, this was cause for much wonder. No aircraft were reported in the area at the time, and there weren't a lot of Sputniks and Explorers in orbit.

It was a puzzler.

Until somebody at The Plant -- a generic term for the huge petrochemical complex on the Mississippi River in North Baton Rouge -- made the connection: A large turbine had blown apart, fortunately not injuring anybody. Such was the force of the failure that it lofted a piece of the shattered rotor high enough into the air to come screaming down a couple miles away.

In the days before instant communication, nobody thought to link the two together; outside The Plant, nobody even knew about the turbine.. So it was a simple, if didn't-happen-ever-day explanation. A machine exploded, and a piece of the resulting shrapnel went a lot farther than anybody expected.

Not to say that the little green men haven't dropped round in their saucers for visits, but there are all manner of man-made and natural phenomena that explain most of these sightings, from weird forms of lightning, to the piezoelectric effect from large masses of grinding rock, to swamp gas, clouds, mirages, and ice crystals.

Not even to mention hysteria.

If you see a strange light in the sky, maybe the first conclusion you leap to ought not to be that it's ET come for Reese's pieces ...

People sometimes see what they want to see. If there's a UFO sighting, very often there will arise a rash of subsequent sightings. Maybe that means the BEM's are out in force. Or maybe the elements of suggestions and mass consciousness just fill in the blanks. Hey, you heard that Larry saw a flying saucer? Yeah -- hey, I saw it, too ...

Heard a hunting story at a gathering I attended recently, a variation of one I'd heard several times before. Local guy took his teenage sons turkey hunting. One of them shot another hunter because he thought he was a turkey.

Two-foot-tall bird, feathers, versus a six-foot-tall human. Hardly seems likely to mistake one for the other, does it? But it happens every hunting season that somebody thinks a guy wearing an orange vest and hat is everything from a deer to a turkey to a squirrel, and cooks off a round.

Say, son, where did you think that squirrel got that day-glo orange hat and rifle?

One of the first things you learn when you take to the woods with a firearm is if you aren't sure of the target, you don't shoot. But there have been instances where the shooter was willing to swear on a stack of bibles he saw an animal and not a human, and was stunned when he realized what he had done.

As Count Macabre used to say, better pay attention out there ...


Dan Moran said...

I once had a shoe fall out of the air in front of my car, in North Hollywood. Straight down, if my eyewitness memory means anything, on a residential street where there were no nearby buildings to throw it from. No planes in the sky that I could see, either.

The HP building was about 3 blocks away, and it was 3-4 stories high. Conceivably some bored young engineer could have fired it into the air as a diversion ....

steve-vh said...

Thas why some farmers here paint "COW" on the sides of em