Friday, October 11, 2002

Here's my scary UFO story (although that seems to have gone by the wayside).

At some point in 199x a group of UFO watcher's in Pensacola, FL had gained some national notoriety. We decided it was necessary to track these people down so I with Roland Tester, Lana Goodwin, Rick Milhorn, Marsha Milhorn and Don Ellerson (Ellison?) rented a van and headed for the Gulf of Mexico. We loaded out at Dogwood Heights Apartments where Lana was the live-in manager. During the loading Lana handed me some kind of anti-bug lantern shaped like a hideous psychedelic mushroom. It was like something from a Smurfs cartoon and I refused to have anything to do with it, which prompted Lana to burst into tears. Finally loaded, we piled into the van and managed to settle her down as we headed out just after midnight on Friday morning. Lana predicted she would probably be in the same condition coming back in.

The drive down was bright with stars, but as we pulled into the campground on a very nice Gulf inlet a light drizzle had set in. No matter. We went to a local shopping center and purchased a huge plastic cover-all that we hung from the trees as a giant lean-to. We spent the next few days doing our best to have a good time while the weather grew steadily worse. We also asked the locals if they knew anything of this UFO group, but it wasn't easy to find details. As one weather beater we decided to go to a space, air and sea museum at Corey Naval Air Station where I attended Signal Intelligence school in the late 70's. It wasn't until we were about fourth in line at the sentry gate that it occurred to us we were packing a cooler full of Bud, a half-once of pot, two body bags and a .38 revolver. On top of this the driver, Rick, announced that he did not have his license with him. And yes, they were checking. As the sentry bent down to look at a license being held up from a small import, Rick & Marsha quickly switched seats without him noticing. May have saved us a little embarrassment.

On our last day the weather let up just enough to spend some time on the beach. No sun, but a lot less rain. Late in the afternoon we noticed an oblong white object floating in from several hundred yards out. It had the same shape as a refrigerator. Roland thought it may be Cubans trying to immigrate. He decided to swim out and welcome him/her/them to America. The box was also drifting down the beach as well as toward it. Roland was constantly having to adjust to this and ultimately followed the box onto the beach. The rest of us just walked to it. It was a refrigerator, but there were no Cubans. Later that afternoon we finally found someone who knew where the UFO watchers would be. We were ecstatic.

That night we found the park (I forget the name) where they gathered. It was a picnic park. It was also directly across the bay from the Naval Air Station. Duh. What we discovered were mostly seniors (fifty+) stoking up on vodka tonics and seeing UFO's in every blinking light that flew across the bay. They were watched over by a HUGE poodle dog. I'm not kidding when I say the thing was three feet tall at the head. It stood on top of a picnic table as though surveying its minions. Somewhere around this time it all caught up to me: the rain, lack of sleep, the pot, the beer, the pint of whiskey I was drinking, the huge poodle dog, and I crashed in the van as some geezers were pointing into the air oo-ing and ah-ing at what was obviously a plane.

The next thing I recall is being back under our lean-to in a full blown gale. I looked around and could see that everyone was trying to weather the storm as best they could. There was a brilliant flash of lightning with a thunderclap that I could feel in my teeth. Before the rumble died down Lana had popped out of her sleeping bag and was in the van in two great leaps. I quickly followed, the wind and rain howling, and woke the next morning to the snoring of all the crew crammed into the van. We showered, gathered everything in and were on the road late that morning just as the gale subsided. We headed to the highway, pointing our van north, and I couldn't help but cry out "WE'RE ALIVE... ALI-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-VE!". Not twenty minutes later we seemed to clear the doom and gloom. The clouds parted and the drive home was full of blue sky and calm.

Not long after crossing the border into Georgia a large owl swooped down in front of the van, its great wings momentarily filling the windshield before it flew up and over. At first we were enchanted, then someone brought up the linkage between owls and death. In a south GA town we came upon an accident scene. An old man had been hit by a car. His head was slammed onto the curb. There was blood all over. Somewhere in middle GA we came across a train-car wreck. Two large black women, who appeared to have just arrived, were wailing and crying out. The car that was hit looked like an accordion.

In north GA Lana saw a sign pointing the way to Hank Williams' home and wanted to go there. Roland offered an alternative plan: to see the giant chicken on top of a drive-thru chicken joint somewhere near Atlanta. Of course the chicken won out, which put Lana in a hurt mood. Just as she predicted we arrived home with her crying and complaining, saying something about Tony [Black] treating her a lot better than all of us.


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