Two memorable experiences I’ve had with objects in flight, of initially indeterminate identity and origin, left me with very different, but equally lingering, impressions.
In the first instance, which occurred decades ago, I knew by the end of the experience that there was a logical and boring (weather-related) explanation for what I was looking at.
In the second, which took place a few years back in the Davis Mountains of west Texas, well … to this day, I don’t know for certain what I saw. And naturally, that one’s my favorite.
That first experience occurred while I was in college. While home for a weekend, I was driving my kid sister to a friend’s house one evening when the two of us spotted something unusual in the sky overhead. We’d stopped at an intersection — both roads were clear of other vehicles as far as we could see. We became aware of a large, bright circle of light, above us and to our right, rapidly rising straight up into the sky. Almost as if our stop at the intersection had disturbed some luminescent something — which then skedaddled skyward.
It wasn’t frightening — was, in fact, an amazing light show, and kind of exciting. Maybe we were looking at a real, live UFO …
But after a few seconds, we realized there was nothing otherworldly about what we were witnessing — as the plane flew directly over our heads. It was a cloudy night, and the lights from a jet, flying low, had illuminated a bank of clouds in unusual and spectacular fashion.
What we saw that night was quickly and easily explained — and that was maybe a little disappointing. If someone had asked me in the years afterward, “Hey, seen any UFOs?” I might have answered, “No, but I have seen how easily someone could believe they’ve seen a UFO.”
If someone asked me today if I’ve seen a UFO, I’d still answer “no.” But I did see something out in the Big Bend that I wasn’t able to figure out, and it was flying at the time.
This was around 2011, 2012. My wife and I lived in Fort Davis, a little town in the mountains, and each morning I drove along a winding highway through those mountains to my job at the newspaper in Alpine, about half an hour south. Then in the evenings, back home: gorgeous scenery, wildlife everywhere — sometimes an elk in the middle of the road, things like that. It was a commute that on many days felt like an adventure, in a good way.
One evening I had almost made it home and just before cresting a hill — beyond which the sky opened up and the land flattened for a time as one approached the town — I noticed something flying near the top of a bluff to my right, east of the road. It crossed the road ahead of me, east to west, and disappeared behind another bluff. Unsure what I’d seen, I sped up, pulling my camera from behind the seat as I drove — if it had flown north after disappearing behind the bluff, I should have seen it against the open sky after topping the hill.
But I got there and … nothing. I then backtracked, looked around a bit. But whatever I’d seen, it was gone.
I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up — this was no “flying disk”. What I saw might have been a drone. There’s a heavy law enforcement presence in that area, including border patrol. Or, it might have been a private, recreational aircraft of some kind. That big-sky part of Texas would be an excellent place to fly one. I did do Google image searches on both topics, but didn’t find an entirely satisfying match.
And that’s where I left it. Truth be told, if it was something as mundane as a drone — or somebody’s kit-plane — I don’t really want to know. I like the memory the way it is.
I’ve thought about both those experiences recently, including a few weeks ago, while out at the ranch that’s home to the alleged 1947 crash site for a preview of the recent tours there. The easily explained, the harder to explain — the unknown.
All the people that flocked to Roswell last week for the UFO festival — there are mysteries surrounding the reported 1947 incident here, but what draws those crowds to the city each summer isn’t among them.
I’ve had two memorable experiences with objects in flight, of initially indeterminate identity and origin, which left me with different, but equally lingering, impressions.
But that doesn’t mean there’s any real comparison between the two — the one I like best is the one I couldn’t explain.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.