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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Close Encounters

We never did get around to going back to look for old man Morgan’s grave in the daylight, but there were other weird and wonderful things to think about in the Ozarks.  One was UFOs.  The term was not coined until sometime after WWII when an airline pilot saw a flock of “flying saucers” in the Pacific Northwest, but we had some strange phenomena in the skies over those dusty old Ozark hills from time to time.
The first UFO I heard about was from Leslie Beck, son of the widow Bertha Beck who had the farm across the county road from our little place.  I was over there on day helping Leslie repair a barbed wire fence and he excitedly told me about a strange thing he had seen the day before.  He said it was something high up in the sky moving very fast.  Definitely not an airplane (in those days, airplanes flew low and slow).  He said that it was triangular in shape and was trailing smoke from each side.  Claimed it was going down toward the trees over by where Maze Creek emptied into the Little Sac River and that he chased off afoot in that direction but never did find anything.
No one, including me, paid much attention to Leslie Beck because the truth was he was kind of strange.  He read science fiction all the time and I figured that it was something he made up after reading all those pulp magazines.  Matter of fact, Leslie was “strange” enough that right after he graduated from Dadeville High in 1935 he went off his rocker real good.  Though everyone was trying to kill him, including his own mother.  Went and ground the points off all of her butcher knives so that she could stab him some night in bed.  They finally had to ship Leslie off to a funny-farm somewhere.  Fortunately, Leslie got better.  He was released from the asylum about the time we left for the Pacific Northwest in 1936 and last I heard he had settled in Colorado and made a good life for himself.
To get back to the UFOs, my Uncle Coy Tygart and his family certainly did not read science fiction and none of them wound up in a funny-farm, but they all saw the same thing one night.  The way Edna May described it to me later, it was some colored lights that were moving in and out of some big cumulus clouds just to the south of their farm.  She said that the lights were red and blue and white and that they were sort of turning around in a circle as they moved in and out of the clouds.
Missourians are naturally skeptical (that is why it is called the “Show Me” state) so no one put much stock in their story even though the whole family told the same thing.  If it had been south of their far, that would have put it somewhere over Bona and no one else reported seeing anything strange that night.
Another thing was that at the time there was a U.S. Army detachment on field maneuvers or something camped over at Stockton to the north.  I remember that because Dad took us boys over there and, being a WWI veteran, he even had dinner with them out of a field kitchen.  (I asked him if the food was good and he just laughed and said, “Not any better than when I was in the Army!”)  Dad insisted that what the Tygarts had seen was probably an Army searchlight with that unit, but the light would have been white and not red or blue.
Even though I always read quite a bit of science fiction, I did not think much more about the incident for a lot of years.  Then, some time in the late 197-s when I was traveling a lot for the Boeing Company, I stopped off on one of my trips to visit Mother and Dad and brother Dick and his wife Mary at Greenfield.  Dick drove up with Mother and Dad and picked me up at the airport at Kansas City.  Mary was home making me a good old-fashioned friend chicken dinner.
We left Kansas City an hour before sunset and drove down pat Nevada and Lamar, then east through Lockwood.  It was just twilight as we were driving along between Lockwood and Greenfield when Dick pointed to the south and said, “What the hell are those lights up there?”
I looked where Dick was pointing and there, moving slowly in and out of a big billowing cumulus cloud, were three lights—one red, one blue-gree, and one white—and they were revolving slowly around one another.
Richard and I were, by then, both well-qualified as aerial observers.  Since the beginning of WWII, we had both spent our careers in aviation—he as a Navy air controlman and I as a flight test engineer for the Boeing Company.  We both by then were holders of commercial pilot’s licenses.
Why we did not stop and get out of the car to look closely at the phenomena and maybe photograph it I do not know.  Whatever it was we agreed that it could not be an airplane or a helicopter even though the lights were roughly the right color.  It was too dark to see the craft itself.  For the lights to be revolving like that, a helicopter would have to be hovering and slowly turning around and around and then you would not see all three lights at the same time.  Furthermore, the lights were too far apart to be running lights.
The strange lights eventually disappeared into the cloud.  We shrugged and drove on to Mary’s fried chicken dinner.  We did not say anything more about it probably because neither of us had any desire to be known as one of those nuts who see UFOs and little green men.
I did not think much more about “the Lockwood UFOs” until a few years later when I read about the same kind of lights being seen at several locations in the southeastern United States, then I suddenly remembered the tale the Tygarts had told back in 1935.  They had described exactly the same thing that we saw that evening in the 1970s.
What was it?  I do not know, but being a long-time science fiction fan, I sure wish that it had landed nearby and some strange little men or something had gotten out.
I did see a different kind of UFO one tie in the 1960s down over the mouth of the Columbia River near the Long Beach Peninsula and even got a photograph of that one which no one could explain even under a microscope.  It was just a strange dark blob near a cloud and it vanished without a sound just before I took a second picture which shows only the same cloud formation.

The Piedmont UFO case of 1973 sounds similar to what my father and his brother experienced and perhaps even the Tygarts four decades before. 
As recently as June 2016 there have been sightings over Missouri, although non so closely describe what my father saw in the '70s.