Working the swing shift, I ate a quick breakfast at the mess hall and signed out on leave at 12:01AM on Saturday, May 31. I took the front wheel off of my Honda 160, turned the seat sideways in my 1963 VW Beetle, took off the handle bars, and put the bike inside the car, back wheel in the back seat. It was a cozy ride and I was going to paint the bike once I got home. I drove north from Altus to I-40, east to Oklahoma City, northeast on I-44 to Tulsa, and then continuing on the I-44 toll road northeast toward St. Louis.
My black '63 bug was spartan: seats, steering wheel, and four tires, no radio. With my Honda 160 keeping me company, the hum of the tires and the wind noise were the only audio companions I had for this 1,000 mile long trip across country. At about 4:00AM, I pulled into the toll booth northeast of Tulsa heading for the northeast corner of the state. The truckers would take US 66 avoiding the tolls so I had the road pretty much to myself at this time of the early morning. It was quiet and the constant hum of the tires at 70mph created their own one-note song.
Once passing the Vinita exit, the road ahead was barren and farms were huge and far apart. The terrain started to change and the rolling foot hills of Missouri caused my little 1300cc engine to struggle going up the ever-steeper grades. It was a moonless morning and I was looking forward to the dawn and getting off of this quiet toll road and back into heavier traffic. It had been about a half hour since I passed anyone and I was speeding, well the best I could given the size of the engine and the load it carried.
Passing a hill on my left, I noticed what appeared to me as a helicopter swoop around from its far side heading toward me. I believed that I had been clocked on radar and so I immediately slowed down expecting that over the next hill would be a police car waving me over to the shoulder. My mind searched for a reasonable explanation about why I was speeding and decided as I crested the hill just to tell the truth and see if they would let a G.I. off with a warning. Over the hill I drove and there was no one there.
Hmmmm...next hill for sure. Nope. No one. Things were not making sense so I looked back at the helicopter who was drafting me to my left and just behind me. I glanced over and saw it flying about 30 feet off the deck and just beyond the fence that kept the cows from wandering onto the highway. This was strange. There was something else that did not add up and as I strained to see who was inside the blunt nosed craft, I saw two figures behind the windshield illuminated from the green glow of the instrument lights. One pointed at me and then I realized what was wrong. There was no engine or rotor noise.
For the first time in my life, I understood what the feeling of the word panic meant. Here I was alone and in a deserted part of the state being drafted by a UFO. I paid more attention to the structure of this craft since I understood that it was not of this world. It was cigar shaped with a fuselage that resembled a C-47 minus the wings. Totally so black that I had to strain to see the shape as it moved between the background and my eyes. Except for the cockpit glow and flashing red light at the rear, I could not believe what my eyes were telling me. "There has to be engine noise" I said to myself so I put in the clutch on my VW, rolled down the window, and stuck out my head. The only thing I heard was the wind in my ears, the engine idling, and the tires humming on the pavement. Yup, this was a UFO.
There are two stories that go on from here: the one I believed right after the incident and the one I recalled after years of nightmares. The one I believed to have happened was that I drove off and eventually arrived at the distant toll gate sometime after dawn. What I recalled after time was a memory of two huge landing lights coming straight at me like a truck on my side of the highway but MUCH brighter than the feeble headlights on any 18 wheeler. I recall this too and for those of you who have ever owned a VW bug you will know what I am talking about. There is a method to exiting a VW that is a bit different from most other cars. You put your left hand on the bottom door jam, and from a stiff-arm you roll yourself out of the car. For an instant, you see the ground just outside just before your left foot touches the ground and you finish the roll out the door. What I remember seeing was LONG STRAIGHT SHADOWS FROM THE SAND ON THE SHOULDER OF THE ROAD LEADING TOWARD THE REAR OF MY CAR.
What I remembered is that I had stopped the car to avoid a collision with the oncoming "trucker," pulled onto the shoulder, and turned off the car engine. The thing about the shadows I remember most was the razor sharpness of the edges. Normal tungsten or halogen lights of that time did not make this distinct sharp shadows and that is what I recalled also as being very different. And there was only one shadow, not two so that meant one bright light was in front of the car.
I then recall floating over the grass with my arms in two companions heading for the field to the right of the parked car. The rest is very unclear like looking for something in at sea in an ocean fog. I won't bother with these speculations of what I do not clearly remember but know that I lost time. It wasn't much time, just about an hour, but I lost time. I should have pulled into the toll booth about sunrise but I was there well after dawn. I do not remember everything that happened but I really do not want to either.
So that's the story and that's the truth. Being in the military, I know what planes look like. Having been blessed with high-end ears, I know what helicopters and planes sound like. Being a keen observer, I know the difference between normal and unusual shadows. Being into astronomy since high school, I intimately understand the relationships between the planets, stars, and moon in the night sky. Being a left-brained person, I know what is illogical and logical. This was a close encounter just like many of those similar incidents claimed by countless others. No words were spoken, I have no clear recollection of who stopped me or what their craft looked like, nor do I recall getting back into my car and driving off. The only thing I clearly remember after the encounter is the toll booth and briefly chatting with the attendant.
It took years for me to share this with anyone. I believed initially that I was imagining things but the nightmares continued and I started confiding in my wife. The first friend I told was Burt Cossey as we were waiting to see the Star Wars movie. I told him the tale just before the previews started and before he could respond the preview of "Close Encounters" came on. That blew both of us away and made the telling even more profound.
Today you've read my tale. I hope others who have had similar encounters feel a bit more comfortable with their experience. The universe is just way too big to believe that we are the only ones here. Our intelligence as great as it is feigns terribly against what remains to be understood. Creatures of superior intellect are all around us and some choose to visit like we choose to go to the beach or teens choose to drive the strip on Saturday night. We share much with these visitors in our "nature" and have the same curiosities and adventurous attitude.
Yours for higher fidelity,
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