I live on a side hill at about 900 feet above sea level. We have a lovely view to our southwest, and my patch of land is more level than most of my neighbors, which only number a few. This land was once used for sheep grazing, then cows. There was a barn and a house on my property at one time, and then in the 1950s a hunting camp was built, then converted to a year-round residence. When I purchased it the little cottage became the starting point for the home I now have. While most of my land was meadow, there were a number of huge trees on it. Oaks, maples and a few ash trees. Several were dead or dying, so I had them cut down, saving as many as I possibly could. My intention was to burn the wood, but I never got around to cutting up the log lengths so I had to burn the rotted remains years later.
On July 6, 2013, a Saturday night, I trudged out to the burn pile and set yet another fire to rid myself of all that excess rotted wood. While tending the fire, I like to light up a cigar to keep the bugs away, and then gaze skyward for one of my favorite summer pastimes, satellite spotting. Most seem to orbit the earth north to south and vise-versa. The way the human eye is constructed, your best bet for seeing a satellite initially is to be aware of your peripheral vision, which is capable of picking up dimmer light than full on direct sighting. This method has allowed me to see a lot of satellites over the years, including the International Space Station.
On the July evening in question I caught a red glow in my peripheral vision just north of my property ... the horizon is high there due to the fact that I am roughly in the middle of a side hill, so there is elevation to my north. I listened for the sound of jet or propeller propulsion, and hearing none, my interest was piqued. It almost looked like it was a hot air balloon, but as it drew closer, it suddenly started moving faster while turning east, then it disappeared. I went in the house to get an iced tea, and when I returned, so had the U.F.O., and it performed the exact same maneuver, never getting close enough to identify. I did some Internet searching, checked out what was going on that night at Springfield airport and confirmed that yes, there had been fireworks (I could barely hear them) and no, no plane rides were being given at that time, nor any other rides in non-airplane craft. Mystery!
I recall writing about this experience, and also mentioned it to my closest neighbor. He hadn’t seen anything, but he wasn’t out there looking for anything either. He was a private pilot until recently and he couldn’t offer an explanation. So, I wondered out loud if I had actually witnessed a U.F.O. My neighbor did not discount that theory one bit. Fast forward to August 2014. We were watching three grandchildren, and found that we did not have enough diapers to get two of them through the rest of the weekend. I made a diaper run into town and returned a few minutes after 9 p.m.
As I entered our road there it was ... the U.F.O ... in the same place as last year ... only there were two of them! I rushed into the house, grabbed my camera and went back out. Nowhere to be seen! I had missed them! Disappointed, I went back in and retired for the night.
The next morning I happened to catch a Facebook entry from one of my neighbors who lives north of us on our road. They had been enjoying a family reunion at their place, and posted photos of the beautiful red Chinese Lanterns that floated upwards into the August night like miniature hot air balloons. They also thanked my closest neighbor’s wife for supplying the Chinese Lanterns. I leave it to you to decide if my closest neighbor had knowledge of these fanciful flying flaming objects a little over a year ago. I really love this neighbor, especially for his hijinks. If he did have prior knowledge, I’m just gonna continue laughing while I plot my own inexplicable country road phenomena ... when it is least expected!
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.