The Journal of Prevarication
Here lies Jim Cook, official state liar of Arizona
Ramrod Wilbur startled a good many tourists traveling through our country.
Mr. Wilbur stood about six-foot-six, and he was as thin as an aspen pole. When he was younger, a rattlesnake had spooked a horse, and the horse threw Mr. Wilbur into a pile of malpais rocks, injuring his back.
After he came out of the hospital, he could walk, but he could not bend. He had to either stand straight up, or lie down.
He got around the country riding in a 1929 Packard sedan. He had cut a hole in the top, and he stood on a bench where the rear seat had been, with his upper torso and head sticking out above the car.
He wore an aviator’s leather helmet and goggles. As I said, this apparition startled some tourists, but we didn’t think anything of it around our little valley. Mr. Wilbur was a respected man. His cattle were well tended, his fences were tight, and you could take his word to the bank.
The only one who joked about his method of travel was Mr. Wilbur, who sometimes called himself “Captain Buzzard.”
I was driving for Mr. Wilbur in July of 1947, the day we encountered the flying saucer. Actually, I’d describe it more as a flying clamshell.
If I’m not mistaken, 1947 was the year that the term “flying saucers” was coined to describe unidentified flying objects. Airline pilots reported them bobbing playfully around Mount Rainier, like aerobatic dolphins.
I have old newspaper clippings showing that unidentified things in the sky fretted Arizonans as far back as 1900, but the term “flying saucer” really caught on in 1947.
We met our flying saucer around the first of July. Thunderheads were building over the mountains, promising summer rains.
I was driving Mr. Wilbur to town, and we’d stopped so I could get out and open a wire gate. I heard him say, “What in thunder is that?”
A round thing, shaped something like a giant-sized woman’s compact, came wobbling out of the sky. It was about thirty feet in diameter, and it sounded like a Eureka vacuum cleaner. It clunked to the ground amid the junipers.
The craft appeared to be made of riveted aluminum, and “Ertia I” was stenciled on its side in blue letters. It did not have any propellers. It did have a large tail pipe, about six inches in diameter, but that did not look like the rockets and jet engines Mr. Wilbur and I had been reading about in Life magazine.
Dick Cheney reminds me of the man who came out of a hatch in the side of that machine. All business, and his attempt to smile looked like it hurt. He wore military fatigues and had captain’s bars on his lapels. He said his name was Adams–John Adams.
While Mr. Wilbur dubiously studied the flying machine, Adams looked equally skeptical about the tall man poking out through the roof of the Packard.
Adams asked how far it was to the nearest Air Force base. When I guessed it was about a hundred miles, Adams muttered about the incompetence and genealogy of engineers.
He said that the ship had sprung a leak, and was losing its impetus. Refined impetus apparently could be found only at an air base.
I asked, “What makes it go? You don’t have any propellers.”
Adams said, “Ertial energy, the opposite of inertial energy. But you wouldn’t understand it if I explained it, and besides, it’s top secret.”
Mr. Wilbur said, “Now, don’t be talking down to the boy. He’s smarter than he looks. Your machine don’t seem too reliable.”
Adams snapped, “We’re still working out the bugs.”
He asked if we had anything he could use to fix a pipe that had come loose inside the ship. I rummaged around in the junk on the floor of the Packard, and came up with some friction tape, baling wire, and a package of Dentyne chewing gum.
Adams went back into the ship. We could hear him talking to someone else, but we never saw any of the rest of his crew.
After about forty minutes, he came out and gave back the friction tape he had not used. Then he asked how he could get to Roswell, New Mexico.
Mr. Wilbur asked, “Why in the world would you want to go to Roswell?” Adams didn’t answer. I fetched a tattered road atlas from the junk in the Packard, and Mr. Wilbur showed Adams how to find Roswell.
Adams stood in the hatch of his ship and glowered. He said, “You’d better not ever tell anyone about seeing us here. If you tell, there will be FBI agents all over you.”
He closed the hatch, and I have not told the story until now. As you know, something crashed near Roswell later that week in 1947. For sixty years, a debate has raged about whether it was a spacecraft from the planet Crouton, or a botched Air Force experiment.
I kept quiet all during my days as a newspaper reporter, when I’d have to report about people who had seen UFOs, or were researching UFOs, or had been abducted by aliens who did unspeakable things to their bodies.
The “researchers” were like religious fundamentalists–if you didn’t adhere to their beliefs, there wasn’t much left to talk about.
I’m only telling the story now because a new documentary film on UFOs is getting true believers all excited, and Roswell is raising money to build a UFO theme park.
Mr. Wilbur and I watched as Adams started his engines, or whatever it was that sounded like a Eureka vacuum cleaner.
The flying clamshell lifted straight up, then began circling. We watched as it circled higher and higher, in ever-diminishing circles, until finally it entered its own tail pipe and disappeared.