I sleep in a doghouse, except I don't sleep much at night. I watch the sky. There is this one cluster of stars that looks like a dog's head if you squint just right. I call them the Dog Stars and I sometimes spend the whole night watching the Dog Stars track from right to left, across the sky. I make up for lost sleep by napping during the day like any good hound dog.
This area we live in is unique. On the other side of the valley there is this small community of very independent people. Stuart calls them "free-thinkers." Most of the people around here call them "hippies." Some of these people built an airport on the other side of Plum Mountain. The airport is complete with landing lights and windsocks and is for the sole purpose of welcoming U.F.O.s.
Lots of the people there claim to have met U.F.O.s and their occupants. They tell some very interesting stories about what happens when they meet.
Stuart says he doesn’t believe any of that stuff. He says that he was educated in the scientific method and he won’t believe any of that until he is presented with unequivocal evidence of the veracity of their claims. At least, that's what he used to say.
Tonight we're going cattle penning. Sam called and invited Stuart to join Lester and himself in forming a three-man cattle penning team. Stuart and Lester have never cattle penned before, but Sam says that he's an expert.
Sam, Lester and Stuart ride horses a lot together. Mostly they just go on trail rides but sometimes they get invited to help herd someone's cattle.
Sometime back, they had been invited to help bring in this large cattle herd. Stuart decided to ride his new quarter horse, Joe. This did not turn out well. As it happened, Joe horse was deathly afraid of cows. Whenever Stuart would point Joe at a pack of cows, Joe would wheel around and flee the other way. Joe horse was so violent about this that a number of times, Stuart almost lost his seat.
Stuart was embarrassed by Joe's behavior. He said, "What good is a cow horse who's afraid of cows?"
Fortunately, the problem solved itself. Our neighbor, down the road, is a fellow named Jack who runs cattle on his property. His back pasture borders our back pasture. One day, a small red and white calf got through the fence and wandered onto our field. When the calf spotted Joe she instantly decided that Joe was her mother. The calf would follow Joe everywhere, even to his trough and share his dinner with him.
When Chris spotted this, she called Jack and asked if the calf could stay. Jack said OK and told Chris that the calf didn't have a name - Jack didn't name his food.
Six months later, when Jack came to pick up the calf, she had grown into a beautiful, young lady of a cow and she and Joe were fast friends. This solved Joe's unreasonable fear of cows problem forever.
That evening Stuart loaded Joe into the horse trailer and me into the front of the pickup truck and we headed across the valley to the cattle penning. This event was being held in this large covered and lighted arena.
We met up with Sam and Lester there. Lester likes to be called "Lester" during working hours, when he's an accountant, but when he's all dressed up in his Levi pants and cowboy hat, he lowers his voice and says, "Call me Les."
Les walked over to Joe, patted him on the side of the neck and said, "Hi Joe, why the long face? Ho, ho, ho." Yuck, yuck.
Sam introduced Stuart and Les to many of the other men and women riders who were there. Some of them looked like professional cowboys, just like on TV.
The announcer explained the rules. She said that at one end of the arena there were 24 cows. The cows were divided into eight groups of three cows each. A different colored ribbon tied to the cow's horn identified each group. The cowboys would start out from the end of the arena opposite from where the cattle were bunched. As the cowboys would gallop across the center of the arena, the announcer would call out a color. The riders then had 90 seconds to separate the three cows with that color ribbon from the pack and herd them all the way across the arena and into a small holding pen at the other end.
When all three cows were in the pen the cowboys were expected to throw up their arms in the air and the timer would stop the clock. Each team got to participate three times in an evening. The team with the lowest time would win the prize.
Now this may sound pretty easy to you. It isn't. Those cows resisted being separated from the herd. They squirted every way except the way they were supposed to go. As the evening progressed, while you would think that the cows would get more tired, they just got smarter and learned more ways to outwit the cowboys.
Joe did quite well with the cows, but he seemed to be always looking for the red and white calf.
On their third try, our team finally got all three cows into the cage within the time limit. They were so excited that they whooped and gave each other high-fives in the air. Their time was 87 seconds. The real cowboys, who did it in 26 seconds, won the prize. Our boys had a great time and they pledged that they would go home and practice and come back and beat the real cowboys.
It was very dark and cold on the way home. There was no moon but the stars shone brightly. We were playing Hank Williams Sr. on the pickup's radio. We were on a deserted country road, which to okay us to the turnoff for home.
Stuart was having trouble seeing through the windshield because of all the bug splats. He flicked on the windshield washer then immediately yelled, "Yikes, that was stupid!" as the windshield glazed over into an instant sheet of ice.
He pulled over to the side to remove the ice. He didn't have an ice scraper, so he resorted to the ultimate yuppie tool - his American Express card. When he saw me watching him, he laughed and said, "Don't leave home without it. Ha, ha." Yuck, yuck.
Suddenly, our attention was drawn to the sky directly above our heads. We felt the presence of some huge mass and there was a pattern of lights moving rapidly across the night sky. There wasn't enough light to see what it was directly, but you could tell that it was massive by all of the stars that it blotted out.
Stuart yelled, "It's an airliner crashing, get on the phone and call for help!" Hey wait, I'm a dog, remember? Dogs don't use cell phones.
But it didn't crash. It just kept moving across the sky, at low altitude. The creepy thing about it was that it made no sound whatsoever. The craft moved rapidly until it slowed over Plum Mountain, seemed to hover for a moment, and then slid behind the mountain.
On the rest of the drive home we listened to the police scanner but there was no report of any other sightings.
When we got back to the ranch we drove to the barn. Stuart brushed Joe and gave him his dinner and then he rushed to the house to tell Chris what we had seen.
We found her on the back deck, bubbling in the hot tub. Wow, it's a good thing that we don't have any close neighbors!
Stuart very excitedly told Chris about what we had seen. He told her that it had nine orange lights, three on each "wing" in a wedge shape and three in a row down the middle. He said, "I don't know of any airplane that has a light configuration like that--I don't know what it was."
Chris calmly replied, "It was a U.F.O."
Stuart said, "I was an aircraft engineer for fifteen years before I got into the gem business. I'm qualified to be an expert witness in these types of things, yet I have no idea what I saw!"
Chris repeated, "It was a U.F.O."
What I know is that while Stuart is asleep in the house, I am awake in the yard, looking at the night sky. I see lots of things that don't look like they "belong" there. What I think is: if Joe can get over his unreasonable fear of cows, then Stuart can get over his unreasonable belief that if it doesn't exist in his engineering books, then it simply doesn't exist. But I'm just a dog. Nobody ever listens to me. After all, what would a dog know about UFOs???
Keep it waggin'