Mike Bleech: The column I always planned to write
[Reprinted from original]
In his final column for the Times-News, outdoors writer Mike Bleech explores the wonders of the universe.
It was about 1962, a brisk November night. There was no moon, yet there were so many visible stars and they were so bright that walking along the dense river bottomland was not difficult.
As I frequently did, I carried a .22 Remington Fieldmaster pump rifle and a powerful, for that time, large flashlight. It was the kind with a large lens attached to a stamped metal frame that screwed on top of a large battery. Over a Woolrich jacket, a trapping basket was strapped. An old Queen Trapper knife was in my pocket. It had been sharpened so many times that the point stuck above the handle so that if I was not careful, it would put a gash in a finger.
I was about to enter my teens, so this was the perfect kind of adventure for a kid who would rather spend time outdoors than anything else. About a quarter-mile, up the valley, a long cornfield began. It extended about 3/4 mile on the long side. Here is where I started scanning trees with the spotlight looking for raccoons.
A big raccoon would bring a nice price at the fur buyer if it were properly cared for. My furs were always the best the buyer would see each year, he said. I took pride in doing it well, even if it did mean a few nasty cuts. The hunt — also the trapping in the same area — was certainly the most fun part of this, but I did enjoy skinning, fleshing and stretching.
The biggest advantage hunting raccoons had over trapping raccoons was that while hunting anything less than a large raccoon could be passed. At that time the raccoons were much more abundant. My thought on this is that coyotes are keeping the smaller predator populations down.
From the start of the cornfield, I could hunt about three miles. On a typical night, I might collect a couple of large raccoons. Not uncommonly I would spot a possum on the ground. They were not worth a lot, but it was easy money, for that time. It might bring anywhere from 75 cents to $1.25.
But on this one particular night, I did not make it that far. Maybe 125 yards from the house I stopped to look at the beautiful sky through a gap in the hemlock trees that lined the riverbank in this particular stretch.
Mesmerized by the beauty of the night sky I became so relaxed that it was a little startling to see three small but very bright lights, noticeably brighter than any of the stars, appeared. What caught my attention was the strange way they moved. They traveled in straight lines, but none of those lines seemed long before an abrupt change of angle without changing speed. This went on for a short while, then they appeared to be converging at the same point. Which is precisely what they did, forming a triangle.
At this joining, colors changed. Or maybe the three individual lights had colors but were not large enough for me to see. The three of them together changed colors constantly so that at no time could I think it was any particular color.
The three lights, now one triangle shape, was motionless for several seconds, might have quivered, then streaked directly away at amazing speed so it disappeared in maybe a second.
I stood there transfixed on that point in the universe where whatever it was had disappeared, not at all shocked because for as long as I had thought about such things it has seemed most likely that there has to be life elsewhere, and maybe a lot of it. But I was terribly curious. And very grateful for having seen such a thing.
If we all originated from the same Big Bang, we are all kin. Mork from Ork, Moon Maiden, men from Mars, intelligent crayfish, things from different dimensions, all of us. Earth Mankind is just beginning to think about a much larger neighborhood, and places where our notion of physics does not exist. And yet we are very far from understanding just this planet. Free your spirit to enjoy these exciting times and preserve our beautiful planet. We probably have visitors coming.