Saturday, January 19, 2008

Now we just need an Elvis sighting...

We have a plastic cow on the courthouse square.
There are more places in town to buy horse feed than nonfiction books.  (However, even though they're all about agriculture-related topics, one of those horse-feed places has a much better nonfiction section than WalMart.)
Last year, the big story was the Klan rally.

This year, people are seeing UFOs.

Great; the news equivalent of a Camaro on blocks has come to town.  It's even on Wikipedia already, appropriately right above the 1974 murder spree.

Let's examine the Star-Telegram article:

STEPHENVILLE, Texas -- In this farming community where nightfall usually brings clear, starry skies, residents are abuzz over reported sightings of what many believe is a UFO.

Clear, starry skies...well, sometimes.  I've actually gotten a few good photos lately, but the light pollution is terrible in several areas, and as far as in town goes, there are places in Dallas where you can see more stars than most of Stephenville.  "Abuzz" apparently means "the usual loonies are all over it, the rest of us are just making fun of them as usual."

Several dozen people - including a pilot, county constable and business owners - insist they have seen a large silent object with bright lights flying low and fast. Some reported seeing fighter jets chasing it.

Several dozen seems to be up quite a bit from the five or six when the story first ran.  Inflation, I guess.

"People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times," said Steve Allen, a freight company owner and pilot who said the object he saw last week was a mile long and half a mile wide. "It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts."

For values of "everyone" that only include the aforementioned loonies.  "Nothing from these parts" just means it wasn't a tricked-out horse trailer.

While federal officials insist there's a logical explanation, locals swear that it was larger, quieter, faster and lower to the ground than an airplane. They also said the object's lights changed configuration, unlike those of a plane. People in several towns who reported seeing it over several weeks have offered similar descriptions of the object.

Hmm..."lower to the ground than an airplane," eh?  What kind of plane is incapable of flying low?  How many people can actually estimate things like these guys are claiming with any degree of accuracy?  One of the first stories claimed it was travelling about three thousand miles an hour: I'm pretty sure I can't estimate Mach 4 by eyeball.

Machinist Ricky Sorrells said friends made fun of him when he told them he saw a flat, metallic object hovering about 300 feet over a pasture behind his Dublin home. But he decided to come forward after reading similar accounts in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.

Notwithstanding the fact that people were making fun of Ricky long before this, a flat metallic object hovering over a pasture isn't exactly the behavior I'd be looking for from a race of beings intelligent enough to develop interstellar travel.

"You hear about big bass or big buck in the area, but this is a different deal," Sorrells said. "It feels good to hear that other people saw something, because that means I'm not crazy."

Sure, big bass and buck hovering over pastures are pretty common.
Free tip; just because other people are crazy too doesn't make you not crazy.

Sorrells said he has seen the object several times. He said he watched it through his rifle's telescopic lens and described it as very large and without seams, nuts or bolts.

"Dunno what it is, so I think I'll aim a gun at it."

Maj. Karl Lewis, a spokesman for the 301st Fighter Wing at the Joint Reserve Base Naval Air Station in Fort Worth, said no F-16s or other aircraft from his base were in the area the night of Jan. 8, when most people reported the sighting.

Lewis said the object may have been an illusion caused by two commercial airplanes. Lights from the aircraft would seem unusually bright and may appear orange from the setting sun.

"I'm 90 percent sure this was an airliner," Lewis said. "With the sun's angle, it can play tricks on you."

The other 10 percent in that equation being all sorts of normal things; reflections from satellites, meteors, hallucinations, made-up stories to get on Larry King Live, etc.

Officials at the region's two Air Force bases - Dyess in Abilene and Sheppard in Wichita Falls - also said none of their aircraft were in the area last week. The Air Force no longer investigates UFOs.

No doubt they quit investigating because they were tired of having to visit people who lived in old Airstream trailers full of white robes, bug zappers and Elvis commemorative plates.

One man has offered a reward for a photograph or videotape of the mysterious object.

As yet mysteriously unclaimed.

About 200 UFO sightings are reported each month, mostly in California, Colorado and Texas, according to the Mutual UFO Network, which plans to go to the 17,000-resident town of Stephenville to investigate.

Every time I see MUFON mentioned, I have to suppress a giggle at how much it sounds like a new STD treatment from the makers of HeadOn.

Fourteen percent of Americans polled last year by The Associated Press and Ipsos say they have seen a UFO.

Erath County Constable Lee Roy Gaitan said that he first saw red glowing lights and then white flashing lights moving fast, but that even with binoculars could not see the object to which the lights were attached.

"I didn't see a flying saucer and I don't know what it was, but it wasn't an airplane, and I've never seen anything like it," Gaitan said. "I think it must be some kind of military craft - at least I hope it was."

Yeah, because if the aliens want to be subtle, they'll do it with flashing lights.

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