Beyond Our Sky

Part of my dad died on the long trek across the nation from California to Mississippi in 1973. He left behind the many rich and rewarding years he had served the country with NASA after Nixon cut the funding for the space program. He was ejected from the program to relocate himself and his family to a small town on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. An electrical engineer, who had played a huge part in putting the first man on the moon, left behind the stars and rockets of his dreams for the waves and spray of a shipbuilding southern city.

Even after leaving his dreams behind, he remained in love with space and all things celestial. When our family of six had been settled for a few months, the headlines of the local newspaper announced that two men were claiming to have been selected and probed by alien creatures on the banks of the Pascagoula River. It was then dad knew he had arrived for his calling as the man who would prove that extraterrestrial aliens did exist.

My dad made his contact with the two men, and for months after the Mississippi Herald shared the announcement he spent evenings engrossed in extensive interviews and tape recordings setting about his own probing adventure into the minds of the men. The discourse led to sketches that vividly documented the encounter with the aliens. Dad reveled in the stories the two men shared—how the alien ship had hovered over the banks of the river, levitated the men into the ship, one drawn into the whirring monster of a ship as the other stood frozen in fear. They shared how the aliens poked about in every orifice of their bodies while they lay strapped to a cold, surgical-like table. Eventually, a 45-RPM record of the interviews was cut along with grosses of fabric patches, my dad’s rhetoric of choice. All of the painstakingly created artifacts were shipped and distributed nationwide in anticipation that the story would go viral. What my dad yearned for was that the evidence provided would be considered reliable and his belief of the existence of intelligent life form in outer space would be authenticated. It would have meant the opportunity to engage further in the exploration of the universe and a bridge to return to his love, the cosmos.

But while my dad worked ardently to document the believer’s side of the story, working against him in forces were the local police and the military. They administered lie detector tests and blood tests to the men followed by a full battery of psychological investigations to determine for themselves the validity of their story. Unlike my dad, they combed through the evidence attempting to uncover holes in the testimony and agonizingly painful recollections of the men who were ultimately deemed sane, less than inebriated yet still under the influence of alcohol, but not fully proven to be liars. Worse though, after all the months of investigations, they were forgotten, left alone to live out their traumatized lives, suspiciously not worthy of being fully believed. It also left my dad’s dream of proving extraterrestrial life and the possibility of a place in the space program crushed, again.

Not too long ago, a young writer, attempting to bring to life the story from nearly a half a century gone by, searched out and found Hickson, one of the “alleged” witnesses of the encounter. He was living a simple life, trying to forget his experience that brought him a few months of fame, albeit not the most favorable in light of his current state of being. He had managed to disappear to the small town having lost contact with his nocturnal fishing buddy, who himself had fared emotionally much worse afterward for his audacity to share what had happened to him. Hickson was not very interested in talking about it again, but was willing to share that he stood firm in his statements of that fright filled summer evening. He iterated that he wanted to be left alone expressing that was to be made clear if the article was ever published. In his article, the reporter made no claim to his own theory of life in the heavens one way or the other, rather he wrote his goal was to examine further the testimony of the man, and to glean any information of the event that may have surfaced since the early years of the investigation.

I used to pull out my personal copy of the 45-record on occasion. As a teacher it made for a good Socratic Seminar; the picture of the patch that I produced during the discussion particularly generated interesting conjectures and syllogistic conclusions. There is a published book on UFO’s that also provides a snippet of the story of both men. When I played it for my students sharing how my dad had gathered the men’s evidence and used their testimony to support his claims, I argued that I didn’t think my dad’s purpose was to get rich, monetarily anyway. Although I do remember conversations he had with my mother about how much money he had sunk into the endeavor, and how he had hoped that it would pay off. Rather, I shared that my dad wanted more than anything to make his dream come true, which was to provide reasonable evidence for the world to gain a general acceptance that life as we know it on Earth may not be all there is in the galaxy we live in or even those galaxies close to ours, such that they are. He wanted to prove that life exists that is the same or similar to ours here on Earth. Although he was an agnostic by practice, and did not believe in a higher power as many spiritualists and Christians do, he was not inclined to be so self-centered as an Earthling not to believe that there was something or someone out there beyond what could be seen and not yet proved. And if that dream could have been verified and believed by man, that would have meant that he was rich beyond any amount of money that would have lever lined his pockets.

My dad has passed on now. My dream is that he has found his bliss among the aliens beyond our sky.