Publication Date 12-13-18

I could have sworn it was a spacecraft.

I don’t know why I remember this stuff - maybe the memory popped into my head because I drove past a cornfield where no fall tillage had been done and thought about how much I hated that when I was farming. There’s an old farmer saying that goes, “The worst job of tillage in the fall is better than the best job in the spring.”

That’s not always true, but it’s true enough – just getting the soil broken up into lumps lets the freeze/thaw cycle work to mellow it out before springtime. 

The year I’m thinking of, we had a couple hundred acres of cornstalks to plough, it was almost December, and there was a snow storm rolling in, so my dad and I decided to run our big tractor 24 hours a day to get things wrapped up. I’m not a huge fan of working 12-hour shifts, particularly when they go from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

It was about 3:00 in the morning and I was down to the last cup of stale coffee in my thermos. There was a brisk wind blowing loose cornstalks through the pool of light ahead of me, diamonds of frost flickering in the headlights. I was in the middle of a square mile of farmland and feeling all alone in the world. 

Halfway down the field, I saw a light far ahead. I squinted, trying to make it out. My father wasn’t planning to relieve me until daylight, we had three small children at home so it wouldn’t be my wife making a visit, and I could think of no one in my circle of friends who would be stopping by to chat. 

It was a little eerie, and the closer I got, the more eerie it became. It wasn’t headlights; it wasn’t anything I recognized.   What I was seeing was a series of flickering lights about 50 feet long.

I didn’t really think it was a spacecraft, but I was coming up empty as to any other explanation. The only thing ahead of me was an empty dirt road, with the closest house two miles beyond that.

I did not know what to do. I’m not what you would call a flighty guy, but this was spooky. 

On the plus side, I was now wide awake.

I kept going. I didn’t know what else to do. I knew I’d feel stupid if I got to the end of the field and was whisked away in a UFO, but I thought I’d feel worse if I parked in the middle of the field until daylight just to see…something harmless.

I kept going, but my pulse was up to about 150 and I wasn’t really seeing anything except the blinking lights. Another few yards and suddenly everything came into focus.

In my sleep deprived stupor, I’d actually forgotten which direction I was going. I wasn’t heading south with nothing ahead of me for two miles. Instead, I was heading north, towards my parent’s house, with the garage lights and porch lights shining through a thin screen of trees with branches whipping in the wind.

Feeling stupid doesn’t cover it. Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to the stunning levels of dumbness I can achieve, but even by my standards, this was remarkable.

There is a lesson to be learned. Sometimes when you’re scared, you just need to keep going. Heading cautiously down the row is the only viable alternative. Something scary and mysterious is really just the result of heading in the wrong direction, of losing your way. Take a deep breath, slow down, but keep going.

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