My dad’s experience with a UFO. At first, I couldn’t believe it. This story first appeared in the Farmington Daily Times (Fall 2005 or Spring 2006) for the Aztec UFO Festival. Reprinted with permission.
The old man, whose name I was struggling to recall, leaned forward on the counter while tucking a booted foot beneath the vinyl padded chrome stool. White smoke curled from a cigarette held loosely between gnarled, smoke-stained fingers of a trembling blue-veined hand. I took my time sipping coffee while I racked my brain.
Victor, I think his name is Victor. No, he’s the one who knows a little bit of Spanish. Mike, something. Mike, what?
Catching my eye in the mirror behind the counter, he smiled and turned towards me. Gray eyes twinkled with humor.
“Hey, Pat. Did I ever tell you about the time Porfirio was coming from the Valle Seco and his horse started rearing up in the air?”
“Not yet,” I said. I placed my coffee cup in the saucer and reached for a nearby pen. A napkin would have to be my paper, for now.
“What happened?” I asked when I was ready to write.
“He said it was raining and he could see a blue haze at the edge of the hill. The horse had been flicking his ears for a while. Finally, he had to get off and pull it behind him. When he got to the edge of the clearing—right where the road starts going downhill—he said he could see a blue light bouncing from one side of the church to the other, way up in the air. He said, “Hay brincaba la luz, sás y sás.”
“That’s how he said it?” I asked. I scooted the napkin over to show him the words and my quick translation: the light jumped to and fro.
He looked close at the napkin, then nodded. “You know how he talked, sin apuro. He didn’t hurry for nobody. Then you know how he would stop to daydream and pick at the edge of his nose. He took his time about telling a story. Sometimes, I wanted to tell him to hurry, that I had things to do, pero no—I never did. I’m glad about that now.”
“ So, what was the blue light?” I asked.
“Oh, baloney.” I couldn’t help but laugh.
“¡De véras! Really, I’m not lying. We were all sitting there at the Pagosa Bar when he told us the story. Me, Vic White was bartending, and Moose Montaño was there, too. You don’t have to believe me; go ask ‘em.”
“My dad saw a UFO,” I said. It wasn’t a question.
He coughed out a smoker’s laugh before saying, “He had us laughing like hell. ‘Chíspas was scared,’ he’d say. ‘He didn’t like the UFO, at all.’”
I laughed with him, wishing that I could remember his name. I wouldn’t ask now, he’d be insulted. He had imitated my father’s voice to a T.
Smiling, he took a drag from his cigarette and let the smoke slip slowly from his lips. I could imagine my father holding court, making his audience wait.
I took another drink of coffee. In the background, I could hear the cook’s voice and the splattering of grease on the grill. The Elkhorn Café was bustling with the lunch crowd. I looked back at the old man’s face trying to see if I had memorized something about it to give me a clue. No, there was no hairy Larry or baldo Waldo about this one.
After a while, he spoke again. “It turns out that it was an electrical arc in the power lines. I guess that happens sometimes—when a transformer gets cracked and the water gets in—it has something to do with electricity seeking the ground. Your dad said that he figured it out when he saw the light bouncing between the two poles, but that it had taken him a little while to stop shaking.”
“So the blue light was a power-surge.” I said, making sure.
He chuckled. “We still laugh about it. THE TIME THE UFO LANDED IN TRUJILLO. That’s what we called it when we wanted him to tell the story to our friends that had come to visit from back east. He would tell them ET had come to take Chíspas home. After a while—after they had stopped laughing—he would say, “Chíspas means ‘spark,’ and he would have them roaring again. Your dad was funnier than hell.”
“Did dad ever tell you a story about a UFO?” I asked my mother, one evening when I was driving her home.
She seemed lost in thought while her fingers fiddled with the lapel of her shirt. When I started to repeat the question, she spoke.
“He told me that it was true, but not to tell anybody. It happened a long time ago, in the early 1930’s when he was still a young man. They didn’t have power lines in Trujillo back then and the horse wasn’t Chíspas. And he didn’t just see a blue light”
“What else did he see?” I asked, trying hard not to lean towards the steering wheel to look up at the stars in the sky.
For a while it was quiet again. I wondered if she would tell me more or start talking about something else. I could feel her hesitation; it felt heavy, like the weight of old memories best forgotten. After a few miles, she turned towards me.
“He said it was a silver disk. It just hovered in the sky over the field with the blue light shining down. He said that he had just told everybody that the blue light was an electrical arc because he didn’t want anybody to laugh at him. ‘No me craen y se rien de mi,’ he’d say. They won’t believe me and they’ll laugh at me. He made up a funny story about it, instead.”
I think about that blue light, sometimes, when I’m driving home, alone, in the dark…