Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Not many will remember the Halloween the UFOs were sighted over Portales. But it happened. It’s even possible that I was abducted by the aliens flying them, according to my wife.
Maybe some of you do recall the headline: “Strange Lights Sighted Over Streets of Portales.” It happened when I was in junior high or early high school and the incident really was in the Portales News-Tribune. If you’ve lived here awhile you’re probably wondering how you missed such a spectacle in the night skies. Most people don’t know that — yes — unidentified flying objects have been spotted east of the Pecos in New Mexico.
It occurred right near my house on South Avenue A so as a witness (OK maybe participant is a better word) I can fill you in on the details of the night we were invaded.
It was in that time of youth when my little brother Jeff and next-door-neighbor Benton Blue had outgrown any possibility of being allowed to trick-or-treat the neighborhood. Benton had the squeaky, changing voice of an adolescent (still does) and I was already shaving (once a month) and Jeff, the youngest, was growing fast and no longer completely fit under a twin bedsheet. But it was Halloween and we were bored.
Since trick-or-treat was out for the night, that afternoon we started going over different ideas to make trick-or-treaters’ visits to our block a little more exciting. Mom caught us testing the bucket of water and rope device on the roof above our house and put a stop to that plan.
Lowering a dangling pumpkin suddenly from the roof seemed at first to be an acceptable substitute but we didn’t actually have a pumpkin and besides we wanted something that would be truly puzzling to folks making everyone wonder how we had pulled it off.
The dangling jack-o-lantern idea got us to thinking about flying lights and UFOs and how could we make something like that happen. Then the idea hit me, (I’m sure it was my idea, because I’m writing the column) — dangling something below a kite at night would accomplish just such an effect.
We had flown kites all summer. It was right after they started making those plastic bat kites that would fly in a gale withot needing a tail and would pull and lift like crazy. We had one left over and, because it was a bat kite, it was black. Perfect! Now what to make the lights from?
We tried flash lights and other things. Some were too heavy or just didn’t look very spooky. We got to thinking about how luminarios would glow and thought about trying that but a vision of the entire neighborhood on fire squelched that dangerous thought. We finally landed on the idea of putting the candle inside a plastic milk jug. With a little bit of engineering help from Benton’s older brother Buddy we finally got the candle fastened safely inside the jug, producing an eery, flickering glow when lit in the darkness of the Blues’ garage.
As darkness descended and the younger trick-or-treaters were beginning to call it a night, the car traffic was picking up so we launched the kite from the Blues’ driveway. Deftly we flew it out over our street with the glowing milk jug attached below. Paying out string we walked backward into our hiding spot in the garage. It worked great! You couldn’t see the black kite or the demented, giggling souls flying it, and the glowing object apppeared to be hovering above the street.
Soon we had a regular traffic jam in front of the house with cars stopping to watch the strange light and trying to figure it all out. Some got out of their cars and could hear the kite flapping and finally figured it out. Others never did.
The next afternoon we were all overjoyed when our little escapade made the newspaper. Unfortunately the story didn’t endure like the Roswell Incident.