Live long enough in Montana and you’ll likely end up with some kind of extraterrestrial story or UFO saga. Events like mutilated cattle and crop cutting designs come to mind. So it was that one sultry July night south of Havre, circa 1962, something happened.
My brother and I had just walked home from the Orpheum movie theater, a double feature, to our home on the south edge of town. It was late and darkness was crowding out daylight. Our parents were at a dinner party with plans of coming home much later. Stepping out on the back patio to feed the dog, we saw them: four bright objects low over the southern horizon, slowly tracking back and forth across the dark sky. We peered and strained and looked because, well, this was not normal. And we knew it. The bright objects were equidistant apart and, at the end of a tracking pattern they scattered and aligned once again into a perfect line of flying “things”, which is the best word we could come up with. Now, as young boys we had built enough model airplanes to know these were not conventional aircraft. We scurried inside and did what young problem-solving boys would do. We grabbed dad’s scope-sighted hunting rifles, his .270 and .308, in an attempt to get a better look. Even up close, we could detect no navigational lights and, more puzzling, no sound.
During the early 1960’s there had been a flurry of news accounts of flying saucer landings, little green men, curious objects in the sky. This, coupled with the imagination of two young boys, eleven and eight, and no adults around to supply answers, sent us into dread. Was this it? Had they landed? We looked at each other with a shared sense of puzzlement and, then, fear.
As if on que, two VOO DOO Air Force fighter jets, F101’s, screamed over the edge of town, so low we could see the orange-hot exhaust from the tail cones. We knew the design and shape and silhouette. Of course! Glasgow, less than a hundred miles to the east, had a fighter interceptor squadron! Hooray! Calvary to the rescue. As the paired jets drew nearer, the objects scattered and, then, zoomed at hypersonic speeds up into the dark sky. And were gone.
Our parents arrived later to find us huddled under the covers of the bed, drenched in as much sweat as two young boys could generate, still filled with dread. We told them. And they believed us. We had seen something. A military training exercise? An illusion? Meteorological phenomena? Extraterrestrials probing the vast landscape? Montana’s skies are so big they can contain endless answers. But we had seen something…