December 02, 2002

UFO in Floyd County!

Monday morning began bright and brisk, with a low silver sun, calm, peaceful as ever. Sitting at the computer waiting for the muse to visit and move my fingers on the keys, I became aware that I was hearing sounds unnatural out my window. I got up from my chair and stood at the open front door in my robe and slippers. Whatever it was, it was circling back and forth between our valley and the neighbors. We see small planes and the occasional ultralight making lazy circles over our valley in the summer when the thermals give extra lift, but it would be odd to have these flying things around this time of the year. Something was not exactly right in my memory of sound to place this roar in any known group of aerial creature I had known.

The roar increased and decreased in pitch and intensity as if this machine was making circles, moving alternately closer, then farther from my listening post in the shelter of the porch. I tried to make sense of it, looking for the simplest explanation in the good scientist way. I could be wrong, but there seemed to be a bunch of engines all screaming at once, then falling off, then beginning the next verse, over and over again. I watched in the apparent direction of the mysterious noise as it persisted off and on all Monday morning and never saw anything at all above the tree lined ridges, even though the pitch of the sound told me I should. Finally, Tuesday afternoon, while across in the woods gathering some oak firewood I had split and stacked there last winter, I realized that once again, these reverberating hollows had deceived my ears. The clefts and folds of these ravines make locating the source of the infrequent noises we hear... a deer hunter's gunshot, distant hammering, mysterious flying machines... a ventriloquial impossibility.

What had seemed to be coming from the south while I stood on the porch on Monday turned out to be sound bouncing back at me from a source to the north instead. Aha! Finally, there it was: just a helicopter! But what on earth was it doing, hanging out in one place for so long? No, not one place. It seemed to be hovering over several different places back up on Lick Ridge... zipping between two places maybe a half mile or more apart, back and forth like a bumblebee between sunflowers. Then, later that day, another piece of the puzzle fell in place.

The helicopter was carrying something underneath. From the distance, it appeared long and straight; it could have been a log, I supposed. It seemed reasonable to conclude that somebody is logging by helicopter! It can be done, but it is very expensive. I was impressed that someone would spend that kind of money, when the local tendency for loggers is to doze their way into the woods in military fashion, rape and pillage, and leave with their cash. Helicopters don't come cheaply, and this seemed an unlikely explanation, but it was all I had to work with at the moment.

Ann saw the helicopter and its odd load later Tuesday afternoon. She said it looked to her more like a metal beam than a log. Hmmmm. Maybe some moneyed person is building a remote steel-girded cantilevered mountain hunting cabin up behind us. But this theory didn't explain why the 'thing' hanging from the helicopter was being moved back and forth between three or more different places.

Wednesday while up on the ridge behind the house looking for this year's Charlie Brown Christmas tree, another sighting. This time we were much closer and got a better view of the helicopter and it's odd burden. The 'thing' being carried was segmented in some way; I could discern a dozen or so rings or lumps on the maybe 30 foot object. Working theory: a long rod with large electrical insulators, such as would be part of the tall electrical tower structures that carry major power lines. The flaw in that explanation was that there aren't any of those within 10 miles of here. I was running out of theories and thinking it was about time to take this bull by the horns, whatever that might entail.

There were no helicopters for Turkey Day. Would they come back the day after, or would this mystery end without a solution? I didn't have to wait long for the answer. Matter of fact, I had sat down to write the preliminaries to this little mystery on Friday morning, when I heard a familiar sound outside, but this time it was way closer than what I had heard earlier in the week. This story, it seems, was going to have an ending after all! Just maybe, our UFO was an Unidentified Forestry Object!

By the time I got down off the porch steps and into the yard, the helicopter and it's strange Sword of Damocles was hovering directly over the house maybe 300 feet up. I thought for an instant it was about to drop the Rod of Death straight down on the house! It was moving very slowly west, and descending fast over the wooded ridge. The 'thing' I could now see clearly. It consisted of a series of circles end to end, like pizza pans welded together in a line. At the top was a black box about the size of a small sports car. The helicopter descended slowly, just up the road. It carefully lowered its stinger down below the treeline near the powerline that follows a narrow right-of-way up the ridge next to us. I assumed it was going to drop this thing and go back to the mother ship for more. Before I could throw on my overalls and run back outside, the craft and it's bizarre appendage had lifted and was gone.

Now, I'm not one to freak out over unexplained phenomenon, but I could not be content to just shrug this one off and get on with my doin's around here. So, I called the Floyd County Sheriff's office; you know, the neighborhood-watch community service type call. Reporting a prowler, with an odd twist.

"Yes, this is Fred First and I live down below the old Terry's Fork Grocery and I'm wondering if you know anything about helicopters being used by aliens to hide large, powerful metal mind-controlling devices in the remote wooded sections of northeastern Floyd county".

No, I didn't say exactly that. But what I did say didn't sound not much less weird as I was explaining to tell the poor dispatcher what was taking place here in my backyard. Fortunately, this being a small pond, she had seen the helicopter plus its stinger this morning from Route 8 (a good 5 miles west) and had found out what was going on. Oh good! I wasn't alone to fight off this invasion!

There was a good reason that I could not describe or explain the hangy-down thing, as my mind had not conceived that there was such a thing as this. They could have dang warned us ahead of time! That woulda saved a lot of angst amongst us wayback sheltered folk. The story has it that our electrical utility, American Electric Power, is doing powerline clearing through the steep, inaccessible parts of the county here that really cannot be reached on foot, definitely not by service truck. They have contracted with a company out of NC for a service that uses a very odd but effective tool... the 'thing' suspended from the helicopter.

And here is an explanation for the 'stinger': it is a hanging series of two-foot circular saw blades; the black box on top is apparently the engine that powers them. The whole contraption is lowered along the powerline and moved through the limbs that encroach along the right-of-way. There are at least 10 individual saws, all working at once making a terrible racket, in addition to the roar of the helicopter. No wonder it sounded like we were being invaded by a squadron of Tie Fighters! And in this maze of intersecting valleys, they were coming at us from all sides at once.

I thought there for a minute I was gonna hafta call Mulder and Scully in on this one. And I'm still not 100% convinced that there might not be a Roswell thing going on here. Weather balloon. Yeah, right.

Update: Here is a picture of and more details about the giant helicopter tree-whacker. Man. Can you imagine a movie where, in the final scene, Bruce Willis or Arnold Sreap vengeance on the 'evil ones' du jour using one of these suckers!


Posted by fred1st at December 2, 2002 10:09 AM
Comments

Yikes! I would definitely find one of those doo-flops dangling from a helicopter infinitely unnerving! Hope you had a lovely Turkey Day! The photo of your family that you posted was very nice . . . a pleasant-looking lot, just on the cusp of being immensely well fed. :)

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at December 2, 2002 10:57 AM

You know, there is a little part of me that would just love to get my hands on one of those...

Posted by: ron at December 2, 2002 01:05 PM

Aurora. Most certainly aurora.

Posted by: anna at December 2, 2002 09:25 PM

Cycle perhaps? I mean, bin Laden must be SOMEWHERE... why not traipsin' around Floyd on the back of his one-eyed friend's motorcycle, bucket of kfc in one hand, sprint phone in the other, playing "Can you hear me now?" with our on-the-ball g-men.

No movies here. Nor the next town, nor the one after that. Only snow, two squirrels, one 'possum, and moi.

Posted by: anne at December 2, 2002 11:56 PM

You're too late.
This machine has already been in James Bond THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. He's riding in a car that gets attacked by a pipeline helicopter carrying one.
P.S. Spoiler - Bond get away!

Posted by: Biased Observer at December 5, 2002 11:59 AM

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