|By Jack Cawthon 2003|
Burvil was bopping around like a pinball trapped by a runaway bumper. I
could only guess that he had gone off his Ritalin again and onto the
drug du jour of the Big Puf moment.
I had hardly removed my aging self from my aging pickup, both of us
beginning to rust in our driveshafts, victims of our saltiness, when he
began screaming, "Did you see them? Did you see them?"
Aware that Burvil's brain is imprisoned somewhere between puberty and
adultery, I assumed he might be referring to the recent Victoria's
Secrets special on TV. I most certainly don't watch such trash,
especially models posing more of themselves than the scrimpy little
nothings, especially the one wearing, or hardly wearing, the little
black, lacey, frilly. (I had read about this outrage in some review.)
"Them men in black!" he exclaimed in his own frugal manner. "That there
Gray Barker was right when he told about them!" Aha! I was beginning
to understand. The late Gray Barker attended Glenville State College
and in between ran the movie projector at the old Pictureland Theater in
town where I watched many a B Western when I was a mere tad. I remember
him as a tall, lanky sort, not one would become internationally famous
for his work with UFOs, or as we less informed or less visionary, call
I had recently found his book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers at
a yard sale and prize it as a collector's item. In it he was the first
to mention "men in black" which has now become part of the U-Fo
doctrine. The book is well written, and the account of the "Flatwoods
Monster" brought back my own memories. A. Lee Stewart was editor of the
Braxton Democrat in Sutton back then, who some might describe as a
colorful character and other less charitably. He was the first newsman
on the scene at Flatwoods that fateful night and had much to do with
alerting the world of other worldly events.
The night of the Flatwoods spotting, or plotting, Stewart had received
some sort of information, perhaps from outer space, that something had
happened in Gilmer County.
If it had, that would have been news in
itself, as I, in my young mind, never felt that anything happened
there. Linn Hickman, editor of the Glenville papers, called me and
asked if I would pack the Speed Graphic camera and come join the
As a budding photographer who hoped someday to make the big
time, as big and as far away as Parkersburg, and still in high school
subject to the thrill of journalism and not yet over the threshold of
reality, I needed no encouragement to tag along.
Hickman, Stewart, a State Police sergeant from Weston and I trooped off
into the woods to some part of the county, I now can't remember where,
to chase some object which had glowed and seemed to prefer Gilmer as its
next stop after Flatwoods.
We didn't find it, else I could have become
famous for being on the scene of the "Gilmer County monster" although I
did achieve fame of sort later as being a Gilmer monster myself in my
old columns in the Glenville Pathfinder. (What irony, as I have always
had a lousy sense of direction, worse than Fremont for whom the title
But Burvil jolted me back to reality, if I may use that word in
relationship to Big Puf. He was still jabbering about "men in black,"
and however little hormonal reserve my brain possesses I had trouble
leaving "women in black" with my remote control.
After calming Burvil sufficiently to ask him what in the world he was
talking about, he could only reply, "It hain't of this world; hits of
"They found aliens in Wal-Mart," he almost sobbed. And the story came
bubbling forth that he had once visited a Wal-Mart, a feat in itself as
Big Puf is far from meeting the demographics of such a super store, and
he had seen men in black roaming the aisles with little devices on their
belts that from time to time they would unhook and speak into.
figured they were like ET, trying to call home. I told him they were
probably store managers, or big shots from the Arkansas headquarters,
and he said that proved his point.
There was no stopping Burvil now that he was on a vision quest. He
pointed out that aliens were probably just scouting out Flatwoods in the
50s. "Look at it now!" He seemed to think that only someone with outer
space connections could have made it into the big commercial center it
now is, centrally located in the center of no where. I told him I
thought it was John Skidmore. Burvil shook his head and said Barker had
mentioned "skid marks", not Skidmore, when he described the landing
Burvil moved closer to me and said he wanted to confide something, if I
promised not to tell. I hoped it wasn't about that woman over on Blue
Tick who doesn't pull down her window shades at night, or so I was told
by a source whom I will protect for his sometimes perverted peeking.
Burvil said he believed there were aliens in Big Puf, that they were
already HERE in our midst. I asked him how he could tell, and he looked
at me as if I was an "egit," his favorite word for non-agreement.
They got normal toes and fingers, and even belly buttons," he smirked,
knowing something I was alien to. The six-toed Hanshaws and the 11
fingered Pratlows and the absence of umbilicals when they merged genes
suddenly came to mind, and I could swear I could hear that music from
Close Encounters of the Third Kind playing in my head, which is ironic
as I have trouble handling close encounters of the first kind in Big