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A Close Encounter

"I have my own close encounter."
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Driving through the rolling prairie of Wyoming was boring. The children sat at the table reading books. My wife sat in the other captain's chair, as I drove. Our destination was Devils Tower National Monument. Verdant rolling fields of grass covered this area of our country. The road I drove was two lanes wide and snaked through the countryside.

As I drove around one of the many rolling hills, Devil's Tower loomed ahead. This monolith protruded out of the prairie that surrounded the Black Hills. This igneous rock came from magma, which cooled below ground. Erosion over the years exposed the tower. It stood, as if it were a lonely rocky sentinel over the grassland and Ponderosa pine forests. The Northern Plains tribes worshipped the tower for thousands of years.

Surrounding us, as we entered the park were fields of grass with small mounds. Looking closely, we saw the heads of prairie dogs poking up. They watched, as we drove further into the park. If we stopped and got out to watch them closely, they disappeared into their burrows. The slightest disturbance caused this. My wife loved to watch these little varmints scurry between mounds. She laughed at their antics.

We drove to the visitor's center, where we learned about the geology of the park and its history. President Theodore Roosevelt created it as America's first national monument. After learning about the monument, we walked to the base. We saw the stark bare rock as it towered above us. It was a spectacular site to see.

As I stood there, a different thought came to mind. This was the major piece of the movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' I remembered the lights and the things that went on around the top of the monument. I thought how cool it would be, if those things happened, while we were there. The only problem was that was all Hollywood not reality, or was it.

We drove out of the monument area to a campground not a mile from the park. The campground showed the movie every night to celebrate the park. This night was no different. A motorcycle club drove into the campground just after dark. They were a rowdy bunch during the movie, but quieted down at the end. We put the girls to bed and sat outside our motor home.

As we sat there, the heated pool beckoned. We donned our bathing suits and entered the warm water. Whether it was the warm water or the clean pure air, we felt relaxed and sat in the water looking up at the moon and the tower.

Suddenly behind us, rustling noises came through the grass. It was not the motorcyclists. It was something else. As I turned, I saw movement of several large things nearby. It was dark and these things moved slowly. Fear gripped me and I gulped at this. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw a herd of deer eating the grass about fifteen feet away. I relaxed, but heard some other noises. The prairie dogs prowled about too, yipping and playing.

As my heart slowed from the deer, motorcycles started and left the area for a night ride. The deer and prairie dogs ran from the sound. It set the stage for what happened next.

In the bright moon lit sky, clouds rolled in and hovered above the tower's peak. More clouds came and obscured the moon and its light. I thought nothing of the clouds. It was normal weather patterns. It happened all the time.

Suddenly, the top of the tower burst into full view with lights coming from the clouds. I sat terrified. Was this another close encounter? The lights glowed white, red and yellow. They flashed but there was no noise. I sat in the warm water unable to move with my eyes riveted to the tower. The lights stayed flashing exposing the tower.

My wife grabbed my neck and pulled closer to me. This natural spectacle frightened her. I tried to make light of it, but my voice quaked. I was terrified too. This can't be happening rolled through my mind. This isn't real, but here it was.

The light show from the clouds continued. Fascination at this natural light show struck me after ten minutes. Nervously I started to laugh at what scared me. My laughter soon stopped, as a loud rumble rolled over the area. The ground shook and the pool water rolled with waves. The light show grew in intensity with the rumbling noise rocking us. Now I was really scared. This was getting to be very spooky.

As fast as this natural spectacle started, it ended when the clouds moved away from the tower. Hollywood could never duplicate that. All I knew was we witnessed something so terrifying and spooky. The whole show lasted about forty minutes and left me a believer that there was something mystical or at least alien about the tower.

This was enough for me. I had my own close encounter and I was impressed. Devils Tower lived up to its Hollywood hype.

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