One night in Wisconsin

About a thousand years ago I was a summer camp counsellor near Eagle River in Wisconsin. It was the absolute middle of nowhere.

Eagle River without American graffiti. The cars were different but nothing else changed.

We had a night off every week, which proved slightly problematic as there was pretty much nowhere to go and nothing much to do. There was a coin-op laundry in town if you had spare laundry. There was a shop that sold Stetsons but real Stetsons cost a lot more than you’d think. There was a golf driving range near the town, but I didn’t do golf. There were occasional water pageants, where as I remember it, teams of cheerleaders went waterskiing for the crowd’s delectation and delight, but that may have been a dream.

Nothing we can say or do’s gonna change anything now….

I had my own cheerleader anyway, the too-good-to-be-truly named Nancy-Jean, who was a Drama counsellor over at one of the other camps nearby, Red Pine or Minoqua, I forget. Me, I taught kids how to shoot, which I thought was a bit of a coals-to-Newcastle job, but that was how I got it: they didn’t have many/any English riflery instructors, my summer camp didn’t have a riflery instructor, I’d qualified as an adult marksman at Bisley when I was 15 so after a train ride and an interview in a forgotten Victorian room high above Paddington station, that was that. I bought if not Bernie Taupin’s old gold Chevy then at least an old green one, but I didn’t have a place of my own, so most of the time not spent at Gene Fleck’s Meadow Inn bar where we met was spent driving aimlessly around looking for somewhere to (ahem) park, as it was politely called, where you might not get shot or eaten by a bear.

Ho ho, you might say now, but on one parking expedition I thought we’d better get in the car with the windows up pretty fast, prompted by grunting and snuffling that wasn’t coming from either of us. Another evening, with another two girls from another summer camp I got a .38 revolver shoved in my stomach, and not by either of them. Both stories from and for another time.

It was on one of those aimless nights riding along in my automobile I saw a UFO. I wasn’t the only person to see it. It was a starry night, the Northern Lights were doing their ho-hum-seen-it-so-many-times-now thing (sorry if you haven’t, but…) and it was a normal evening drive. Just the huge V8 burbling away for a soundtrack, slow talking and ….omg.

Just what IS that?

A black triangle moved silently across the sky. It moved across the Northern Lights display. It was triangular. And it didn’t make a sound.

In fact NOT a UFO at all.

All of this is absolutely true.

So that was one of my UFO sightings, I thought. Something in the I Don’t Know drawer that probably everyone has. I hadn’t intended to open that one again until last year when I went to Norwich. It wasn’t something I was thinking about until I saw it there, in the middle of this lovely medieval city. Just off the marketplace there’s a pretty Art Deco arcade. That’s where I saw my UFO again. In the window of a model shop.

It was real. Real enough for Revell to make a model of it. And like a lot of UFOs, it turned out it wasn’t, because it could be identified, just not at the time.

The aircraft that looks so ludicrously science-fiction that it has to be either fake, from another planet or both turned out to be a Rockwell B2. All that time ago, when I could still get into 30 inch waist jeans (on me I mean, Nancy-Jean’s were smaller than that) I really did see that black triangular shape cross the sky soundlessly, blotting out the Northern Lights.

The funny thing is, the same thing still happens.

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