Some details are more clear than others. But this was one of those days that one remembers for life.
Easter Sunday 1971 was a beautiful warm sunny day. The family was celebrating with baked ham and all the fixins. Grandma Tessa was in charge of the ham. She and my mom, Val, had all the preparations well in hand. My friend Carl was visiting and we decided to go for a walk. I was sixteen and Carl a year older. He was a drummer and I played guitar so we had this garage band. The garage was literally the only venue we headlined at but we had fun.
My youngest brother Robbie was around somewhere doing whatever six year olds do. I didn't pay him any mind, Carl and I didn't want him tagging along anyway. When we got on the blacktop I asked Carl where he wanted to walk to. "I don't know, where do you want to walk?". We decided the old logging road was as good a place as any.
We lit up a joint and passed it as we walked. We didn't talk much but we were okay with that. When we got to the top of the hill, still on blacktop, I turned and looked back at the house as I handed Carl the doob. I was struck with how pretty the scene was. The house surrounded by trees, blue sky and puffy white clouds with a little curl of smoke coming out of the stovepipe. "What's that?", said Carl. I looked where he was pointing. It was gliding just above the treetops and it was real close. The shape was like a cigar only bulged out a lot more in the middle and it had the smoothest mirror finish on it. There was a perfect sphere, with the same shiny surface. It wasn't attached, but it moved with the thing like it was attached, right above and behind the tail. At least I thought it was the tail because the thing was moving and the globe followed. As if all that wasn't weird enough, there was no sound. Oh, there were bird noises and leaves rustling in the breeze. But whatever this was it was plenty close enough to hear and big and, "I don't know, what do you think it is?". Carl didn't know, so we finished walking to the old logging road and then turned around and headed back.
Carl went to visit with his grandpa who happened to live on our dead end lane between our house and the old logging road. I went back to the house and, strangely, forgot to mention to anyone about the you-know-what. Maybe I was afraid they wouldn't believe me. I went to the den and put on "The Guess Who", and then stepped into the kitchen as strains of "American Woman" mingled with the scent of ham and sweet potatoes.
Just then, Grandpa Bob came in from the stairs at the other end of the kitchen and said, "Don't panic, but there's a fire upstairs." He said it as calmly as he could.
We panicked. Grandma Tessa grabbed the Easter ham out of the oven and ran outside.
Val, (she's my mom, but I call her Val) grabbed the Buddha statue off the altar, in the den right next to the record player, and ran outside.
I grabbed a garden hose and turned the water on and somehow managed to get on the first story roof. I knew I couldn't put the fire out but maybe I could slow it down.
Robbie did whatever six year olds do. He went to the neighbors across the street and told them our house was on fire. They called 911.
It was a long time before I thought again about what Carl and I saw. And about the smoke coming out of the stovepipe.