I thought I'd lead off with a story, but my friend Margaret wants the confession, so I'm going to tell you about the biggest lie I ever told...and pretty near the only one of any consequence that's not some version of "It's fine, every thing's fine, I'M FINE!"
This story is about how a lie becomes a family legend, and how 4 people can be in the same place, see and hear the same things and come to 4 very different conclusions.
To set the stage, you have to read what follows with a hillbilly accent. I'll try to help...
I was born near Caplinger Mills, Missouri, which is more or less in the center of a triangle drawn from Stockton to ElDorado Springs to Humansville...OK, make that Kansas City, St. Louis and Little Rock, Arkansas. We lived on a farm pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
I'm 2 years older than my brother, and 8 years older than my sister, who was an infant at the time of the Big Lie. She was born on Thanksgiving day, and so I'm guessing that the incident took place in December or January. I don't recall a Christmas tree, so it was probably just after the first of the new year.
In the mid to late 60's there were quite a few stories of UFO's and cattle mutilations and the like going around. My Mom saw a UFO that winter. She thinks I saw one, too. Every now and then, she'll look up at me...she's 4'11" tall, and say, "I saw a flyin' saucer once...you were probably too young to remember, but you saw one, too." I've never told her the truth, but I do remember the night in question well...so here's the confession.
Mom always described what she saw out our back window and across the field as a big saucer -shaped object that moved up and down, right and left over the landscape with lights changing from yellow to red to green. Our neighbor a mile away claimed to see it, too. I don't think Dad ever did believe it.
On that night, probably a Saturday night, because my parents were watching wrestling (that's wrasslin in hillbilly) on the black and white TV. It was later than Jim and I were usually allowed to stay up. My sister was sleeping in her crib. Dad told us it was time to go to bed.
Now here's the part that got us into trouble. Do you remember the Green Giant commercials that were on back then? The one with the deep voice singing "Ho ho ho Green Giant!"? That's what was on TV as we went toward the room we shared. And we went stomping and singing along with the TV. I think we got to the 2nd "HO" when Mom yelled for us to be quite before we woke the baby up, and Dad came up out of his chair and started for us.
We were fixin to get a whuppin. One I didn't think we deserved. The window over my bed looked out over the same field where Mom had seen the UFO. In the time it took Dad to round the corner, I decided to lie. "There's a flying saucer," I said.
"Where? Did you see it, too?", Dad asked. My brother, who always was a quick study nodded his head and pointed out the window. Dad said, "Put your shoes on and get in the truck." He went and got the rifle as Mom wrapped my sister up in her blanket.
It was one of those clear, cold, dark nights when the grass gets crunchy with frost before midnight, and the stars are so bright they look like bits of broken glass on black velvet. We all piled into the cab of Dad's old red and white pickup and went to look for the UFO. I don't know what would have happened if we'd found one. I don't know how far we drove, or how long we were out. The inside of the windshield got frosty with our breaths.
To my Mom, I became "the girl who saw the flying saucer", someone who verified her own sighting some time earlier. For the rest of his life, my Dad looked at me with suspicion. I don't think he ever did believe...I think my brother was impressed by my quick thinking and my solution to our problem. I think he started to admire me a little that night. If he ever wondered what I did see out that window, he hasn't ever asked. My sister was too young to have an opinion, but I did promise 4 versions of what happened that night.
What I brought away was that sometimes a good story properly told will keep you out of trouble. I learned that I had the ability to make something up, and to profit from it. I learned that I was a writer. After all, that's what writing is - making stuff up and telling lies.
Links to Cool Sites:
My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books
- Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
- Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
- Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
- Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
- Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries
My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books
- "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
- Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
- "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
- Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
- Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
- Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
- Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"