Published: 11:56 AM 1/18/2015
I was mesmerized by a large array of dazzling white lights...
In the summer of 1952, when I was 6 years old, my family took a trip by car from our small hometown in northwest Missouri to the Phoenix area in Arizona.
My mother’s brother there had persuaded my dad, a high school teacher and coach, to come out and seek a position in the “Valley of the Sun,” because it was reported that there was a shortage of secondary educators in the locale.
As there was no air conditioning in cars in those days, we traveled mostly at night and in the early morning hours, resting midday at roadside and city parks (we couldn’t afford motels on a teacher’s salary) on cots dad had strapped to the car’s roof carrier.
I have only two distinct memories of that hot motor trek to the great Southwest. The first, vivid but trivial, is the burning of the soles of my bare feet on the sidewalk when we arrived at Uncle Jim’s house in Glendale.
The second, which I think likely happened in the Arizona or New Mexico desert, is my possible sighting of a UFO as we were driving back home to Missouri.
Asleep with my two brothers in the back seat of our car in the dead of night, something caused me to wake up and get to my knees. Looking out of the back window, I was mesmerized by a large array of dazzling white lights, in rotational motion.
It was just behind us, elevated above the car. I don’t know how long the stunning object actually stayed in my view, but it seems to have been no more than a few moments. For whatever reason, I don’t remember how it disappeared.
If Dad and Mom had been aware of whatever it was that had lit up my vision that night on the lonely highway, they kept it to themselves, because there was never any mention of it.
Its image remains an indelible enigma in my memory after 62 years. For a long time, I considered that it may have been nothing more than a dream or hallucination formed in my half-awake state.
Gradually, however, I have come to the reasonable conclusion that I, indeed, saw something real, which was neither natural nor manmade.
Acquainting myself in my adult years with the UFO literature, I learned that the modern phenomenon has manifested in regular periodic waves, peaking about every five years.
1952 was a peak year, and the U.S. hotspot then was the Southwest. That fact alone isn’t proof that I actually saw a UFO, though I think it lends some weight to the possibility.
In 1970, my nuclear family, minus Dad (he died the previous year at our home in southwest Kansas), moved to Phoenix at the urging of Uncle Jim and my older brother, Jerry, who had lived and worked there for several years in the mid-1960s and liked it.
We lived there for 38 years. In 2008, the year of our mother’s death, a homing instinct brought us (three brothers, all single) back to the Midwest, here to Salina, not far from our birthplace of Kansas City, Mo.
Although I came to much appreciate the beauty of the Southwest’s Sonoran desert (did a lot of hiking in it during the early years), with its iconic giant Saguaro cactus, I never became a true “desert rat.”
Maybe I inherited from Dad my liking for environments with more water, lusher vegetation and less blistering summer temperatures (Phoenix is the hottest major city in the U.S.).
For that reason, he never took a teaching job in the Valley of the Sun. It was just too much of an alien landscape for a guy who had grown up fishing and hunting in the woodlands of Missouri and eastern Kansas.
I never did see a UFO in all the time we lived and traveled in ultra-scenic Arizona. Unfortunately, I missed the stupendous “Phoenix lights” that were witnessed by thousands of locals in March 1997.
I was working inside that night, and am still disappointed that I didn’t see UFO history in the making.
A. Wayne Senzee is a writer residing in Salina.