Published: 5:24 PM 3/16/2015
... the most widely noted series of UFO sightings for Montanans.
Ever since humans have been able to look upward, strange lights in the sky have mystified them.
They still do Ė as reported in newspaper, radio and TV stories and photographs only a couple of weeks ago, when a bright light left a lengthy line from horizon to horizon as it streaked above Montana and other states.
Nothing mysterious about the recent one, though, as it was quickly identified as a Chinese rocket returning to Earth after launching a satellite into a space orbit.
The rocket was burning and breaking up as it reached Earthís atmosphere.
Many such surprise sights are easily explained these days, but countless others arenít and are considered ďUFOs,Ē unidentified flying objects. They, too, rate occasional stories in the press. Some are featured in documentary programs and films.
Perhaps the summer of 1966 Ė between June 27 and July 21 - was the most widely noted series of UFO sightings for Montanans.
Reports from persons who noticed the lights indicated that some objects seemed twice as bright as satellites; some had no particular shape or sound, and most seemed to have blinking lights of red, green and white.
The color combination naturally sounded like the appearance of a star as its light filtered through the atmosphere.
But some of the reported lights were not fixed objects. They would cross the horizon in 25 to 45 seconds, compared to much longer time periods for satellites.
Most sightings were reported between 9:15 p.m. and 11 p.m. (our time), but the lights traveled in different directions. For instance, lights were reported traveling from east to west on June 27, 1966; south to north, July 3 and 14; north to south, July 18; and on July 19, one of the strange thingamajigs passed almost directly over the city of Polson.
In my column in the Flathead Courier on July 21, 1966, I complained that I hadnít seen any such objects.
However, that night I experienced my first UFO sighting. It appeared to be too low and too fast for a satellite. Others witnessing the fast-traveling light were my wife as she looked out the kitchen window, a couple of our youngsters and some neighborhood kids playing in the backyard.
The pulsating white light came out of the northwest, and traveled in a straight line to the southeast. It crossed the horizon in less than a minute and made no sound. It seemed to be spinning and had a circular shape.
I had been taking pictures of the kids earlier in the evening and still had the camera with me in the yard. I snapped a picture, but it was a shapeless blurred blob because of slow shutter speed. The picture was taken at a setting of 1/25th of a second with a 5.6 lens opening, using Tri-X film, 120 size, in a Minolta Autocord camera.
What did we see? I donít know. Havenít seen anything like it since, but Iím less skeptical when I hear reports of UFOs now.