The Unknown Light                        

     This happened one night well over a half a century ago in my native Iowa. I had been to the nearby town of Lake View and was going home, to a farm northwest of town. I didn't have transportation so if I didn't get a ride with someone, I had to walk. That's what I was doing that night. My way would take me west along Highway 71, to where it passed two country roads, one going south and the other, north. I would take the one going north which ran across hills for more than a mile.

     It was a long time ago but the incident endures in my memory. Some details have faded, but I'll recount it as close as I can recall it. If I remember right, it was around 11 pm to midnight, dark and a little cold. I'd say it was about February of the year 1948 or 1949. I would've been 14 or 15 years old then. I may've been wearing a hand-me-down fingertip coat that had belonged to one of my older brothers. I walked west on the paving and was maybe a quarter mile beyond the high school grounds located on the west edge of town.  As I was passing or past the Kies farm, on my right, I saw a light off in the distance to the northwest. It may've been in motion.  It probably made me apprehensive and unsettled, as I'd have walk that way after I turned off the highway.

     When I came to the corner where I'd turn north on a gravel road, I think the light was very much on my mind. At this corner there'd been a deserted country schoolhouse, a cave and some trees. The schoolhouse is gone now but it may've still been there at the time, and I may've regarded it as kind of spooky, but what lay ahead would prove to be quite frightening.

     The road was a lonely stretch with no farm places along it until near the end of the mile. It would rise to a crest before it dropped down to what you might describe as two small valleys, separated by a small hill, like big wrinkles in the landscape, side by side. As I walked on, at some point I cautiously followed a path that tires make on a gravel road, so as not to step on stones to make scrunching or popping sound with my feet, revealing my presence there. After I was far enough up the crest or over it, I saw the light below me and off to my left in a pasture. I don't recall hearing any sound from that direction.

     The light moved out of the pasture and onto the road ahead of me. When it started up the road toward me, I was very much in fear. I decided to get off the roadway to avoid encountering it and whatever was with it. I think I crouched down or moved in a stooped position, to try to lower my profile. There was snow in the ditch with a crust on it, and it crunched underfoot when I stepped in it. I think I listened keenly to see if whatever it was, heard me, probably cocking my ear in its direction.

     Between the ditch and a field there was wire fence. I worked my way over to it. Somehow I got under or through the fence and crawled out onto the field, which might've been plowed in the fall. If so, I was on my hands and knees, crossing clumps of cold soil. I may not had any gloves or mittens with me, in which case I was on my bare hands. I don't remember the close approach of a light on the road but then I was busy moving away and I suppose it's possible it could've been extinguished.

     I crawled out some distance, then turned down some rows of corn stalks, bent over from picking. These rows probably ran parallel to the road. I crawled down one of them, maybe at a distance of around 200 feet or more from the road. I stopped when I was about across from something emitting a light, not a bright one but a soft light. An impression lingers in my mind that it had a bluish color to it. It seemed like it came from the dash inside of a car.

     But then I now wonder from my vantage point on the ground, how I could even see a dash, if it were one. I don't remember seeing any distinct shape or silhouette against the night sky, apart from maybe some small trees or bushes along the fenceline but I doubt if they would've obscured things so as to conceal something. My oldest sister Marie remembers that there were plum trees along this road.

     I have no recollection of any sounds being made: no steps, no voices, nor vehicle openings and closings. Nothing.

     I may've remained there five to ten minutes before I decided I couldn't stay out there in the field. I think I probably crawled on until I was farther down the row toward the valley, before I rose to stooped position to continue on at a faster pace. When I was down in the valley, I headed back towards the road. I imagine from the ditch, I looked back up the road, peering in the darkness toward what I'd gone around. At that point, I may've been around 20 yards from where the light emerged from the pasture on the opposite side of the road. I don't remember  seeing anything back up the road from there.

    To get out on the road itself, I'd possibly expose myself, but I had to move. When I did get onto the road again, I suppose I walked quietly at first, but farther on, I started to run. I could've been about three-quarters of a mile from home at the time when I took off running. The sound of my footfalls on the road must've carried for a way, in the silence of the night, and I don't know what I would've done, if the light had come down the road in my direction.

     When I reached the home, I stopped upstairs, by my folk's room and spoke to my mother. I told her I would never walk home again. The next morning, on the way to church, I saw no evidence of anything on the road. The image of frozen ground clings to my memory. 

     I never found out what I encountered that night, but I know I didn't leave the roadway, to crawl and go around nothing. Something or someone was out there. Or maybe what it was, was plural. To this day the light remains unknown, a mystery to me.

                                                                             John Riedell
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