To the editor:
Halloween is a time for ghost stories. Most of us probably have had some experience that seemed a bit “supernatural” when it happened. I don’t really believe in ghosts and spirits, though living in a house that is over 100 years old does have its share of non-ethereal frightening moments. For example, when we moved in the house had steam heat with ghostly clanking and wheezing radiators. After continually battling the system and almost having the house freeze up one winter, we finally had central forced air heat installed. But we have never completely gotten rid of bats. I still remember the first time Linda woke me in the middle of the night and said, “I think a bat is flying around our room!” Our exterminator became frustrated because he was not able to block them out. I finally devised my own system that keeps them away—mostly.
But back to tales of the supernatural. In 1964, as part of my active duty training for National Guard, I was at Fort Carson, Colo., to learn my military occupational specialty. Fort Carson, just outside Colorado Springs, was the home of the Fifth Infantry Division, a unit constantly training in the field to be ready to deploy for combat on short notice. So, much of my time at Fort Carson was spent sleeping under the stars.
On one “outing” in early December (really not too distant from Halloween) we had finished supper and were sitting around the mess truck playing cards and telling stories. A Chinook was blowing, making it a breezy but unusually pleasant, light-jacket evening. About 8 p.m., we could see the distant headlights of cars first going up, then other cars coming down the Cheyenne Mountain access road to NORAD, which then was still under construction. About 10, I was tired and started back to where we had parked our armored personnel carrier to turn in. The moon was nearly full and I could see my way through the prairie grass, sagebrush and scattered pines.
About halfway back I heard behind me what I thought were footsteps. At first barely audible, they quickly became louder and closer. It was eerie in that at least a couple of seconds passed between each footfall and each step sounded like very large feet crunching into the weeds and brush. Much as I hate to admit it, my heart beat faster, because those strides were very un-human.
With the footsteps almost upon me, I stopped and somewhat apprehensively turned around to see what manner of creature could be following me with such enormous strides. To my amazement the apparition that came upon me, passed by, and disappeared in the darkness ahead, was the largest tumbleweed I had ever seen—over six feet tall! Driven by the force of the Chinook blowing in the same direction I was heading, it was mostly gliding through the air, touching the ground briefly with a scrunching sound every ten or twelve feet as it tumbled along.
As I watched it disappear I felt a bit foolish, but to be honest, also a bit relieved. Over the years I have enjoyed telling this story, and like most such stories, it becomes grander with the passage of time. What I really have come to appreciate, however, is that in my years of military service, this trivial incident was the height of my scary experiences. Thank God!