FA PRESS 901 W 24th St Austin Multi copy service. Call 477-3641 She is secretary and co-founder of the w orld-renowned Aerial Phenomena Research Association, and she and her field investigators in Texas have been following the second flight of the Aurora spaceman with raised eyebrows. Their eyebrows are raised out of skepticism, not wonder. Lorenzen is blunt about it. “The people who make up MUFON are people that we turn down as not being qualified and responsible investigators,” she said. “They are publicity seekers, and in the case of Aurora we are going on the assumption that whatever rare metal is found at that well has been planted there. When I read Mr. Case’s story about Dr. Hynek preparing to go to Aurora, I picked up the phone and called Allen and read it to him. He was astonished and angry, and said he had either been misunderstood or misquoted.” Dr. Hynek’s office in Evanston confirmed that he had no interest at all in going to Aurora and that he would be out of the country for the rest of the summer. Case lays all this to jealousy, but one senses in him a pulling back, a tendency now to soft-pedal the scientific probe and to play around with the possibility that it is all an old joke. He has always left himself this out, and will, I predict, paint himself out of the corner where the need for a good story has taken him. Out of it he has gotten a raise, a fat scrapebook of by-line stories, and a promotion in MUFON to state section chairman. IT SEEMS UNCANNY to me, or maybe it’s canny, that no one has explored the character of the three men who were in on the story from the beginning 76 years ago. They are S. E. Haydon, the Aurora cotton buyer who wrote the original story; Judge J. S. Proctor, into whose windmill the thing was supposed to have crashed; and T. J. Weems, whom Haydon identified in his story as a “United States signal service officer . . . and authority on astronomy.” WeemS, you remember, was the one who decided that the spaceman was a Martian. 14 The Texas Observer Bookkeeping & Tax Service 503 WEST 15TH, AUSTIN 78701 0 0 OFFICE HOURS: 9 A.M. TO 5 P.M. AND BY APPOINTMENT ANYTIME Well let’s begin with Jeff Weems. There is no record or recollection that he was ever a Signal Service officer, much less an authority on astronomy. Mr. Haydon, it appears, was having some fun with the local blacksmith, for that was what T. J. Weems was the town’s farrier. Weems eventually moved to Rhome, just east of Aurora, where he ran a grocery store until his death in 1925 at the age of 82. Haydon’s article seems even more a bit of strictly terrestrial horseplay when its context is considered. In the Morning News, the story ran on page five, buried down toward the middle of a page that contained no less than 16 reports from as many area towns about an airship being sighted. \(Remember that this was six and a half years before the Wright Brothers and of two days, April 17 and 18, and quote many eyewitnesses from a nine-county radius. This would appear, on the surface, to give some weight at least to the possibility that something out of the ordinary was in the air of that long ago April. But it doesn’t really. One has only to read the stories to realize that what was in the air that Aries was a happy contagion of cosmic invention that caught the fancy of every village Jules Verne. In Stephenville, out in Erath County, C. L. Mcllhany, a farmer, talked to the two-man crew of an “aerial monster” that landed in his pasture. Mr. Mcllhany’s imagination, alas, was not as lofty as our own Mr. Haydon’s. His airmen were not from Mars but from that other weird place, New York, and they were only testing the world’s first “aeroplane,” a cigar-shaped contraption powered by electrically-charged windmill fans. That was on April 17. The next day, over in Waxahachie, in Ellis County, a Judge Love of that city had a similar experience, only this time the crewmen were long-lost Jews from the Ten Tribes of Israel. Since Biblical times they had been living in the North Pole, had learned English from the explorers Sir Hugh Willoughby and Sir John Franklin, and were on their way to the Centennial Exhibition in Nashville to show off their airship. On the stories soared, taking rarefied forms, until Dr. E. Etuart of Ennis, Ellis County’s foremost metaphysician, declared in the Morning News that the whole affair was due to hypnotism and bad whiskey. HERE IN Wise County, on this caliche hill, the tale of the flying panatella, as Jerry Flemmons calls it, must have been as refreshing to S. E. Haydon and J. S. Proctor as the promise of rail service had been a few years earlier. Both were men of some substance, at least in character and leadership. They had staked their future on Aurora, had seen it boom and then, within a decade, wither before their eyes. Decatur got the county seat and courthouse and the Bible College, Bridgeport got the coal mines, Boyd the Rock Island Line and Rhome the Ft. Worth & Denver. And Aurora? All Aurora got were the boll weevil and a disastrous downtown fire, and two fever epidemics that sent most of its citizenry to the cemetery, or in flight to other towns. By 1897 it was a ghost of its former self. Yet Judge Proctor stood fast, because his family had been there since before the Civil War, because he was the justice of the peace. Haydon hung around because his wife and sons were in the graveyard, victims of the fever. What sustained them, this old Roy Bean and his cotton-man sidekick, we now realize, was a sense of humor. The spaceman came to Aurora and Haydon and Judge Proctor had some laughs. Some relief. Can’t you see them cooking it up, matching their version against those from other villages, and Haydon riding into the telegraph office in Rhome to file it with the city papers? Robbie Reynolds Hanson was a girl of 12 at the time, and she remembers that Judge Proctor ran a story, similar to Haydon’s but in the judge’s words, in the little local paper he published, a two-sheeter called the Aurora News. “Mr. Haydon called Jeff Weems a Signal Service officer,” Hanson said, “but the only commissioned man in town was my father, J. D. Reynolds, and he was the constable. I remember it was around my birthday that Daddy was reading Judge Proctor’s ‘joke’ in the Aurora News and laughing about it. ‘The judge has gone and outdone himself this time!’ That’s just how Daddy put it. ‘Course no one took it seriously. The Judge and Mr. Hay don were known to be men who liked to tease. Why they were always writing satirical little essays and such for the paper!” Ms. Haydon is not the only native who is astonished, and a little put out, that anyone would take the legend of the Aurora spaceman as gospel. It isn’t that they can’t cotton to the notion that man has company in the universe. That would be presumptuous. But they are storytellers, and realize the importance of myth. A cock-eyed story has its place, as does the reality of plain talk, and you have to be careful how you mix them. Both are too important to be abused. That’s the lesson I learned in Aurora, and I came away with a greater appreciation of the reality of those two good rogues, Judge Proctor and Mr. Haydon, than I do of the riddle they left us. The answer doesn’t lie at Brawley Oates’s wellhead, or even in the cemetery, but with Proctor and Haydon, wherever they are. I wish I could say where they are, but I can’t. They seem to have disappeared, to have lost themselves, perhaps on purpose, perhaps the better to grin and bear us our interminable and intruding “science.”
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