We all know that UFOs are real. All we need to ask is where do they come from, and what do they want
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
How did I end up in Roswell, New Mexico?
It is literally in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest commercial airport, right smack-bang in the desert toward the Texan border. Perhaps its attraction is its remote location, or maybe because John Denver and Demi Moore were born there, or maybe it is because of the Roswell UFO Incident of 1947. Yesterday's drive from Red River, through the many landscapes of New Mexico, was exhilarating. I had started in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near the Colorado border, travelled through lush farmlands, then into the softly-grassed but stunning prairie lands before ending in the harsh and sandy desert. Towns are few and far between, but there's nothing like the feeling of freedom that I feel when driving along the open road without schedules or deadlines.
Roswell is, like many remote Australian rural towns, a commercial and industrial hub, which caters for the needs of the local farming communities. It's also the home of the New Mexico Military Institute, which dates back to 1891. The barracks, set back from the wide main street in beautifully-maintained grounds is typical of early American architecture, and is very striking. Roswell has a long military history and in addition to the army academy, an Air Force base is located just five kilometres from the town centre. This was set up in 1941 to train pilots for deployment during World War II. Although closed in 1967, it is still used today for aircraft braking performance testing, and the Eastern University of New Mexico has built its campus adjacent to the old base.
My first impression of the large town is that it's very clean, spread-out, and quite prosperous, if not a little quirky. I notice the abundance of 'aliens' throughout the town; a throwback to that 1947 incident, but very tongue-in-cheek. Even McDonald's is in the shape of a UFO.
The International UFO Museum and Research Center is located in the centre of Roswell's main street. The expansive street is virtually empty as I park the car adjacent to the Art Deco cinema, which now houses the UFO collection. The museum had been set up in 1991 as an a non-profit educational and research centre. As I pay the low admission cost, I look around at the architectural characteristics of this 1930s building and lament that tacky signage obstructs the beautiful features that date from this depression-era. I also lament that, unlike other medium-sized towns, the cinema hasn't been restored and used as a venue for movies and live music and theatre. These old buildings have wonderful acoustics. However, the Roswell cinema hasn't been given the same respect.
Upon entering the museum, I see a room in which films and documentaries are playing on a circuit. I sit down and watch the interviews of neighbours and friends of William Brazel, a foreman working on the Foster farm some 50 kilometres north of Roswell. He encountered a UFO, which had crashed on June 14, 1947. There had been no attempt to improve the quality of the grainy black and white film and I soon lose interest when each interviewee basically says the same thing, over and over again. I'm looking forward to visiting the rest of the museum.
The timeline of events that had taken place after the the incident was reported by William Brazel is interesting, but I'm shoved out of the way by two 'Alien Zealots' who read each sentence of the displayed timeline, then discuss it in depth, whilst at the same time, obstructing those who just want to have a quick glance. I'm genuinely wary of their half-smiles and shiny eyes as they lovingly caress the glass case and point to different elements of the photographs; things I cannot see. I hope they don't start speaking in tongues, or I'm out of here... in a hurry.
I move on to the next display. This is where all credibility of this place and the events of 1947 are lost on me.
Behind me is an equally bizarre exhibit.
Somewhere between Huey, Dewey, and Louey and the silver plastic man, I realise that the joke is on me. However, I don't want to leave until I'm satisfied that the guru on the subject of alien intervention on earth is included. It doesn't take me long to find what I'm looking for.... Erich von Daniken and his references from Chariots of the Gods. Add to it a little cartoon humour, and I confirm to myself that I'm a sceptic - a BIG sceptic. A quick visit to the quirky gift shop confirms it and, within an hour (and yes, I did last an hour, including the time spent at the gift shop), I decide that I'm completely 'aliened out' and I make a hasty departure.
It is 11am and I have the rest of the day before me. My next port of call is the nearby Visitor Centre, where I'm given a map of the local area and advised to take a drive into the nearby mountain resort of Ruidoso, 120 kilometres away. As I leave the town, through the industrial area, the gauge in the car shows that the outside temperature is 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just over 40 Celsius. Not far out of Roswell, the arid terrain has a faint green tinge, which suggests that there may have been recent rainfall in the region. I stop to take some photos, but although they don't really show how green it is, I notice the everlasting flowers which are in profusion along the verge.
As I climb higher into the Sierra Blanca mountains, the outside temperature cools to a more bearable 35 degrees Celsius. I arrive in the rustic village of Ruidoso, which had received its name from Rio Ruidoso (Spanish for Noisy River), which flows through the town.
Ruidoso is like many of the Western ski towns I have visited in Colorado with its original timber buildings nestled in the heavily forested mountains. As I walk along the footpath, I can visualise the town as it probably was one hundred years ago. The only thing that has changed, apart from the line of cars on the street is the concrete footpath. I'm sure it was once a timber boardwalk with horses tied to the posts. I enter an olde worlde souvenir emporium and imagine bolts of cloth along one wall, bags of grain and hardware items along another. The creaky floorboards beneath my feet are probably original. I spend a pleasant half-an-hour sifting through the fine range of souvenir tea-towels and fridge magnets before deciding on my purchases. I realise that this is the first opportunity I've had since arriving almost a month ago to fossick in the shops. Across the road is an art gallery, which has a wonderful range of locally-made arts and crafts. As I carefully thumb through the mounted prints, I finally decide on buying one depicting the church of Chimayo, which I had visited a few days ago.
On the road out of Ruidoso, I stop at the Hubbard museum of the American West. Lifelike sculptures of running horses through the gardens leading to the entrance are magnificent and truly capture the spirit of the horse. The large museum includes a history of transportation as well as the huge Anne C Straddling collection of everything western. My favourite is the exhibition of Southwest jewellery, which shows the styles of Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni craftspeople. I also liked the exhibit on how the West influenced Hollywood.
I'm glad that the days extend into the evenings, so I have plenty of time and daylight to drive back to Roswell before it gets dark. The day has been spectacular; hot and sunny, perfect, and the drive back is seamless. I'm sure I'm meant to stop somewhere along the road to photograph something I've seen on the way out today. It's funny how one can see something in one direction and completely miss it on the way back. It happens to me all the time.
Just before I reach the outskirts of Roswell, I notice a double rainbow reaching across the darkening sky. It is that magical witching hour when one is not sure whether a storm is approaching or whether it's simply the end of the day. I talk myself into stopping for a photo - not that I need to try too hard! Pulling over on the side of the road, I emerge from the car, camera in hand and try to capture the beauty of the rainbows.
I decide that maybe that a rain storm is on the way, after all, it has rained almost every night since I arrived in New Mexico almost a week ago. This does explain why the desert appears to be so green, despite it being the middle of summer.
I have a strange habit of sometimes taking a photo of the scene behind me. Oftentimes, I do end up with something surprising, but just as I snapped the shot, I realise that I've probably not only taken the most significant photo of my holiday, but if I'm not careful, I might end up on one of those disaster shows on television.
Chasing me is a huge black mushroom cloud. I've never seen anything like this before, so unsure of what to expect or how fast the cloud is moving, my main aim is to return to my hotel as quickly as possible. I have seen too many disaster movies, but the image from one where a cow is picked up in the vortex, helps me focus on the road ahead of me.
As I near the centre of Roswell, I'm surprised, if not a little shocked at the scene in front of me. The sun is out and steam is rising from the waterlogged streets. Deep pools of water gather at the intersections, where the stormwater drains are working hard to suck the excess water and debris down the cavities in the road. The mushroom cloud is not chasing me at all; in fact, it's on its way to somewhere else. I later read that the North American monsoon occurs during the summer in the desert of New Mexico and other parts. It can bring torrential rain, severe thunderstorms with strong winds and hail, and it can bring tornadoes. It seems that I have dodged a severe weather event, but the most remarkable thing about today is that I have not experienced or felt one drop of rain. So...
... was there was something else in that cloud?
TITLE QUOTE: Edgar Mitchell (astronaut)
ACCOMMODATION: Comfort Suites, 3610 N Main St, Roswell, NM 88201