Leelanau County's Leland radio tower, attacked by opponents before its construction for presenting an unecessary expense, blight on the landscape, and threat to migratory birds (who would collide with the supporting wires), has been performing far in excess of expectations.
"The old system left us with a lot of 'holes' and was kind of hit and miss. With the new system up, we are never out of touch. Sure, it does sort of detract from the view, but when you're talking about lives..." one emergency services worker told us.
In fact, reps from the Cedar VFD have been calling in from as far as the Mackinaw Bridge and US 2, just to "test out the system." Local officials agree that the tower has performed without a hitch. Without a hitch that is, until the afternoon of March 23.
5:23 PM, March 23rd
Local Farmer David Shaubby was making the rounds of his family's farm when he noticed something strange in the sky to the South. "At first I thought it was a plane, but then I realized it was coming much too fast. It looked like a meteor, but without any sort of a tail."
He described the object as being roughly circular and changing color from red to green to white. He observed it continue on a straight course until: "It hit one of those big wires off the side of the tower. There was a loud tearing sound and a very bright flash and I could see a part of the object fly off and crash onto the hill behind the house."
Dave ran inside to call 911, thinking he had seen the crash of an experimental military craft. Then he and his son Josh piled in the pickup and drove to the top of the hill.
5:25 PM, March 23rd
At the top of the hill, Boyce Sampson and his son Simm were assessing the effects of the early thaw on his kiwi trees. Boyce has lived below and on top of the hill overlooking Good Harbor Bay all his life. He reports that his attention was focussed down upon the young trees, but nonetheless he reports hearing the same ripping sound. He looked around wildly, grabbed Simm and dove for cover as he saw something speeding toward them from the vicinity of the radio tower.
"I honestly didn't know what was happening. You get kind of lost in thought when you're alone in an orchard."
When they raised their heads and looked to the far end of the orchard. "It appeared that a case of tinfoil had exploded." Boyce looked a little sheepish. "It sounds silly, but that's what Simm said, and I had to agrre with him. All over the orchard and hanging in the trees on the edge was this silvery metal." As they walked to the corner of the orchard, Boyce bent down to pick up a piece of the substance. "It was very light but amazingly strong--I couldn't rip it with my hands."
5:35, March 23rd
At this time they were joined in the field by the Shaubbys, and both sets of fathers and sons were forced to admit that they didn't know what was going on.
5:42, March 23rd
The sirens could be heard coming south from Leland, and soon the two fire engines, pumper truck, ambulance, and two squad cars had negotiated the muddy two track. Fireman and emergency personell emerged from the vehicles to stand baffled with the Shaubbys and Sampsons.
6:23 PM, March 23rd
Deputies Seashel and Blonde and local newspeople remained at the scene and were on hand when an Air Force chopper with Major Jessica Marcels aboard set down in the orchard. After surveying the debris, she released a statement to the media: "What we have here is apparently the remains of a crashed alien spacecraft."
6:23 PM, March 23rd
The media were still questioning the Major when a squadron of five helicopters, black and without any identifying insignia, arrived. After a hurried conference with the Major, an individual in black suit and sunglasses identifying himself as General Roswell (though our search revealed no military personell of any rank by that name) announced that the Major had been in error, and what the assemblage was in fact looking at was the remains of an dramatically over-popped Jiffy Pop popcorn container. "It says clearly on the package that that type of container is not to be popped in the microwave," said the General. "Some people don't read and look at the results!"
Civilians were then ordered off the hilltop despite the waving of PRESS cards and quoting of the First Ammendment by the media.
7:17, March 23rd
Sunset. And still there was no word from the top of the hill. Most of the media wandered off for lattés at Kejarra's Bridge in Lake Leelanau.
9:59 PM, March 23rd
The choppers lifted off the hill and headed south. The story would have ended there had it not been for the fact that a parallel story was unfolding not far off.
Up Dufek Road, about a half mile distant, 5:32 PM was the time when Emily and Ashley Birkheart and their cousin Alicia were sent outside to play for "being wild."
"We were just, you know, fooling around and Em said 'Hey, what's that?' and I said 'What's what?' and Em said 'That.' and Alicia said 'Where?' and Em said 'There' and Alicia and I said 'I don't know'.
"That there" was apparently a large silver egg nestled in the swamp at the foot of the property. The girls went down to investigate, but stayed back "in case it was something we weren't supposed to touch."
5:48 PM, March 23rd
The girls' grandfather, famous lacrosse coach Garry Lass, who lives just down the hill from his children on Lass Rd., was out for his evening walk. "I was attempting to think of something to write about the NCAA Tournament for my column in the Record-Eagle when I heard the girls calling to me."
Mr. Lass came upon the girls and the mysterious silver egg. Though he is a large man, even he balked at the prospect of attempting to carry a metal egg nearly as large as himself. "The girls insisted, though. They were worried that the egg would get cold down there in the swamp."
5:56 PM, March 23rd
Fortunately, at that time his son-in-law Kurt "Kook" Birkheart pulled in. Ashley ran up the hill and returned with her father and the two men endeavored to lift the object. "We were really surprised at how easy it was," Kook related. "It was as big as a refrigerator but we had no problem at all. We took it to Bea's (Garry's wife) greenhouse, but she came out and said: 'Garry, get that thing out of here. You've got places to put your stuff without cluttering up this place. Besides,' she said 'It'll probably kill the geraniums.'"
Suitably abashed, they moved it to the workshop in the basement of the barn where they were able to study it more carefully.
6:43 PM, March 23rd
After an hour of fruitless scrutiny of the smooth, silver egg, Kook got out his Sawsall, accomplishing nothing more than breaking three blades on the unscratched surface of the egg. Both men admitted puzzlement and adjourned to the Lass home where they debated their options.
9:14 PM, March 23rd The conversation turned somehow to the basketball tourney and it wasn't until the midway through the third quarter of the MSU game that they remembered the mysterious ovoid. Upon their return to the shop, they found the egg neatly split open on the workbench...empty. Garry relates, "What could we do? It was a tight game, good solid defense played by both teams. We went back to watch the fourth quarter"
8:15 PM, March 23rd
Mary Lynne Birkheart had just put her girls to bed and was settling back to watch Providence when she heard her dogs Cammy and Hermann barking furiously. She went down to investigate and found a stranger in her perennial garden. "At first I thought it was one of the Penny boys, but they never eat vegetables and besides, they wear clothes, at least in the spring."
She described the late night snacker as about four and a half feet tall, unclothed, and gray skinned with huge and bug-like black eyes. "I was totally taken aback, but I found that I couldn't be scared of something with a tulip bulb hanging out of its mouth. It looked hungry and I was able to coax it inside with a pan of macaroni."
10:13 PM, March 23rd
Kook returned home to find his wife entertaining a visitor and had related about half his tale when he realized that the visitor was
2) eating his slippers and
3) not of this world.
Two and two were quickly put together and the couple realized that the being had undoubtably emerged from the egg. Their conversation then turned to what to do with the creature. Mary Lynne recalls, "I was in favor of letting the thing sleep in the rabbit hutch but Kook pointed out that we didn't know what the alien ate (or wouldn't eat) and the girls were kind of attached to the rabbits. Finally I agreed to let him call the authorities."
11:23 PM, March 23rd
Through a little known statute, the "authority" in Leelanau county in cases of foreign (or alien) individuals is actually the Building and Grounds Department. The sole employee, Larry Moleman, was raking the courthouse lawn when the squad car containing the Chairman of the County Board of Commissioners and the alien pulled up.
"I work odd hours, you have to in this job," Moleman related. "At first I refused to have anything to do with the alien--I'm busy enough. But when the Chairman showed me the law, I had to. Boy, I don't remember that in the job description!"
Moleman was forced to use the only building available to his department--the old jail, which now serves as a storage shed. "I cleared away some of the tools and seed bags and they brought a cot over from the jail."
12:11 PM, March 29th
Now, six days later, Moleman reports that the alien, whom he has dubbed "Bob", is still ensconsed at the old jail. "It's funny, I've called senators, universities, the Army, even the Red Cross, and nobody wants Bob. It's like they don't want proof that aliens exist."
Moleman remains upbeat, and admits that he has even grown somewhat attached to the alien. "Even though Bob can't really talk like you or me, he's an all right enough guy. We talk mostly through a kind of sign language, and I think that Bob is some sort of extra-terrestrial joy-rider who was cruising along and just plain missed his exit."
He reports that Bob seems to enjoy books and newspapers. "Bob really likes them, especially the comics and Ann Landers. Of course, he eats them, but maybe that's how his kind reads. His favorite food is strawberry ice cream, and I'm breaking my budget buying it for him--all he'll eat is that Ben and Jerry's stuff: at $3 a pop, that's a lot of grass seed!"
Moleman remains philosophic, however. "It's not everyone who gets a chance to be an ambassador from Earth--I just hope Bob's friends come to pick him up soon. I mean, the poor guy's gotta be getting a little lonely. " Bob had no comment, except to eat my notepad. We at the Gazette will continue to keep our readers posted, and might this reporter say that the truth is often not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.
-Dr. Whitley "Bud" Valee
Worldwide Associate Council for Knowledge of the Overlooked (WACKO)
NMJ Correspondent on Unusual Affairs
Here's a couple more of our more innovative "news" stories:
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