Up out of the Bunker Archives
It was around 2100. That’s 9:00 O’clock PM if you’re not accustomed to the 24-hour clock. Household Six and I were cruising Southbound on Interstate 77 nearing the Virginia, North Carolina border on a grandbaby-spoiling mission. Stars filled the sky and traffic was light. I was admiring the view when a bright blue-white streak of light and sparks exploded across the sky. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a shooting star and this one appeared to streak right through the dream catcher hanging from the rear view mirror. An amazing site only visible for a fraction of a second. For all I know it was burning space junk, but it had the power to transport me to a different time.
It was a time before the Internet, cable television, satellite television and radio, cell phones and all the other gadgets of our time. It was the time of one snowy black and white television channel, two on a good day, AM radio and telephone party lines. People still wrote letters in long hand, put them in the mailbox, raised the red flag and waited for the mailman to come up the dusty road in his blue Postal Service station wagon to pick them up – hoping he’d also have something to drop off. Maybe the latest Sears and Roebuck wish book where I spent much time admiring Daisy BB guns.
In the Southern West Virginia hills, the air and night sky are clear. Go to a hilltop on a night that’s not cloudy and you can count the shooting stars. Growing up in the hollers (hollows for the not indoctrinated) and hills, I remember night skies blanketed with millions of stars, nowadays obscured from view to most by bright city lights and air pollution.
On a summer night, we’d take our assorted hound dogs to a favorite hilltop, build a fire to break the night chill and turn the dogs loose. We’d stretch out on a good spot near the fire, rest our heads on a log or something else and look at the star filled sky. Listening to the dogs chase critters through the woods and up trees, somebody would say, “That’s old Blue, can you hear him?” Someone else would say, and “Yea, listen to Shortie, he’s a leadin’ the pack.” Then we’d bury potatoes in the fire’s hot coals to bake. While the potatoes baked, we listened to the dogs, the crackling fire, and crickets and counted the shooting stars. Poor kid fireworks, provided on the grandest scale with baying hound dogs as background music.
We’d stay there by the fire in awe of the heavens making wishes and sharing our dreams. The dogs eventually wondered in. The fire burned low. Its warmth replaced by chilled mountain air. As the night shifted toward dawn, we stowed our dreams for another starry night and headed home before the sun made an appearance.
I’d get home in time to stoke the fire in Mom’s kitchen stove. She had a wood burning cook stove, which she preferred over the electric one that looked out of place in a corner of her kitchen. By this time, only my youngest sister and I remained at home. The older two siblings were chasing their shooting star dreams and the middle brother was in the Army, nearing a Vietnam tour. I’d go sit on the porch until the sun was high enough to warm things up. About that time, I’d smell bacon cooking and know that Mom was up and about. I’d be awfully hungry by then, trying to steal a piece of bacon and getting swatted at by Mom during the attempt. She never seemed able to hit me. I don’t think she ever meant to.
Shooting stars are here for a blink of an eye, yet millions see their light and recall it when they’re gone. Like shooting stars, in the immensity of human history, we too are here for only a blink of the eye. Our most prominent shooting stars are our leaders. Their light and its affect, good and bad, remains visible long after they leave leadership.
How will history see your light and recall it when you’re gone?
Copyright © 2005 J.D. Pendry