Sam WHITBY #231

Letters to the Editor

from Sam WHITBY in CMO #231

@. . . .   Thank you for your recent message and for sending CMO 230. I apologize for taking so long to answer you. We have been very busy at work. The military discipline program that I described in an earlier letter has not worked out as well as one would have liked. One effect has been that several of the newer employees have left the job, making it necessary for much mandatory over-time for the employees who remain. I have been drafted to work two and three extra days each week for about the last two months. Trying also to work at the hospital has left little time for anything but work. It looks like I will have to stop working at the hospital for the time being or at least until the mandatory over-time becomes less pervasive.

  It is unfortunate that I slept through the April aurora. Such displays are seen here only rarely. Several spectacular aurorae were observed at our latitude in the early sixties. One of those began early on a Sunday evening and caught the attention of this observer as he went to church. After the service the northern lights still blazed, and the worshipers stood outside and watched in amazement. The sight so mesmerized me that I accidentally slammed my left thumb in the car door as we prepared to return home. The injury was severe enough to require a trip the hospital emergency room, where a doctor did minor surgery to relieve pressure under the thumbnail. Up most of the night, I was not required to attend school the next day. By the middle of the day my mental state had miraculously returned to normal. I biked to a pond a couple of miles away, where I proceeded to catch a nice string of fish, and I returned home just ahead of the school bus. What began, therefore, as a study in physics evolved into an experiment in ichthyology, and, as an example of rationalization, ended in adolescent psychology.

  The northern lights of the early sixties happened before much of the light pollution that damages even the rural night sky now. Many people saw the lights, and some were frightened. A few years later many were frightened again when bright, discrete lights were seen hanging low in the northern sky. This was during a time when there were numerous sightings of UFOs, and some people were afraid that we were being watched by aliens from space. The bright lights had an easy, if perhaps sinister, explanation. They were illumination flares used in night fighting training at Camp Pickett near Blackstone, VA. I proved this to my satisfaction by borrowing my father's car and driving in the direction of the lights. When as close as I could get, I used my small telescope to see the parachutes of the flares that were slowly drifting down over the training area.

  Speaking of slowly drifting, a co-worker showed me a large moth a few mornings ago, a Cecropia moth, I think. He said we should kill it before it devoured our clothes. I told him not to worry, the birds would protect us. As I spoke, a sparrow lit at out feet and tried to eat the moth. To give the moth a fighting chance, I carefully put it into a bush with sharp leaves. As we walked away, the sparrows were studying the situation, looking for an opening in the leaves.

  The weather has turned very warm, and we have planted the garden and begun to cut the lawn. I have been pleased to notice the small rings of mud made by crawdads, the little subterranean freshwater lobsters that live here. The City's improvements have evidently not eliminated all wild life in this area. The crawdads come up on top of the ground when it gets dark. Their eyes shine red with reflected light. They are bigger than their cousins that live in moving water, but even at that they are only about three inches long.

  Tyler has had more asthma problems, but they have not been severe. He is an active outdoorsman, refusing to be held back by his health. David is studying hard, already planning for college. I think he may become a historian or a writer.

  Tyler is now awake, so my respite has ended, and a different kind of fun will begin.

  With best wishes,

(14 May 2000 eamil)

Samuel WHITBY ( VA, USA ) :