Pondering, Photographing, and Writing about Wild Places

Black Helicopters

I stood atop the tower listening…waiting…checking my watch nervously.  After three days of continuous work, it was Friday afternoon and I had just finished decking the third and top tier of a sixteen-foot-tall tower in the middle of a five acre, wooded, mountaintop lot around which we recently constructed a six-foot privacy fence. Soon we would install a camouflaged tarpaulin roof on the nearly-finished tower. Until then, I would be exposed, naked, vulnerable. 

I had been working on the tower for three days. Each day, the gentleman under whom I was employed worked with me until around three in the afternoon when he would receive a phone call, mumble something about soccer practice, ask if I needed anything, then get in his truck and leave. Within fifteen minutes of his departure, a machinegun-like drone would signal the approach of a single black helicopter, flying low and slow over the trees, passing directly overhead. Forty-five minutes after the mysterious visit, my employer would return.

No credible explanation has yet been given for the construction of what can only be described as a compound. No acknowledgement has been made of the daily helicopter visits, either. Franlky, I’m afraid to ask. But I can’t help wondering what he has to hide, what he hopes to see from his tower, and why he needs overhead camouflage when he looks at whatever it is.

Pondering those questions over coffee last Monday morning, I decided to finish my cup on the front porch from which I could watch early visitors to my bird feeder. I stepped through the doorway and glanced to my right as a Carolina chickadee fled to the refuge of a neighbor’s crepe myrtle. That’s when I noticed the delicate bouquet of flowering basil on the sidewalk. 

The night before, a similar bouquet had nested in a coffee mug which served as a centerpiece for the table on my porch. Turning to my left, I saw that the flowers on the table were gone. So was the mug. Gone, too, were the table and two matching chairs. I scanned the street, walked the alleys, called neighbors and police, made a fresh cup of coffee and sat down on the steps to wait for an officer to arrive.

Needless to say, thoughts of the theft dominated the next couple days, displacing my curiosity about the compound and the helicopters. That’s when Madeline Albright came to town.

The former Secretary of State visited UTC that Tuesday as part of a free-to-the-public lecture series. Ms. Albright gave a half hour speech on 9/11 after which she took questions. I was not able to attend the event, but someone I trust reported back to me that when asked a question about the effectiveness and relevancy of the United Nations in the world today, Ms. Albright began her response with a quick summary of what the UN is not: “The UN is not the agency that sends out black helicopters under the cover of darkness to steal the furniture off of your front porch…”

Be it known that I have never been a conspiracy theorist and without compelling evidence, have tended to dismiss talk of black helicopters as paranoid nonsense. At the same time, however, I have learned not to trust my government. I believe it is our duty as concerned citizens to hold our officials, both elected and appointed, to the highest standards of evidence and honesty. I believe that, had we done a better job of this a few years ago, we might not be at war today.

What I found curious about Ms. Albright’s response was that she was not asked about black helicopters or porch furniture and yet felt a need to bring them up. We have become accustomed to obfuscation and distraction as modus operandi when our government has something to hide. Sometimes, though, when desperate, our leaders lie to us outright. Remember “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction” and “Mission Accomplished?” How about, “I did not have sexual relations…?” 

Whether truth or lies, there is always motive and purpose behind what our elected officials tell us. So, Madam Secretary, what are you trying to hide? What is the UN really up to? And where is my porch furniture?

Keep your eyes to the sky, my fellow Chattanoogans and keep your butts in your porch furniture, lest it fly by night. And if your neighbor decides to turn his property into a walled compound with a watchtower, don’t just write him off as wacko. Listen for the helicopters. He might know something you don’t. 

What do you think?