by Larry Dablemont

I get out in the woods on Truman Lake every year about this time, before the orange-clad crowd gets there. It is beautiful and peaceful in those deep woods, the first of the fall foliage drifting down around you. The weather this past week was beginning to cool and the wind was calm. One afternoon I left my campboat and eased up on to a high ridge with my squirrel gun and camera, and found a nice soft place in thick leaves to relax against a big white-oak trunk. I saw a nice-sized doe within an hour, and then a young buck, frantically searching for her trail. I got a fairly good photo of him, then got sleepy enough to lean back and doze off for a moment.

I was awakened quickly… the peace shattered by a dull roar coming from a distance to the south. And within seconds it seemed, two fighter jets were circling over that wooded ridge only a few hundred feet above me. Coming down the cove off to the right of my ridgetop were two helicopters, well below the tree-tops, one behind the other, with that roaring chop-chop of the blades. It happened unbelievable fast and it was scary. The helicopters roared swiftly over my boat and climbed over me only a few feet above the trees, like they were looking for something. Above, the jets seemed to be in a mock fight, one behind the other, both twisting and turning, upside down for a few seconds, then at a 90 degree angle to the earth, rolling and diving right above me, engines screaming as they came. It made me want to get up and run. But then they’d pull out and roar straight up into the sky and bank and dive again.

In the high sky, illuminated by the sun, the planes looked pure white, and then they would turn just right and nearly become invisible.

It went on for about fifteen minutes and then it was over, there was again silence. Returning to my boat just after sunset, I heard a screech-owl, and looked out upon a mirror-still lake, with the blue and purple sky illuminated in the water. The night was coming quickly.

I wondered what that intense roar and scream of jet engines does to the wildlife. It sure shook me up. But in a way it was a beautiful thing to watch, completely captivating. I couldn’t take my eyes away from what was happening, and I could scarcely move. In the silence that now came with the night, the screech owl wailed again, and I thought of how, right then, it could have been a hundred years ago. I had walked along an old trail where the rock foundation remains of a log cabin were almost indiscernible. It was a place where water was carried from a spring, there was no electricity, no indoor plumbing. The family that lived there probably watched in awe when they saw their first model T, or heard their first radio. And that day, I watched jets scream above me. Man has come so far. I wondered, there in the night, how much farther and faster he might go. Or maybe a better question might be… how much longer can mankind last, going so fast?

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