I love the dark, not the semi-dark we live with today with dusk to dawn lighting, and bright streetlamps everywhere to take away the night. I mean that can’t see your hand in front of you dark you only get on a country road far from city lights today. It was easy to get away from those lights when I was a kid. I think that is because the street lights seemed to shine straight down, and didn’t shine in the wide circle like the ones we have today. Back then, you could still look up and see the stars at night, even in the city.
My mother, who gave me a lot of my ideas for my articles told me how her and my father used to take a blanket out to the back yard at night, lay it on the ground and stare up at the stars for hours. The stars were not filtered through artificial light at that time, so they shined like little diamonds against a black velvet sky. My father, from whom I apparently inherited the love for science fiction, and space travel, would tell my mother stories of things to come, like landing on the moon, and visiting other planets. Those blanket stories took place on the dark nights, of the 1930s and 1940s so dad must have been inspired by the stars, because he talked about those things years before most people thought they were possible.
As young boys, my friends and I spent many summer nights sleeping between our houses where the street light could not reach. After the usual horseplay and inevitable ghost stories, we would lie on our backs and count the stars, just like mom and dad did. Ours were the days of “Space Patrol” on the radio, and ”Buck Rogers” in the movies, and I was a fan of both. I would fall asleep under those stars, and dream I was traveling through those stars, just like dad must have done.
As I wrote this piece I realized how long it had been since I laid a blanket on the ground, and counted the stars. My wife, being a good sport agreed to join me one starry night, so we took a blanket far away from the dusk to dawn light in our yard, and spread it on the ground. The darkness closed in around us and I held out my hand to be sure I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t. Unlike the flop we did as kids, Marlene and I laid down gingerly on the blanket. (We just don’t bounce as well as we used to.) As we lay there looking up into the sky, we could see the stars were still there, just as we had remembered them against the blackness of the sky. The ground, however, was harder than I remembered, and the bugs that apparently had not bothered me as a kid, made up for that oversight. I had planned on star gazing in the darkness a lot longer, but with my back more used to innerspring mattresses now, and my skin apparently emitting a signal to every crawly thing within 10 miles, I decided I’d catch the stars on The Discovery Channel sometime. Even with bites, backaches and all, however, it was still great to look at the night sky, and think about how right dad was all those years ago. I wonder what he would think of all the things that have come to pass since his blanket days ?
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column will run in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.