This is more than a story about fishing: it is an adventure that I am hesitant to reveal. Fishermen have been known to yarn tall tales but most of their stories are based on a kernel of truth. With this in mind, I am about to reveal the most amazing exploit any fisherman has ever taken, with the exception of Jesus: the fisher of men.
The extraordinary angling account that I am referring to took place in southwest New Mexico during the 1990’s at a lake known as Elephant Butte. The lake is a huge 36,000 acre lake that was filled by the Rio Grande River around 1915 and is named after its volcanic core that is believed to be in the shape of an elephant. It is the largest man-made reservoir in the world. Fishing is a popular activity at the lake and I was once again in search of the monster striped bass that are said to inhabit the depths. My fishing partner for the trip was my clueless friend Brian, and when I say clueless, I am referring to his fishing expertise. Brian was an alien and UFO enthusiast and when he found out that I was headed to New Mexico he insisted that he loved to striper fish. New Mexico, of course, is noted for the famous 1947 Roswell alien crash and many other UFO related phenomena. When Brian promised me that he would keep his alien-related banter to a minimum, I decided to take him along for the ride. I shall try to recall this tale of epic proportions.
I made our travel arrangements which would include a flight from Dallas to Albuquerque and a drive south down I-25 to the lake (the impoundment lies east of I-25 between Socorro and Las Cruces). As soon as our plane departed from Love Field, Brian opened up his satchel and pulled out a book. I could see that the title of the book read The Secret School: Preparation for Contact, by Whitley Streiber. Brian had often talked to me about Streiber’s books, Breakthrough and Communion, during his alien-induced ramblings, and at times I even pretended that I was listening. This was the tip-off that I was in for some type of secret alien agenda along with the fishing.
Once we arrived at Albuquerque airport, I rented a car and drove down I-25 south towards the lake. By this time Brian had another book out and began reading it in the car. The title read, UFO: Visitation, a book by author Alan Watts. We sat silently in the car for about twenty minutes until I broke the ice, “I thought you said you were not going to do this.”
“Do what?” he said.
“Start up with this alien shit. You’re almost thirty five-years old ─ why don’t you give it a rest.”
“All I am doing is reading.”
“Don’t play coy with me,” I said. “I know what the gig is.”
“We didn’t come here to look for aliens; we came here to look for striper. We’re supposed to drink lots of beer, tell dirty jokes, and talk about all the fish were going to catch. You get the drift?”
“Fine,” he said, “stop at the next store and let’s get some beer.”
I pulled off the Interstate, walked into a convenience store, and came out with a twelve pack of Coors Light and a bag of chips. Getting back on the I-25, we both cracked a beer and opened the chips. “How do those Sooners look this year?” I asked, referring to the Oklahoma football team.
“Absolutely fantastic,” he said.
Now I had the guy exactly where I wanted him. He was an alumnus of the school and an avid Oklahoma Sooner football fan. Once I had him going on this there was no return, and although the ramblings could become quite boring, I figured it was still better than the alien bullshit.
Before I knew it, we arrived at the lake and then located our hotel for the night. It was about six o’clock in the evening so we checked in and went out for a bite to eat. Driving down a road bordering the Elephant Butte reservoir, a green billboard from a diner glowed, “Alien Eats.”
“Stop right there!” Brian said.
“Don’t have a hemorrhage,” I said, “I’ll stop.”
Just when I had distracted the guy, I was right back where I began. “C’mon,” I said, “Let’s go in and eat. Don’t make a big deal in here ─ we’re going to eat and go back to the room and then get some rest for tomorrow. I spent a lot of money for that guide and we are going to hammer some big stripers.”
“No problema,” he said.
We entered the diner and were greeted by some type of green egg-headed, rubber mannequin resembling an alien. “Wow is that cool, or what?” Brian asked me
“I guess so; where’s Elvis?”
“Welcome to Alien Eats,” the hostess said, while some type of huge alien-faced earrings dangled from her ears. “Follow me.”
We followed her to the back of the diner and were seated. “What can I get you gents to drink,” she asked.
“You can bring us a couple of Coors Lights,” I said.
“Sure thing Sweets; comin’ right up.”
She walked back to the soda counter and I looked up at pictures decorating the roadside diner. There were hundreds of UFO and alien related paraphernalia plastered to the walls. I recognized several photos seemingly documenting the Roswell crash, and several others showing plate-sized disc flying through the air. Brian had his head cocked up and was transfixed on one particular picture. “You see that?” he asked.
“That picture of that desert right there.”
“I see it; so what?”
“That’s White Sands,” he said.
“So what does that mean?”
“It located very close to here and there is some very weird shit that goes on in that area.”
“Forget it,” I said, “we’re here to catch striper and that’s it.”
The waitress came back with our beers and poured them for us. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her the jangling alien earrings. “Have you gents had a chance to look at the menu yet?”
“No ma’am,” I said
“That’s fine ─ take your time. Our special for the evening is the Martian-melt sandwich; it’s kind of like a giant cheeseburger, except that the cheese is green.”
“That’s what I’m having,” Brian said.
“Make it two,” I said, putting the menu down.
“Have it right out Sweets.”
“Look man,” I said to Brian, “all this alien shit is kind of cool, but didn’t you see that a couple of huge stripers are mounted on the wall.”
“Oh yeah ─ I see them; I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow and really jack a few.”
“Good ─ stay focused. We are going to eat our Martian melts, go back to the hotel, and get some sleep. We have to meet the guide at six in the morning.”
Our waitress soon returned with our E.T. burgers and we chowed down. The Martian meat was actually quite good and Brian was determined to have an extraterrestrial éclair for dessert but I dragged him out. My eye caught a glimpse of the photo Brian described as “White Sands” as we left, and I must admit I was quite intrigued by the unusual desert terrain. How in the world could someplace like this exist near here? Returning to the hotel, Brian once again had one of his books out; a book entitled Aliens Among Us by author Ruth Montgomery. I couldn’t believe it. “How many of them damn books did you bring?” I asked. “We’re only here for two days.”
“I like to keep my mind occupied,” he replied.
“Well occupy this: lights out!”
Brian turned the lights out and we went to sleep. I had been exhausted by the travel and alien psycho-babble and was immediately sawing logs. When I woke up, I found Brian showered and ready to go. “Let’s go Bubba,” he said. “them stripers are awaitin’.” I leapt from my bed right into my boots: “let’s roll.”
We met the guide at the marina and took off after the fish. The day was an incredible sun-filled, crystal blue, fish fantasy. Within three hours we were onto a school of striper and by noon time we had limited out. The guide cleaned our fish and I paid him for a half day of fishing. Both Brian and I were ecstatic. “What do we do now?” Brian asked.
“I’m not sure. I thought we would be fishing all day.”
Here it comes.
“Why don’t we go out to the White Sands; it’s not far from here. We can sightsee for a while and then go back to the hotel.”
My first inclination was to say no but I figured since there was nothing else to do, why not drive out there and take a look. The previous evening I had dreamt of the mysterious landscape and I was unconsciously becoming consumed by it. “Let’s do it,” I said.
Brian was in seventh heaven. We had our fish iced down in a cooler, so we put it in the trunk and began our journey. Brian knew exactly where to go. I followed his directions as he filled me in on the White Sands: “The desert is located in a place called the Tularosa basin and makes up the worlds largest deposit of surface gypsum. Since the sand is made up of gypsum, instead of quartz, it reflects the sun rather absorb it ─ no matter how hot it is, the sand remains cool to the touch. Although gypsum is one of the most common mineral compounds on Earth it is rarely seen at the surface because it dissolves from the rains, and since it rarely rains in the area, the mineral remains above ground. Brian informed me that the origin of the desert dates back about a hundred million years and at one time was covered by a shallow sea. The White Sands desert is about 275 square miles.
“How do you know all this shit?” I asked.
“I read,” he replied, “but let me get to the ‘meat and potatoes’ about this place. The military has a launching operation in White Sands and it is the largest military installation in the country. It is said that much of the extraterrestrial activity that takes place out here is because the aliens are curious about the weapons. It is also believed that UFO’S have been shot down in the desert by the missiles.”
“You have got to be kidding.”
“I’m not. That’s why we are going to go in after nightfall.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We are going to go in after dark to see if we can spot any UFO activity in the sky.”
“Do you think that is smart considering this a top secret launching site? What if the military finds us and thinks we are spies?” I asked.
“Give me a break,” he said. “Now you’re acting like ‘you believe’.”
That really pissed me off. “You think so. Why don’t we grab a bite to eat before it gets dark and then we’re going in.”
“If you say so,” he smiled.
White Sands is located somewhere between the cities of Las Cruces and Alamogordo, but I wasn’t exactly sure where we were at because I was following Brian’s directions as I drove and not really paying attention. Right before nightfall Brian directed me to take Highway 70 in Alamogordo, which took us into the park. “White Sands is a national park, as well a military installation,” he informed me.
“What if somebody stops us?” I said
“Nobody is going to stop us ─ we’re nowhere near the military grounds.”
It was now dark but the sky was sporting a full moon. The road that we were on had turned to gravel and I could see that a huge sand drift was blocking the passage in front of us. “We’re going to have to hoove-it from here,” Brian said.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I told him.
“You’re not becoming chicken, are ya?”
“Hey chicken this! You X-File, Martian-melt eating, Sooner: let’s go.”
We got out of the car and began to walk through the sand dune. “Follow me,” Brian said, acting as if he knew where he was going. The moonlight was glittering on the gypsum sands, providing a luminescent glow. I looked across the vast mounds of sand dunes and felt a metaphysical cosmic rush. What am I doing out here? Trudging through the sand, I suddenly felt like I was traversing a field of freshly dropped snow, like my friends and I used to do in the Midwest as children on our way to the hockey pond. Was I time traveling?
“Lets go a little further and then we can sit and rest awhile; in the meantime, keep your eyes on the sky for activity,” Brian said.
Walking across the sand totally mesmerized by the situation, my foot caught a rock sending me tumbling down the dune. I picked myself up. “What the hell was that?” I said to a startled Brian.
“I don’t know; I don’t see anything. Let’s go up there and look.”
I followed Brian back up the dune and looked into the small crater where I had tripped. Taking my hand I brushed away the sand, finding what looked like a large gourd-shaped, soft ball sized, dried olive. Brushing some more, I saw what appeared to be two cavernous eye sockets. It took me about thirty seconds: “AAAAEEEEYYYY!! What The F… IS That?”
Brian looked down, “You have discovered the mother lode!”
Two blinding spotlights suddenly paralyzed us. “Get your hands up and don’t move,” the speaker echoed.
I am going to have to sign off now because I am writing this story from some type of type of quarantine. I think I am also in a fair amount of trouble, but I will tell you this without equivocation: this is the biggest kahuna that I have ever encountered. I want to believe!
G.O Fishin': Tall Tales from the Tackle Box