Robert Hitt Neill Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shooting star bypassed house in the daytime

“I am old..” goes a line of poetry that I cannot quite come up with, especially at my age – although I have a Certified Medical Excuse for bad memory due to Lyme Disease.  

Yet I am also getting pretty long in the tooth, as the saying goes, and I have heard the owl and seen the elephant, to quote another old saw. Sometimes I wonder, when I kick the bucket, what’s going to happen to all that knowledge I’ve accumulated?

Note that I did not say Wisdom. Any of that I might have acquired came strictly through osmosis – I know some Wise People.

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But this morning, I saw something I’ve never seen before – a shooting star in the daytime! Cross my heart and spit in a pig’s eye.

There was a front coming in this morning, and about 8:00, the sky was almost black in the lower western third of the sky. Suddenly, a shooting star came zipping across in a low arc from northeast to southwest, a silvery streak that appeared to land smack-dab in the Mississippi River a little north of Greenville.

Since we have been warned here in America to expect another terrorist attack soon after the election, the thought occurred to me that maybe this was a missile attack – but there was no mushroom cloud or sudden explosion in the direction the object had gone down, so I dismissed that idea. Had to have been just a normal, run-of-the-mill shooting star – but in the daytime!

One of the pleasures of living out here at Brownspur is that we have few nightlights – used to be, we had none, but some of the neighbors obviously feel more comfortable with a little outside light.  

Yet there ain’t one closer than a quarter mile from my house, and none atall looking out the back toward the Mammy Grudge. On clear nights when a meteor shower or a comet is bypassing Planet Earth, we love to pour up a mug of hot chocolate or tea and sit up on the balcony to watch the Heavenly Fireworks, which sometimes seem to land so close that we worry about our Tribbett or Goose Hollow neighbors.  

I said hot beverages there, because the non-planting of cotton crops lately has had a clearly noticeable effect on our spring-summer-fall mosquito population in the country. No cotton nearby means no cotton poisoning during warmer weather, to the point that we can no longer go outside after dusk until frost.  

King Cotton had a lot of advantages for Mississippi Delta country homeowners! DDT wasn’t so bad after all.  

Maybe when malaria and yellow fever start to be problems again, like West Nile Virus is threatening to become, someone with smarts will vote to bring back those old-timey effective pesticides that made it possible for kids to play outside at night even in the summertime. Okay, bring on your flak.

Always an admirer of the Heavenly Lights, I have been fortunate throughout my life to have seen shooting stars in the tropics and from mountaintops, from iceberg-cluttered seas where their sparkling trails showed across the Northern Lights, from darkest nights to wooded campfires.

Stars are brighter where there is no lumen of artificial light anywhere within eyesight. Hundreds of miles at sea, sailing at “Darken Ship” conditions, I once actually saw a convoy of ships change course 20 decrees to port for what appeared to be a bright masthead light that popped over the horizon and grew brighter, as would a ship on a converging course.  

Since we were under wartime conditions dictating no electronic emissions, we couldn’t depend on radar to exactly identify the source of the light. Turned out that even if we had used radar, we didn’t have anything powerful enough to enable our Navigator to plot Venus. As the “masthead light” rose higher and higher, the admiral blinked out a message to resume base course.

Yessir, I’ve seen and appreciated many stars, shooting or still, in many places over many years. But I had never seen a shooting star in the daytime before. I’m glad I was right there at that particular time this morning.

I hope you saw it too, and I hope you live in a place where you can walk outside at night and enjoy the Heavenly Lights whenever you want to.

“I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed!”