What a crazy afternoon for three teenaged boys! It was August of 1971 a few days before my 19th birthday. My pals Martin and James had been riding with me to Minnesota for a few days of summertime escape. James had just paid off the small loan on his 1962 Pontiac Bonneville convertible. It was metal flake red with pitted chrome trim, white letter Firestone tires, Keystone mags plus tuck and roll Mexican white leather seats showing some wear and tear.
When we reached Mankato, James decided to drop the roof and let the wind and the sky of large, lumpy clouds accompany us to White Bear Lake to visit Martin’s cool aunt. James and I thought it would be fun to attend a Twins baseball game but Martin wanted to stay on the road to White Bear Lake.
A month before our trip, Martin told his family that he was queer. The news went over like rotten eggs in a Halloween treat bowl. Martin’s dad went ballistic, his mom, while supportive, did not come to Martin’s defense. The family atmosphere had chilled to a tense level of barely peaceful coexistance. James and I came up with the idea of a road trip as a way to demonstrate our support and continued friendship. Plus, all three of us hadn’t done anything really fun together in more than a year. Besides that, Martin’s aunt Edna was keen on soothing her nephew’s bruised feelings.
Sure enough, aunt Edna greeted all of us with a wide smile, open arms and her signature Norwegian accent. She had prepared supper and was waiting for her hungry boys to devour it. In hardly any time at all, we all felt like one big happy family. Edna had prior plans to play bridge with her friends so she told us to put our luggage into the guest room. She said we were free to come and go as we pleased that night.
We guys were a bit too tired to take in any major activites. Martin suggested we just go for a ride around town so he could show us all the highlights in the city of White Bear Lake. James wanted to see the lake the town was named after.
Soon enough he parked the convertible near a boat ramp and dock. We piled out and ran to the water’s edge. The air was warm and humid. Thankfully and best of all, no flying insects were there. The sky was mostly cloudy but we could see bare, starry patches in places. Between the lapping water of the lake and the eerie, forboding sky, we all felt an unearthly thrill.
James thought we needed to go swimming. He’d never swam in a large lake in the middle of a city. Martin and I agreed that we’d have fun swimming, but we’d left our swimming trunks at Edna’s house so we should postpone the swim until later. James wanted nothing to do with that plan. He insisted that skinny dipping was the answer.
Martin voiced some objections to James’ idea, but I was ready to go along with it. It was just plain naughty to swim naked in a lake. Even better that the lake was in the middle of town with a busy highway running along one side of it.
We did it.
The sky was mostly dark. The lumpy clouds were silhoutted by the moonlight and partially illuminated beneath by the streetlights of the twin cities. The sky effects were reflected in the lake. Traffic on the expressway made for an even more spine tingling experience.
Soon, the water had chilled us to the point of cramping. We scrambled out of the lake to sit on the edge of the dock. We had no towels, so air drying had to suffice.
James was staring at the clouds. He started to ad-lib a tale involving three guys stranded at a lake in Transylvania. The ominous clouds were actually space vehicles designed to kidnap earthlings and whisk them away to Uranus. James’ story was so graphic that all three of us decided, at once, to return to Edna’s house.
We found aunt Edna in her backyard patio area sipping a cocktail. She invited us to sit and tell her about our day. The subject of the peculiar nature of the cloudy sky was mentioned. Edna made the observation that the ugly, puffy clouds seemed to be circling the entire area. Not only that, but they were dropping in altitude. The sickly glow from the streetlights had become more prominant. The greenish effect overpowered the lighting from the moon.
James started in with his kidnap ships from Uranus. We told him to shut up and go to bed. He headed into the house. We followed behind.
The Blue Jay of Happiness thinks there’s some merit about the space ship theory of the weird clouds.