Rat in the Field

Rat in the Field

by Bill Whidden


I told him there were plenty of landing spots, except that after he passed over the golf course, he'd be on one of the plantations... those stately Southern establishments with 40 to 60 room mansions, servants' quarters, horses, barns and the lake-and a lot of virgin pine and small plowed fields planted with millet and corn to attract quail and deer for the Northern "great white hunters" because this is where they come to shoot their trophy kills. But back to balloons. It was a hare and hound, last race of a successful weekend of events, with an all-expense paid trip to Fiesta in Albuquerque as the grand prize to a single winner, closest drop to the hare. Well, Bud had flown here for four or five years, so I didn't worry too much after he made a magnificent drop from the Mickey Mouse balloon he was flying, knowing he was closest. As the last balloon over, he knew he had the trip in his pocket; he flew on, reveling in his glory.

Well, the sheriff's helicopter which was spotting for us watched Bud land at twilight. It was a small grassy field surrounded by tall virgin pines with a little sandy dirt road off to the left. They acknowledged each other, and Bud, really low on fuel, shut the giant Mickey Mouse balloon down, to the dismay of the kids who had flown with him. Just knowing his chase crew was on the way, his rejoicing was the thought of the moment.

In his patrol car, the sheriff's deputy knew there was going to be some difficulty in finding the right road and the right little field on the 8,000 acre plantation, because all the fields looked alike.

So after some fruitless driving in and out and around and not spotting so much as a field mouse, much less a 90-foot-tall "mouse", they be chance happened upon ol' Mose. Now Mose was one of those older plantation workers who had been born in the area, lived and worked around the plantation most of his life and truly loved to take a nip or two from the "spirit jug" on those lazy Sunday afternoons while the family bar-b-qued in the back yard. Well, by 7 p.m. Mose had had a little more than a nip or two from the jug when the green and white patrol car cruised up to the clearing where Mose's woodframe house stood, and had stood for probably 70 years.

"Mose, you seen a 90-foot tall mouse 'round here?" asked the deputy. Now Mose was a little tipsy but not without his reason.

"Naw sur, aint seen no such thing," Mose replied. So on down the road went the deputy.

"We'll keep on looking, " he said.

By 11:30 p.m. the kids' parents were worried, the chase crew was worried, the Sheriff's deputy was worried-where on the plantation was the Mickey Mouse balloon? Another cruise through the same area where they'd been before was mostly in desperation but still worth a try. Back to ol' Mose's house where they found Mose stirring coals in the bar-b-que fire, quite sober now and preparing to go to bed, as sunrise comes early, and horses need tending to, and the 40-acre field by the pond needs planting.

"Mose, we're still looking for a balloon that landed somewhere 'round here... you seen it?"

Without hesitation, Mose retorted, "Sure did... down the road, take the left fork by the old burned-out stump, through that little strand of Jack Oak trees. It's in that clearing 'bout 100 yards off the road."

Sure enough, there was Bud and the kids having a great time; and behind the patrol car came the chase vehicle. Taking only 20 minutes to pack up and be ready to go, the chase crew leads the way with the Sheriff's deputy following. The deputy stops at Mose's house to thank him for the directions and to ask one important question.

"Why didn't you tell us where the Mickey Mouse balloon was the first time we asked?" the deputy inquired.

Mose, not being coy, but in that honest and mature authority of a gentleman of 62, looked straight at the deputy and replied, "After an afternoon of tipping the 'spirit jug' and feeling 'purty good,' I weren't 'bout to admit to no Sheriff's deputy in a patrol car full of guns and handcuffs that I'd see'd a rat that big running through these here woods!"



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