This is not a fish tale. It’s based on a real chance meeting and memories. It all began as a side trip near Talladega Speedway, Alabama. It was at a historic site, the Talladega Grist Mill, near a covered bridge going over the river by the same name.
We started a conversation with a local fisherman with the usual question: how are they biting? “They leave me alone and I leave them alone” was the answer. He noticed our tee shirts with a Gulf Coast lighthouse on them that we had recently visited.
“I married a local girl when I was in the Coast Guard,” he said. “I was not a lighthouse keeper, but I was stationed at one. My job was to record the weather information and then pass the data on to the supervisor at the USCG Group.
“One night, I heard what I thought was thunder. When I looked up from my paperwork I saw low flying aircraft, wave after wave. At first, I thought, Is this another Pearl Harbor? But I was relieved that the planes were so low that I could see the pilots’ faces and clearly see the U.S. Navy markings. At this light station the Coast Guard had radar, and Loran, which is a long-distance radio navigation system by which a ship or aircraft determines its position using radio signals sent out by ground stations. I figured the jets were testing to see whether they could fly under the radar.
“Since I had never seen anything like this at the lighthouse before, I immediately called my supervisor and brought him up to date on the aircraft activity. He said he would pass the information up the line of command.
“A little while later, when I was getting ready to relax, my phone rang. I answered: ‘Petty Officer (redacted) speaking. How may I help?’ The commanding voice on the other end barked, ‘This is Captain (redacted).’ Yes sir, I answered.
“‘Are you the sailor boy who reported the low flying aircraft, not one low flying aircraft, but multiple aircraft?’ Yes sir, I quickly replied. To which the captain, quickly and firmly said, ‘Let me be clear sailor – you did NOT see any low flying aircraft, not one.’ Without hesitation I said, But, Sir, I did.
“‘Let me be clear sailor – How would you like to serve the rest of your enlistment, alone, in the Aleutians, counting the walrus population?’
“After a quick moment of meditation, I responded: Sir, after serious contemplation, it was low flying pelicans that I saw, numerous pelicans. In fact, I’ve never seen so many low flying pelicans. In fact, those big pelican eyes resembled the pilot’s goggles; that’s why I issued the incorrect sighting, Sir. The captain then uttered four short words, ‘Good night Petty Officer.’
“That’s my story, as vividly as I can remember it.”
This story appeared in the
May/Jun 2021 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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