Butter Rum Cartoon

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Thursday, October 14, 2010


I learned how to make a model hot-air balloon from my brother Paul, using a clear-plastic bag from the cleaners, the kind they use to cover suits. There are basically two kinds of these cleaners bags--heavier and lighter--and of course the lighter is best. First you seal all the holes in the bag with Scotch tape, except the large opening at the bottom. Then you cross two balsa wood sticks, fastening them together where they intersect, and tape the four ends to the edge of the bag’s opening, to hold it open. Birthday candles are used for the heat. At first we taped about twenty candles together and fastened them where the sticks cross; but this didn’t turn out well, because the flame would get so high that it would tend to melt holes in the bag. So, the solution was to place them separately along each stick, using melted wax to fasten them. While one person holds the bag upright, the other lights each candle. The heat fills the bag, and the bag rises. It’s best to do this, of course, on a calm day or night, with no wind to wrestle with as you’re launching it.

Paul and I did this several times, during both day and night, and it was fun to watch it climb hundreds of feet into the air before finally burning out. And watching it burn out is fun, too, for when the flames reach the balsa wood, the sticks fall apart, and balls of fire drop from the balloon. This is especially impressive at night. All the flames burn out long before reaching the ground, so there’s no fire hazard.

I thought it would be just another hot-air balloon making night in Sultan, Washington, in the late 1960's, when I showed my good friend, Calvin, how to make one. I got together the stuff needed, and went over to his dairy farm. (His family’s dairy farm was located right in the town of Sultan, which hints at what a wonderful life we had.) It was a dark night with no wind on the ground and only a slight breeze up in the sky. The bag filled up with heat like a charm, and when it was weightless, we let go of it. Up it went, higher and higher, looking like a little, moving campfire among the stars.

Since it looked so unique, Calvin and I began to imagine it as a UFO, and we pointed it out to others, even going so far as to knock on a couple doors to bring people out to witness the mysterious object in the sky. It moved southward toward Haystack Mountain, as a small group of onlookers made guesses as to what it might be. Eventually the balls of fire began dropping from the main light, and finally the main light broke up and headed downwards and soon disappeared. People scratched their heads and went back into their houses. I said good-night to Calvin with a big smile, and went home.

The next day, the UFO was talked about all over town. It was decided by some that it must have been a real hot-air balloon, and that it caught fire and fell. And Calvin and I were surprised to find out that a search and rescue team had gone up and scoured Haystack Mountain for the remains of the tragedy!

We never told anyone what it really was…until now.

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  1. Great story, Dale! Sounds like a typical Dale Lund adventure.

  2. I had to share this neat message Janet Bowden Mortensen sent me on Facebook:
    lmao The mystery is finally solved. I posted it on my fb and got quite a few comments. It didnt surprise me it was you and I assume the Calvin in this story was Calvin Voss. I remember this ufo incident very well as my family lived next to the farm. Our door may have been one of the ones you knocked on. oh and I totally agree we had a very wonderful life there. I am the middle sister of the 3 Bowden girls. We went to the church where your father was the minister. My father ran the Valley News and the Monroe monitor at that time. My sisters and I spent hours playing on that farm with Calvin and his brothers. Calvin had an older sister also who use to babysit us. I remember going over to your house and you had that big spider outside on the sidewalk.We girls thought you were crazy for playing with spiders. We moved away in 1968 to Olympia,Wa. My grandma was Anna Hogle who lived to be 102. Not sure if any of this will ring a bell with you but I just wanted to comment on the great story of the ufo. I'm tellin' everyone!

  3. I could barely breath by the time I was done reading this.........OMG do I remember this, yet I had forgot. Oh Dale to go back to that time of life, the innocence, the wonderful small town life, where NO ONE locked the door...Thanks for putting me back in touch with that time...this is going to be a great NEW adventure!!!!S.B.

  4. I had a feeling about what was going to happen. In 1958, New York City, I saw a firery object in the sky. Was it a meteorite or a comet? Then on TV news they mentioned it was home made baloon that caught fire. Very nice story. So you did it Dale!!! you scared all those people and fooled those UFO believers. Why didn't you do this in Korea?