Darkness on the Edge of Town


I live near a large army base, known as a fort.  Large forts have vast areas called ranges where military units get to practice wartime operations. The ranges at this particular fort are on a predominantly flat plateau.  I and a friend, both retired army, would walk our dogs on the ranges, mostly late at night.  We did this for many years and often experienced strange and fascinating phenomenon, natural and man-made.

On this particular night there was no moon at all.  The sky was overcast and there was light fog.  It was a very dark night.  We took our dogs to a section of the range that had an asphalt strip that was used as a primitive practice landing strip for C-130 Hercules cargo planes.  They’re the fat looking aircraft with overhead wings and four propeller engines. Like I said, it was just an old runway out in the middle of a field.  No support buildings or lights of any kind.

We drove out there on a dirt road, parked and turned off the truck lights. I got out and looked around.  I don’t know why I bothered.  I could not see anything.  I put my hand a foot in front of my eyes and could not see it.  Yes; I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.  It was that dark; dark and quiet.

We started walking along the landing strip.  It was comical.  We must have zigzagged across that strip 20 times.  We couldn’t walk straight.  There was no visual reference point at all.  The only way we could tell where we were was when we walked off the asphalt onto the dirt.  We knew we made it to the end of the runway when we ran out of asphalt altogether.   Walking back to the truck at the other end of the runway was an adventure.  We knew when we reached the end because of the dirt, but had to take a minute or two to find the truck.  The dogs led us to it.  I will never forget that night.

This story is a metaphor for our lives on so many different levels.  I prefer, Keep going forward even when you can’t see the destination.  Or maybe, Always forward, never straight.  Choose one that suits you.