In search of taps
Jerome Clark presents an entertaining discussion of “Mr Wilson and the aeronauts of 1897” [ FT362:38-43], but could have noted one strangely recurring detail. Perhaps it was a design flaw in the mysterious dirigibles, but they seem to forever have needed to stop and take on a bucket or two of water, thus occasioning the meetings with bemused witnesses. This excuse for landing thus has JR Ligon taking four of them to his house near Beaumont where “they each filled two buckets”, probably where Rabbi Levy also spoke with them. A day later, Sheriff Baylor in Uvalde conducts presumably the same chaps to a hydrant where they top up again.
Two days after that, Frank Nichols is awakened near Josserand by an airship landing in his cornfield and “two bucket-bearing men” ask to draw water from his well. Six days later Deadwood’s HC Legrone meets five crew members from a landed craft and again, two of them have “rubber bags” that they need to fill with water. Lastly, Sheriff RW Dowe is called out at midnight and has a conversation with three men from an “air ship” who have landed to fill their “canteens” on the banks of the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass.
One explanation that supports the narrative structure of the encounters is that the stories (which is not to suggest that they are fictional) need a reason for the craft to have landed; sightseeing in a cornfield, a back lane or the Rio Grande at midnight are simply not very convincing motives for the aeronauts to have landed and be ambling around so that the meetings can take place. Hence the buckets, bags and canteens – “Excuse us, mind if we use your tap sir?”
One might speculate that weight considerations prevented a few barrels being part of the equipage and that simply stopping every so often and replenishing a small water supply was expedient. But what about eating? None of the encounters involve questions about “that pumpkin pie y’all have coolin’ on the window ledge
yonder” or food of any sort. And don’t get me started about the on-board lavatory situation – it’s highly likely that the aeronauts were off-loading some excess baggage while they claimed to be innocently stopping for a cool drink. Robert T Walker Wagga Wagga, New South Wales