I wrote this piece for OdysseyOnLine in January 2017. As I passed through Bowman this past week I was reminded about my article so I thought I would share this article once again.
The words “UFO Welcome Center” are printed on the object in large, childlike, capital letters. There was a small model of an alien outside alongside another smaller sign saying “UFO Welcome Center / Bowman / Planet Earth.” The alien was a rather friendly looking type, though he was silver and not green as I would have expected. I hoped that perhaps Fox Mulder and Dana Scully would crawl out from behind the rubble.
I was grateful for the 25 MPH speed limit on a quiet two-lane road running through the small town of Bowman, S.C. Then, suddenly, I spun my head around in a way that resembled the girl in “The Exorcist” in order to see a huge, shiny spaceship-looking object. It captivated my attention. There was nothing left to do but turn around and investigate. I turned around, pulled into the dirt parking area behind a small gas station and stared at what was indeed a spaceship.
The spaceship looked as if it could fall apart any moment, but according to all reports it had been standing for more than 20 years. It has even survived storms that damaged other buildings. Apparently, the spacecraft and surrounding areas are built with tin, aluminum, wood slates and duct tape. Miscellaneous objects (pieces of trash) are spread about the property, in addition to a well-used couch. I can’t imagine an alien landing party thinking it was a very welcoming place, but then again, I haven’t met any aliens.
I arrived home and immediately had to find out more about this strange site. I discovered that among the 1,200 residents of Bowman is a unique man named Jody Pendarvis, the creator of the UFO Welcome Center. The Center is built on land originally owned by Pendarvis’s grandparents. He is waiting for aliens to land after supposedly seeing a spaceship and meeting its crew. He claims that the “men in blue” (government folks) have visited him trying to get information, but he won’t talk. He hopes that the aliens will return and stay at the Welcome Center or perhaps even put an engine in the empty engine space inside and fly it away.
I travel Highway 178 out of the Charleston area every month and make a quick stop at the Center each time that I do. I hope that I might meet Jody one day and find out more about the Center (and the aliens). I might have to convince him that I am not one of the “men in blue.” If I show him my college ID, I think it will be OK. If the spaceship is gone next time I stop by, it will be obvious that Jody was right all along and that aliens have taken the spacecraft (and perhaps with Jody aboard).
Check out this interesting video about Jody and the Welcome Center.
What do you think about when you hear the words “high school?” Do you have wonderful memories of friendships, proms, sports, and good grades? On the other hand, are you one of the people who would rather forget that time altogether?
My grandparents sent me to a very small, private, Christian high school. I had only 42 in my graduating class. My insecurities and lack of self-worth followed me into those high school classrooms. I felt like an alien who had been dropped into a community without the benefit of a handbook to understand the rules.
The school was downtown. We all lived in different parts of the community so we didn’t have much opportunity to socialize outside of school. There was no football team or cheerleaders. The only sporting activity was basketball. I didn’t have the grades to hang out with the smart kids. My clothes were often handmade or those purchased were less than stylish. I didn’t come from an affluent family, as did many of my classmates. I spent much of my high school life trying to hide in the middle of a classroom.
I struggled to get passing grades. My teachers labeled me an underachiever. The teachers said I was very smart and the standardized testing proved them right. They said all I needed to do was apply myself. As an adult, I would discover the underlying problems that attributed to this dilemma, however at the time I didn’t understand. (You can read more about that here.)
Mandatory events and simple things like lunch made school even more difficult. Classmates typically gathered in groups of three or more. The laughter, whispering, and intense discussions of the clusters made the isolation even more evident. I usually ate lunch with two other girls who seemed as much out-of-place as I did. We mumbled about the food or our teachers; we never talked about anything more insightful.
I rarely pull out my yearbooks. We had to pass our yearbooks around the classroom and everyone was supposed to write something. The heartfelt comments from classmates don’t make me yearn for the memories. “Have a great summer.” “It has been a fun year.” “Good Luck.”
My college classes are only a few blocks from my old high school. As I entered my first college classes just a couple of weeks ago, I was not ready for the flood of memories and emotions from my high school days to come rushing back. I sit in rooms filled with students from 18 to their early 20’s. They gather in groups to laugh, whisper, and have intense discussions. I feel everyone stare as I walk into the classroom. I see the fear in the eyes of my classmates as the professor dictates partners for a project. “Please don’t give me that old person for my partner,” I imagine them thinking. Yes, once again I feel the alien beginning to show.
Yet, somehow, this time is different. I have come to like the alien in me. I may have some different challenges than my classmates, but I also have the benefit of life experiences most have yet to discover. I know that time is precious, friendships are to be cherished, pain is inevitable, and life is to be lived to the fullest. I know there will be a few who take the time to get to know me; what an amazing surprise they have in store.
You may have guessed that I am one who would rather forget about those good old high school days. I can’t go back and reclaim them. I can choose to make this time in college something I will look back upon with wonder and amazement. Maybe I am just an alien on a mission.
Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans. Mr. Spock in ‘I, Mudd’ Star Trek