The crop circles of Langdon, North Dakota.
There is no crop circle insurance.
This essay originally appeared in my 2016 book There Are Dinosaurs In The Fields. I’ve updated and modified it for this format.
Then there was that one time when aliens invaded Langdon, North Dakota.
The three UFOs landed in a nearly straight line, and left behind crop circles. If you drew a line connecting the circles, it would stretch from four miles north of Langdon, a town in northeastern North Dakota that has a 55-foot tall Spartan missile erected in the middle of a city park near the swing sets, to a field about four miles southwest of the town.
The first circle appeared in July 2000 in Robert Ullyott’s wheat field north of the town. Mr. Ullyott found the circle while checking to see if the previous week’s dose of herbicide was doing its job. What he found, instead, was his crop pushed down into a kind of dumbbell shape, with one side of the figure flattened into concentric circles and the other solidly flattened..
Several days later, crop sprayer pilot Kevin Boe saw the second circle shortly after takeoff from the Langdon airport, the sight of such a thing no doubt disrupting his takeoff checklist. This second circle was in Randy Bata’s field, just west of town and southwest of the city airport.
A third circle was found on John Delvo’s property, two miles southwest of the Bata circles. The Delvo circle was simpler than the previous two, a pattern of concentric circles.
Mr. Bata’s crop circles were the most complex of the three sites, resembling a sort of poodle dog. Four circles, 21 to 29 feet in diameter, were connected by lines with offshoots that looked like wind indicators on an aviation weather map. This crop circle would eventually be studied in August by a researcher from the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON.
I say UFOs, but who can be sure.
It was either UFOs, menacing teenagers who didn’t have enough homework to keep them busy, mysterious winds with a knowledge of geometry, energy rebelling against physics, maybe the elevated levels of uranium in our radon-producing soil run amuck, or perhaps a parallel universe intersecting with our own. No one knew, and no one knows.
News of the visit from space came to me via my father through the Hampden Mall Cafe morning coffee grapevine.
“Any news in town?” I asked him when he came home from coffee.
“They found some crop circles over by Langdon,” he said. I was immediately interested.
“We should fly over them,” I said. “I could take some photos and talk about it on my blog.”
In those early days, most of my blog readers were family and people from the surrounding community. I felt a responsibility to report the serious news, like crop circles.
Though it was already a week or so after the event (the coffee grapevine is a bit analog and takes its sweet time getting the news out), we made our way, in dad’s Cessna 172 airplane, into the blue yonder and found ourselves doing a steep turn around what had to be the smallest, most faint crop circle ever to mark the surface of the planet. The fields were still green, and so the crops were springing back to an upright position from whence they came before aliens or nogoodniks had tried to crush them into circular submission.
I took a few photos and then we landed at the Langdon airport for a pit stop since both the need and the opportunity arose. That’s when the real excitement began.
The engine wouldn’t start, and I quickly forgot mystical crop circles in favor of watching a man—it might have been Mr. Boe himself— hand-prop the airplane.
Prop circles, I thought as I watched him stand in front with his hands on the propeller, prepared to give them a hard manual spin. I’d never seen anyone hand-prop a plane before, much less from the front right seat. Dad was a bit nervous, I think, because if things go badly when someone is hand-propping a plane, they go really badly and there are funerals and legal action.
And then that was it.
There were no more crop circles, and the morning coffee conversation turned to more earthly things like the humorous poem our town poet laureate, Luella, had written about the wheat midge.
Several years later, after I’d begun working for the newspaper headquartered in Langdon, I thought to ask my boss about the crop circles. “Was there coverage in the paper about it?” I asked. Indeed there was, she said, indicating not much fuss was made at first, but that there were a few later stories.
I went digging.
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