UFOs in Mooseville Rumors abound that a backpacker's been abducted, and Jim Qwilleran's sedate summer may be interrupted by an investigation--with the help of his own little aliens, Koko and Yum Yum...
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March 18, 2003
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Excerpt from The Cat Who Saw Stars by Lilian Jackson Braun
World-shaking news was seldom broadcast by WPKX, the radio station serving Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. Local baseball scores, another car accident, a fire in a chicken coop, and death notices were the usual fare. In late June, listeners snapped to attention, then, when a Sunday evening newscast included this bulletin:
"An unidentified backpacker of no known address may or may not be a missing person, according to Moose County authorities. The Caucasian male, thought to be in his early twenties, stowed his camping gear on private property in the Fishport area three days ago and has not returned. He is described as fair-haired with blue eyes and of medium build. When last seen, he was wearing cutoff jeans, a white T-shirt, and a camera on a neck strap. Anyone seeing an individual of this description should notify the sheriff's department."
Since the description might fit any number of vacationers in Moose County, the listening audience ignored the matter until the next day, when it was reported in the local newspaper. A detailed story -- written in folk-style by Jill Handley, feature editor of the Moose County Something -- made sense of the incident.
MISSING HIKER BAFFLES F'PORT
by Jill Handley
Magnus Hawley of Fishport, a veteran on the commercial fishing boats, flagged down a sheriff's patrol car on Sunday and told a curious tale. Hawley and his wife, Doris, live in a trailer home surrounded by flower beds on Lakeshore Road near Roaring Creek.
"T'other night," Hawley said, "me and m'wife had just ate supper and was watchin' TV when there come a knock on the door. I goes to the door, and it's a young feller with a big backpack, wantin' to pitch his tent down by the crick for a coupla nights. He says he's gonna do some hikin' on the beach. He's kinda sweaty and dusty, y'know, but he has a reg'lar haircut and talks decent."
Doris Hawley approved of the stranger. "He reminded me of our grandson -- nice smile, very polite. I asked if he would be hunting for agates on the beach, because I could suggest a good spot, but he said he was mostly interested in taking pictures. His camera looked expensive, and I thought maybe he was a professional photographer. We told him he could camp near the picnic table at the bottom of the hill, so long as he didn't throw trash in the creek or play loud music."
The stranger said his name was David. "I never knew a David who wasn't trustworthy," she said.
She gave him some of her homemade gingersnaps and filled a jug with fresh water from the well. Her husband told David it was okay to take a dip in the creek but warned him about slippery rocks and strong current. Shortly after, they saw the young man heading for the lakeshore with his camera.
"Funny thing, though," said Hawley. "After that we di'n't see hide or hair of the feller. I went down to the crick in a coupla days to see if he'd cleared out. The water jug -- it was still on the picnic table, full up! And his pack was underneath, all strapped and buckled. On'y thing gone was the cookies. We talked about it, Doris and me. I said he could've took up with somebody he met on the beach. There's no tellin' what kids'll do these days, y'know. But m'wife was worried about him slippin' on the rocks and gettin' drowned, so I hailed the patrol car."
A sheriff's deputy and a state trooper inspected the campsite but found no identification of any kind. A description of the hiker, as given by the Hawleys, was broadcast Sunday night, but no response to the bulletin had been received at press time.