Buck Nelson: Tall Tales from the Ozarks.
Thu, 04/13/2023 - 4:44pm admin
In this column three years ago, I mentioned Buck Nelson, the hillbilly farmer from north of Mountain View, who, in the mid-1950s, claimed to have been visited by extra-terrestrial space aliens. Moreover, according to Buck, these spacemen took him on an interplanetary trip in a flying saucer.
I thought it would be interesting to revisit the topic, and while researching, I noticed that in the past several months a couple articles about Buck Nelson have appeared in online publications, and he was the subject of a recent local podcast. I actually met Buck Nelson in 1958.
Buck hired the Quill Press Company of West Plains to print the manuscript of his experience in a 40-page booklet, with the title “My Trip to Mars, the Moon and Venus” in December 1956. In the late 1950s, I remember perusing a copy of his paperback in N. Frank’s used book and oddities shop in Mountain View, on Oak Street between 2nd and Main. It did not impress me, so I put it back and checked out the discounted comic books. Now, if I had a copy, I could peddle it on e-Bay.
In his book, Buck claimed that in July 1954 three flying discs, each about “fifty feet across and eight feet high,” (he called them “things”) hovered over his three-room shack. He signaled them with his flashlight encouraging them to land. Buck wrote, “instead of them coming down, they shot some kind of ray at me. It was much brighter and hotter than the sun.”
Although the ray knocked him from behind a barrel, it instantly healed his lumbago and neuritis, which had plagued him for fifteen years, and cured his poor eyesight to the extent he did not even need reading glasses. Coincidentally, last week I went to an ophthalmologist who proposed improving my eyesight by zapping me with a laser, and if I didn’t also write fiction, I might be inclined to accept ol’ Buck’s story. Also, in a DC comic book from that era, Superman used his superpowers to improve a girl’s eyesight. So, my Ozark skepticism is intact.
Buck indicated his next contact happened six months later in February 1955, when “they” circled low over his house and asked by way of “some public address system” whether he was friendly and would allow them to land in his back pasture. They did not land but bid him a friendly farewell.
After about a month, on March 5, 1955, Buck alleges the spacecraft landed and three men and a 385-pound dog named Bo came to his house. Interestingly, one of the visitors was a “young earth-man” named Bucky, who had gone to Venus two years before to teach English. A 200-year-old man named Bob Solomon and an unnamed, “old and wrinkled” man, a trainee learning to operate the spacecraft, completed the trio. The travelers visited with Buck in his home for an hour and departed.
Buck’s account of his fourth contact with the extraterrestrials gets a bit confusing, but he claims they returned on March 22, 1955, but did not land. However, “[t]hey visited some and told me to get ready for my trip into space.” I assume the communication was by way of the previously mentioned “public address system.” Apparently, they wanted to get water from his spring, and at some point, had “placed twelve rocks in a circle . . . too little for a flower bed” near the spring that was a “symbol for the Twelve Laws of God.”
Later in his book, he lists the Twelve Laws, which along with some other rules, are part of a twenty-page bible that governs “the people of other planets in our solar system.” Perhaps, not surprisingly, the Twelve Laws contain most of the precepts of the Ten Commandments.
In college, I recall a discussion with Lynn Spence (WSHS, 1964) about the similarities between the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments, which came several hundred years later. Lynn astutely observed it could be a case of parallel thinking and not plagiarism. With a stretch of the imagination, I suppose one could make the parallel-thinking argument about Buck’s reported Twelve Laws of the solar system.
Finally, the big event came to pass on April 24, 1955. After changing to clean overalls and giving his dog Ted a bath in the spring, at the direction of the spacemen, Buck and Ted boarded the flying saucer. Once the ship was “high in space,” the spacemen told Buck he could play with the controls. The spacemen put on safety belts (“for the first time in three years”), and Buck said, “It was a good thing too, [sic] for I had the ship upside down and every which way.” Now, I have been aware of Buck’s purported space trip for over sixty years, but until researching this story, I did not know it included flying the spaceship.
At some point after takeoff, Buck fell asleep, and Bucky (the English teacher) woke him up to tell him they had arrived at Mars. They landed twenty feet from the “ruler’s home,” which was built from moon rocks, where they were fed a “good meal.” Teddy was given a meal of fish.
The Elton John song is apparently wrong—Mars is the place to raise kids—because children gathered around Buck to ask questions. Also, “[t]he people on Mars used solar and electric power.”
The next leg of the journey was to the moon. Again, they went to the “the ruler’s home and . . . ate a meal there.” Buck reported some interesting facts: there are quarries on the moon that furnish rocks for buildings on other planets. He surmised the water in the homes on the moon “could have come from snow on the mountains.” And he was told “[t]he Earth was the only planet in the solar system which does not travel from one planet to another.”
Buck indicated he had more time on the moon, to “look about” than on Mars and was allowed to walk around outside the building. The spacemen sent Bo (the big dog) with him and Ted. It turns out there are children on the moon, too. They “played with several sized dogs” and “rode Big Bo like a pony.” Now, I wonder why astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to wear spacesuits with oxygen tanks in 1969.
The next planet on the itinerary was Venus, where they made two stops, each time at a “ruler’s home.” I was surprised to learn one of the Venusian rulers was a painter who wore overalls that didn’t require buckles, and that three moons illuminated Venus making it “about as light as day on earth.”
Interplanetary space travel apparently requires a lot of eating, as they ate meals at both stops on Venus. “The food consisted of meat, milk, eggs, fish, many kinds of salads and many cooked vegetables.” So, Venus apparently has cows and chickens. This information could be helpful to NASA.
But hold on, Earthlings, there’s more. Three cars, like those on Earth but without wheels, were parked in front of one of the ruler’s homes. These cars skim three to five feet off the ground, and Buck sagely points out, “Having this type of car eliminates the need for roads.” Without roads and other related governmental necessities, he observed, “It is not hard to understand why their taxes compare to ours like a nickel compares to a hundred dollars.” And the inhabitants there only “work about an hour a day and never more than three hours."
A republished version of “My Trip to Mars the Moon and Venus,” with additional information by John E.L. Tenney, contains a diagram originally published in Sky and Scope Magazine in April 1955 that traced Buck’s trip and estimated the distance covered at 800 million miles. If the calculations are correct, that’s remarkable, considering the sun is only 93 million miles from Earth.
To be continued in Part 2.