Meteor shower spells doom for Denver Donkeys

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— I didn't recognize it at the time, but looking back on it now, I can see quite clearly that in the early morning hours of Nov. 18, I received a cosmic sign, a celestial caution if you will, that Sunday would not be a good day to hang around the hacienda and watch the Denver Broncos attempt to play football.

I shudder to think how close I came to missing the warning. Had I not picked up on it, I would have been doomed to the couch, penned up by the mixture of rain, snow and sleet that was falling outside. From everything I've heard from those of you who tuned in, the Broncos game was ugly.

Have you ever noticed how a truly rotten effort from the Broncos can leave you feeling mean enough to take it out on the family pet?

The constellations foretold a Bronco disaster I knew I had to get out of the house.

If you were motivated enough to drag yourself out of bed at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, you might have noticed the sign that this was not to be the Broncos' day.

Normally I am skeptical about much ballyhooed meteoric events. Perseus has let me down more than once when his advertised shower didn't live up to the name.

Sunday was different; did you catch it? The southern sky rained streaks of light.

Most of the "falling stars" I have witnessed over the years have burned up so quickly that I was left wondering if I had really seen what I thought I had seen. Sunday morning was different.

I might have missed the show had not my wife set the alarm for 2 a.m. I had stayed up until midnight but was rewarded only with a couple of faint meteor trails.

When I struggled out of bed at 2 a.m., my enthusiasm was subdued. That situation quickly reversed itself.

Seated on the back deck, we were rewarded with several meteors a minute, and the pace seemed to be intensifying.

Ninety percent of the meteors seemed to have tails that lingered in the sky for a half-second or longer, something we had rarely witnessed before. When you caught a meteor in your peripheral vision, there was still time to turn your head and look at the tail. And twice I witnessed simultaneous meteor trails.

What topped it all off was a single burst of five meteors that culminated in two that appeared to cross one another's paths, leaving a large, visible "X" in the heavens.

My mouth hung agape and I knew immediately I would never witness anything like it again.

In the morning, we were restless, so we packed up the van and headed out U.S. 40 to Moffat County and Browns Park, "Where the Real West Begins."

A friend had told me that if I turned left down a certain unmarked dirt road, we would find a Native American prayer wheel.

On the drive out, I contemplated how indigenous peoples might have reacted to the meteor shower earlier in the day.

It might have been enough to cause them to memorialize the event in stone.

We never found the prayer wheel, but we were able to locate a well-marked panel of rock art from the Fremont period. As we approached the dark red boulder, I half-expected one of the triangular shaped human figures to be wearing the numeral 14 on its chest, with a large "X" appearing in the heavens above him.

For by now I had figured out the meaning of the celestial events that had taken place 12 hours earlier the Broncos' season is irretrievably star-crossed.

You can stick a fork in the Donkeys, their condition is the same as that of your Thanksgiving turkey.

It's written in the stars.

Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.

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