"Once in a Blue Moon," is a phrase that I have heard as long as I can remember. I figured that the meaning was self explanatory -- something that didn't happen very often. Just one of those things that we accept and don't think much about.
Then last week the wife of a friend from high school days was filling us in on her husband's misfortune. Seems that Don had a recent, long overdue, knee replacement. Healing and rehab were progressing just fine. Then in his home office he managed to trip up his "good" leg. He fell to the floor and broke the hip socket out of his pelvis on the "good" side! Talk about a bad owie! The wife had just got off the phone with one of her friends who had described in great deal mutual acquaintances with recent surgical procedures who also had fallen during their periods of rehabilitation. The two ladies had it all figured out. All those misfortunes just had to be due to the blue moon.
What is this goofiness associating unusual events in our lives with a full moon, no moon at all or the scariest of all, a blue moon? I can see pastoral people, or even our pioneering ancestors in this area, paying attention to the phase of the moon. They went to bed at dark and arose the first crack of dawn. A full moon would have allowed a longer day's work. Somehow though it seems that unusual human behavior has long been attributed to the full moon. Modern folklore attributes the name "blue moon" to a 1946 pseudo-scientific article calling the second full moon in a calendar month a "blue moon." Two full moons in a calendar month only happens a couple times a year when the first full moon falls on the first or second day of the month and the second full moon falls on the last day of the month. August of this year was one of those chosen events and the 31st the magical date. Incidentally, occasionally a calendar month goes by with no full moon at all, that being February with the last full moon happening the end of January and the next the first days of March.
Most modern people live in towns where even sighting our companion lunar body is rare. Moving from the farm with limitless open skies to light polluted obstructed vistas hiding the nighttime sky has been a frustration for me. I love, and miss, the night sky, the constellations, the Milky Way, the countryside lighted by a full moon.
All those primitive pleasures shared with mankind even before time went away with our move to civilization.
Still there is a reminder of past association with a brilliant night sky when I aviate on a clear night. It may be age or it may be experience but normally I try to avoid flying single engine light aircraft at night. The conundrum is my students preparing for a private pilot rating are required to log three hours of night flying experience so this old instructor gets to endure plenty of night flying. I try to convince myself that aircraft engines run just as well on night air as they do day air. That fact is not very comforting when I contemplate finding a safe place to make a forced landing on a pitch black night. Actually statistics show that forced landings at night result in less damage and fewer fatalities compared to the same experiences in daytime. So I just grin and bear it, the students need the experience and I can put up with what has never been a problem for me anyhow.
Then there was my wonderful blue moon just last evening. I had returned one of my student pilots to his home in Ogallala. The airport there was in shadow from high cumulus clouds hiding the setting sun in the west. I launched on the solo trip back to McCook and climbed to cruise at 7,500 feet, about a mile above the ground. Then out of murky hazy lower atmosphere to the east arose a brilliant orange full "blue moon." Over my right shoulder to the west the setting sun was painting the clouds with its palette of yellows and oranges. Not too shabby a sight that either.
From the haze below white lights began poking through to testify the location of farmsteads and operating center pivots. Villages are sparse along that route though Elsie, Madrid, Wallace and eventually Hayes Center boldly testify their existence from street and residence yard lights. The radio was quiet. The steady drone of my single engine expressed its good health. Not to worry. Just keep an eye on the dimly lighted instruments to hold the wings level and my course true. The now brilliant moonlight dimmed my favorite Constellation of Orion the Hunter but it and the Milky Way were plainly visible with nary a tree to obscure the view.
Nearing Hayes Center the lights of McCook appeared on the horizon. I lighted the runway lights of McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport and followed the course accurately portrayed by signals from invisible satellites high above. Crosschecking those signals against the ground based instrument landing system (ILS) and the trusty true M1A1 eyeballs I steered my familiar old beloved airplane, and me, right down the primrose path to a safe landing on Runway 12. Home again safe and sound. I thanked God for the awesome heavenly feast of sight for my soul.
That is the way I saw it. Dick Trail