A festival focused on a long-ago Mtn. View-area celebrity who reportedly not only had a close encounter with space travelers several times in the 1950s, but rode in their spacecraft, is in the works to coincide with the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse.
Buck Nelson, who lived a reclusive life on a farm near Mtn. View, seems like a natural choice to be the centerpiece of a festival focused on celestial events. While details are still being worked out, happenings are planned to be held throughout Mtn. View, from April 5 through 8, including a fun run, art and science show, parade, dance and vendor booths.
While many communities in the path of totality are planning events centered around the rare natural phenomenon in order to bring in tourism, Nelson and his space travels seem like a particularly appropriate theme, also given that he and his accounts got national and international attention and for several years drew the curious to multiple-day "spacecraft conventions" held at his farm for several years in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Those decades came after the beginning of the so-called Atomic Age in America, with the development of nuclear weapons and their first use at the conclusion of World War II in Japan to hasten Japan's surrender.
What followed was further experimentation and refinement of nuclear weapons and a subsequent space race with the Soviet Union during that era, described as the Cold War. Civil defense drills and instructional films teaching children to "duck and cover" in hopes of surviving a nuclear blast and the rise of B-movie monsters, aliens and visitors from other planets arriving in flying saucers were in the forefront of the public's imagination.
Nelson himself turned out to be a bit of a character even by Ozarks standards, with somewhat of a mysterious personal history and quirky habits, including claims to have traveled all lower 48 states and some foreign countries. He had a resume that lists a sixth grade education, then work as a ranch hand, logger and sawmill operator, farmer, railroad worker and "special policeman" before he bought and settled on 80 acres about 12.5 miles outside Mtn. View at the Howell and Texas County border.
He said his birthdate was April 9, 1895, making the day of the 2024 eclipse the 128th anniversary of his birth, minus one day.
By his own account he was first visited by flying saucers at his home on July 30, 1954, and the story he wrote printed in a Springfield daily newspaper. In a brief autobiography in his book "My Trip to Mars, the Moon, and Venus," first printed by the Quill Press Company in December 1956, Nelson said he was content to leave it at that, but was encouraged by a Seymour resident to go into further detail. The resident also mailed out copies of his story to "Flying Saucer Clubs in the East," Nelson said, and he gave thanks to the Grand Rapids Flying Saucer Club, which apparently bankrolled the first printing.
In a foreword penned by Fanny Lowery, the Mrs. of the Mr. and Mrs. Seymour Lowery of Clarkston, Mich., to whom he dedicates the book, she describes visiting Nelson on his farm several times in late 1955 and on June 21, 1956, she describes a "space picnic" held on Nelson's ranch with other couples in attendance. By that time, Nelson had given talks about his experience in Detroit and was being encouraged to return to Michigan to give a lecture in Grand Rapids, she said.
Probably best experienced by reading the book in its entirety, Nelson's fantastical accounts include a being hit by a ray from a "huge disc-like object" hovering above his head that knocked him behind a barrel, cured his lumbago and neuritis, and improved his vision. That was his first contact, with no communication between him and the space beings. He describes five encounters in all, increasingly astonishing, and it was during his fifth encounter that he took the trip of the book's title.
He describes spacecraft and other technology, and colonies on the moon, Mars, and Venus populated by people of various colors and races that are like us "but are much better looking in general." He made the entire trip on the spacecraft over the span of about three days, he said. The book includes renderings of some of what he saw, instructions for building a saucer detector, warnings against the irresponsible use of nuclear technology, and 12 laws provided by the space travelers that are very similar to the Christian Ten Commandments. Nelson also describes visits from "THREE MEN IN BLACK" who visited him at his ranch to warn him against telling his flying saucer stories.
Whether Nelson's stories are to be believed or taken with a grain of moon dust, they certainly are interesting and unique footnote in Ozarks history, and as worthy a theme as any for a festival where all are encouraged to gaze skyward.