Jimmy Carter might not be my favorite president, but it’s near to impossible not to like somebody who saw a UFO and doesn’t lie about it.
The truth, after all, is always going to be out there somewhere.
With the eighth annual Little Green Men Days Festival fast approaching for the Kelly community, the thought of America’s smiling UFO president popped into my head from out of the blue the other day.
Now, there really was a good reason for me making the connection in my messed-up mind.
It’s called hope and glory.
Hopefully, President Carter will surprise everybody one of these days by showing some interest in the Aug. 21, 1955, UFO case that landed Kelly a place on the map and later inspired Steven Spielberg to make his blockbuster movie, “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.”
And, if that ever happens, send some of the glory my way, please.
Let me explain.
Most Americans know that Jimmy Carter, now 93, served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. They also probably know that his younger redneck brother, Billy, had a beer named after him and that Mr. Carter truly believed in UFOs and swimming rabbits.
But, not many people know that the former president with the big smile — and lust in his heart during his younger days — once had a nice conversation with me.
OK. So it wasn’t that big of a deal. He talked to me for probably less than two minutes and there was no mention whatsoever of Billy Beer, flying saucers or the killer rabbit that supposedly tried to drown him in that boat on a Georgia lake in those final days of his unpopular presidency.
The “Close Encounter of the Toothy Kind” occurred in Nashville three years ago next month.
At the time, the former president was signing copies of his new book — “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety” — at the Nashville Public Library. Hundreds of folks turned out to see Mr. Carter, who is one of only four American presidents to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The line was long, but worth the wait for somebody on a mission.
When the time finally came for me to meet President Carter and have him autograph his pricey book, he was more than delighted to pause and exchange a few words. He was delighted to learn from me that my late father had grown up in a small town just 85 miles down the road from his own hometown of Plains, Georgia. The crowning moment might have been his off-handed compliment about my loud Hawaiian shirt.
That was about the extent of our chit chat on that hot, July day since Secret Service agents and book store henchmen started shooing me away to keep the autograph line moving in an orderly fashion.
But, before skedaddling, there still was that other matter on my agenda. President Carter received — from a fellow author — a most splendid gift that was plopped down on the table in front of him. It was an autographed copy of my own book — “Monkeys Don’t Wear Silver Suits,” co-authored with Tim Ghianni and published in 2014 — about the legendary encounter between that farm family in Kelly and gremlin-like creatures from a spacecraft.
Surprised — to say the least — Jimmy Carter glanced at the cover of the book, thanked me and then handed it to a Secret Service agent, who put it in a big box, presumably to take back to Plains to read while eating peanuts and drinking leftover Billy Beer.
Hopefully, he thought about his own UFO encounter, especially after being reminded about the incident by me.
In January 1969, when Jimmy Carter was the governor of Georgia, he was leaving a Lions Club meeting in Leary, Georgia, when a UFO “as bright as the moon” flashed before his eyes. It vanished from the sky about 10 minutes later, but not before it was spotted by as many as 12 other people.
“I don’t laugh at people any more when they say they’ve seen UFOs,” Carter confessed a few years later at a Southern Governors Conference. “I’ve seen one myself.”
Since his visit to Nashville in the mid-summer of 2015, President Carter has had three years to read my book and study up on the Kelly incident, long considered “The Granddaddy of UFO Sightings” and the origin of the pop culture phrase, “Little Green Men.”
So far, he hasn’t gotten back to me.
Of course, he’s had a few other things on his plate, like battling cancer and building houses for Habitat for Humanity.
In the meantime, the legend surrounding the Kelly UFO encounter continues to grow every year. Just last month, a movie about the incident — “The Invasion of Kelly,” which was released last year by White Door Productions in nearby Clifty — won top honors for Joseph Drake and David G. Baker at Nashville’s fourth annual IndieVille TV Awards.
The 2018 Little Green Men Days Festival — spearheaded by Frank Brown, Joann Smithey and other members of the planning committee for the Kelly Community Association — takes place on Aug. 17 and 18 at Kelly Station Park.
With or without help from America’s UFO president, the festival is sure to be another out-of-this-world experience.
There’s always a big surprise for all the true believers out there.
Let’s just hope that killer rabbits don’t show up this year.
ROB DOLLAR was a reporter and editor for the Kentucky New Era for 20 years. A resident of Hopkinsville, he has authored three books on topics of local interest in recent years. He can be reached at email@example.com.