In towns and cities across the nation, on Midwestern farms and up Appalachian hollows, Down East and Out West, Americans will be tuning into the big football game on Super Sunday tomorrow. Just about everyone, that is, except those unfortunate souls whose job it is to safeguard Area 51 from nosy intruders.
No one knows who they are, but the prevailing theory is that they work for Wackenhut Security, the private firm charged with patrolling the perimeter of the Air Force’s super-secret testing base at Groom Lake. Also known as “camou dudes” they ride around in white Jeep Cherokees, eyes peeled for suspicious activity. Others sit behind one-way windows in a guard shack that stands beside a gated entrance to the base. Will they be watching the big game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Green Bay Packers? Not if Chuck Clark can help it.
Who is Chuck Clark? He’s the astronomer-in-residence at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nevada. He also serves as the Inn’s media liaison, which is how the two of us became acquainted. It was Clark who escorted me out to Checkpoint Chuck, which is where he likes to spend Super Sunday.
As I was shooting pictures of my guide standing next to the sign that reads PHOTOGRAPHY PROHIBITED, I half expected that someone would emerge from the guard shack, but no—nothing happened.
“Don’t worry,” Chuck explained. “They’re watching our every move, but they can’t do anything unless we cross the line.”
As we stood there, a large unmarked delivery van came rolling up to the checkpoint. The barrier went up and the truck continued on. I presume it was filled with cases of Budweiser, cocktail weenies, Doritos, salsa and guacamole dips, plus dozens of scantily-clad, undulating young women. Area 51 is a black budget operation, meaning it doesn’t have to answer to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
No doubt the Wackenhut guys would love to join the party, but no—they can’t leave their lonely outpost. What’s worse, they can’t even watch the big game on television. Why? Because just outside the base perimeter, Chuck Clark is hosting a one-man tailgate party—grilling franks on a portable hibachi and munching potato chips. And the guards have to watch his every move, because theirs is an “eyes only”operation.
Chuck’s outing lasts for the duration of the game. Then he packs up his black Jeep Cherokee and heads back to Rachel, there to resume his favorite activity: scanning the skies in search of unusual aerial phenomena.