The Idle American: Up, Up, and Away

Researchers are evaluating a small, lightweight, efficient 3D imaging sensor designed for weather forecasting on consecutive balloon flights. Photo: NASA

Mort figures that if we keep shooting down balloons, there’ll be enough material to recycle smaller ones for birthday favors at party stores.

My aged Uncle Mort is “up in the air” about balloons.

“Until recently, balloons were festive, often gleefully ‘popped’ at parties,” he moaned. “Stick a pin in one now, and folks nearby crawl under tables, look for exits, call 9-1-1 and shield the bodies of young’uns.”

Mort contends that governmental leaders’ confoundment about balloons floating 60,000 feet above the earth could be laid to rest if they’d simply stick with initial claims. “First, they tell us the balloons were lofted by the Chinese, then they back off,” Mort muttered.

Then, he volunteered his own theory….


   As usual, he climbs to the top perch on the tower of the all-knowing, suggesting that he has his very own theory that should be equally obvious to the confounded.

He hearkens back to his own school days, when teachers offered suggestions concerning which letters or numbers to circle on multiple choice exams. “Think long and think wrong,” he said.

Mort figures that if we keep shooting down balloons, there’ll be enough material to recycle smaller ones for birthday favors at party stores….



Don Newbury always looks at the lighter side of life.

He thinks that if he’d been consulted, he could have “cemented the certainty” that leaders of The Peoples’ Republic of China are indeed responsible for launching the high-flying balloons.

“Thanks to the telescope that I designed during long stretches of boredom when COVID raged, I’ve zeroed in on heretofore unseen objects a dozen miles above the earth. I saw those balloons weeks before they were reported by both social and mass media,” he claims.

He says that he spotted tags attached by kite twine to each balloon. Imprinted on each were three little words: “Made in China.”…


   In recent days, he’s been helping wife Maude re-arrange items on her bucket list. She welcomes his help, no longer yearning to “climb into the bucket” of a hot-air balloon. “UFBs” (unidentified flying balloons) also have caused him to scrub his plans to start a balloon-ride business near their thicket home.

Maude usually leaves jokes and story-telling to her hubby, but admits that taking such rides  nowadays brings to mind an old yarn about two country mice – facing certain starvation on the farm – who decided to try city living.

Each went his own way, and at day’s end, one was excited about serving as a “guinea pig” on a rocket to outer space. The other was surprised until hearing his friend’s explanation: “It was either that, or cancer research.”….


   With so much deservedly qualifying for our ballooning inventory of worries, Mort cites one news item that seems positive. (Sometimes, he says, it’s difficult to find even one positive news account.)

He has noted that the wailing of humpbacked whales is waning. This is the finding of sophisticated sonar research that indicates positive whale “courtships” – usually measured by wailing–are becoming increasingly “wail-less.”

“For a while I was afraid it would be necessary for us to encourage whales to consider ‘fake wailing’,” Mort joked. Factual or not, my uncle says that when whooping crane numbers reached record lows several years ago, the crisis could have been averted if authorities had listened to him. He would have urged them to “round up some ‘regular’ cranes and teach ‘em to whoop.”….


   I, too, seek good news items, one found this day in the Dallas Morning News. Staff writer Michael Williams wrote about a “runaway kangaroo home again.” It detailed the happy return of “Nigel” to his Granbury home, after a two-day search.

Scared by construction noises nearby, the unusual pets – bottle-fed and diaper-adorned by owner Briana Lafleur – had jumped a backyard fence. Nigel had a few scratches, and now faces the prospect of a taller fence, his owner told Channel 4 news.

Writer Williams mentioned that days earlier, another kangaroo “legged it” during a brief escape from his Prosper home. Somehow, I expected some reference to “bouncing away,” or perhaps a cowboy’s account that the animals “high-tailed it.”…


   Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, writes weekly and speaks throughout Texas. Phone: 817-447-3872. Email: Facebook: Don Newbury

Please click HERE to find Mostly Mort, the wit and wisdom of Don’s mythical uncle, on Amazon.

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