Dear Dirty America


What He Learned from Going to the Moon

What He Learned from Going to the Moon
July 19
07:37 2021



“I’ve been to outer space. Been there probably half a dozen times. ‘Stay on the ground!’ I say. ‘There’s nothing up there.’” – Kent Vunderkirst

SOUTH DAKOTA — My neighbor, let’s just call him by his real name, Kent, because he’s not alive anymore anyway, woke up one very early morning and saw, with some surprise, his wife in bed with another man.

Good Lord!

Both he and his wife were aging, so he was quite astonished another man would want to partake in that sort of thing with Dorothy, but there he was, snuggled under the covers, and on Kent’s side of the bed.

Bastard sleeps curled up like a little girl, Kent thought.

But then the absurdity of the situation hit him. Why was he up near the ceiling looking down at the bed, anyway? How had he gotten up there? And how was he managing to stay up there?




It turned out to be a classic out-of-body experience (OBE). Kent had been looking at himself with his wife Dorothy, still in bed, still faithful and snoring away.

Fear gripped him, and Kent slammed back into his body. He woke up with a gasp so that Dorothy also woke up. “You OK?” she asked.

“I didn’t tell nobody,” he said. “Rural North Dakota isn’t a place to go around chatting about out-of-body experiences, especially for a retired hog farmer.”

Kent ignored it, even wondered if it really happened, but the next month, it happened again.

Soon after, he figured out how to float himself out of the bedroom. First to the kitchen. The basement. Then, he thought of the gas station, and he zipped through the sky, over the trees and the houses, and found himself watching a young woman opening shop.

Another morning he traveled clear to the Golden Gate Bridge because he’d watched a special on it the night before.

Kent wasn’t all that impressed, so the next few times he left his body, he decided to go to the moon.

There he hovered, finally taking a seat at the edge of a crater, and watched the earth.

He’d have about twenty minutes or so until he’d be slung back into his body and wake up with a gasp, and there’d be Dorothy, once again, looking at him like he was having a heart attack, and he’d have to explain he’d had a bad dream.

“We should get you to a specialist,” she said.

“What the heck for?” he asked her. “You got a million bucks burning a hole in your pocket?”




Kent told me all this in confidence, while he was stationed in the nursing home during the final years of his life. His low rumbling voice, gravelly as the road he’d lived next to all those years, echoed in the empty dining hall. His ears were huge, and his lower lip was fat and pushed out like he was pouting, but years ago my mother said that was just how God made Kent Vunderkirst.

“You’re a regular astronaut!” I said.

“Call me Buzz Armstrong.”

“Or Neil Aldrin,” I said.

A nurse came by and said it was time for Kent’s pills, but he waved her off.

“Five more minutes,” she said, “and then we’re taking them.”

I commiserated with Kent by rolling my eyes.

“Could I get more coffee?” I asked her, holding out my cup.

“You think this is IHop or something?” she said, and left us quickly.

I had pushed down three cups already. It was the thinnest coffee I’d ever tasted. Lutheran coffee, as Kent called it. “Two scoops for every ten gallons of water.”

After the moon got tiring, Kent said he visited the planets.

“What’s it like,” I said, “to be floating around the surfaces of the other great bodies of our solar system?”

“Moon’s white,” he said. “Mars’ red. Jupiter’s a bunch of gas.”

On seeing the planets up close and in person like that, Kent said this: “Seen one, seen them all.”

The nurse came by again. “Pills,” she said.

Kent groaned. “I’m not taking those buzzards,” he said.

“You’re going to like you do every other day you say you’re not,” the nurse said.

“Listen,” I told her. “Do you know who this man is?”

She looked at me blankly. She’d seen enough acts in her life.

“This man’s been to the moooon,” I said.

“And he’s going to end up there again if he don’t take these on time. And I ain’t going to be the one to get him back down here again. Now open up, old man.”

I looked away as Kent took his pills like a good boy.




Kent noticed he’d be exhausted for days after each of these OBEs, “as if I’d cleaned pig pens for a week straight and drunk nothing but coffee.”

So he tried to stop the OBEs from happening. “I told myself, ‘Enough with this damn thing.’ And sure enough, they did. Never left my body since,” he said.

Kent admitted it was kind of fun rocketing through the atmosphere, but he also realized he wasn’t doing anybody any good on those excursions. They felt wildly extravagant and selfish too, especially leaving Dorothy back in bed, as well as all the rest of the planet, who would wake up and begin their pitiful lives just as he did all the rest of the days of the months and years.

So he decided to make the most of what he could do with his physical body. He started volunteering to build homes for the needy, and he sent a little extra money to the women’s shelter in town. He said he’d like to help all the orphans of the world too.

“I’d like to take all of them kids to the moon if I could, just for fun,” he said, shaking his head. “And put a popsicle stand up there for them, too, but that isn’t real practical, is it.”

One evening, a few weeks before Kent Vunderkirst passed away, he said: “There’ll always be idiots who want to take off for outer space. “I’ve been there, and there’s nothing there. It don’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.”

His advice? “As an old fart, I’ll tell you this: ‘Keep your boots on the ground and help somebody out with whatever little extra you got. You’ll sleep better that way.”

Why do you think this experience happened to you? I asked. A mere pig farmer?

“How the hell should I know?” Kent said.

[header photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels]

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