The film Close Encounters came out in 1977 but I’m not sure what year it appeared at Greenfield’s Ranch Drive In.
By the time it came to the Ranch I had already purchased the fantastic John Williams sound track and had played it many times on my 1975 VW Rabbit’s cassette player.
The evening the film opened in Greenfield we pilled the two young daughters into the back seat of the Rabbit and headed for the drive in. The four of use were glued to the screen from beginning to end and gave little or no attention to the occasional B&O train that passed immediately behind the big screen during the show . It was wonderful and the images of an alien craft landing atop Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower, backed by that awesome music, would last a lifetime.
Several nights later we were coming home from a trip to Hillsboro in a lightning storm. It was one of those air to air storms with the sky firing up with bolts of white slowly soaring across the skies. By some inspiration I pulled on to a side road, parked the car, and fired up the Close Encounter tape with the volume knob at the full clockwise position. It was a truly marvelous experience and we all sensed at any second a space craft was going to ascend on to the nearby hay-field and some one-eyed dude named Scottie was going to beam us up to meet a three-eyed guy named Kirk.
In the early 1990s we took a road trip to Yellowstone and came to learn we’d be passing right by the entrance to Devil’s Tower. There wasn’t any way we were going to drive by without a closer encounter. I can’t recall all the emotions I felt looking up at that giant rock but I didn’t need a cassette to hear those melodic chimes in my head and see Richard Dreyfuss hiding behind a rock as the space ship came to land.
More recently my cigar box guitar hero, Justin Johnson, has been touring the Western states and spent several days in the Bad Lands of SD and at Devil’s Tower just across the WY border. He had never seen the film but at the KOA campground they were staying in the film is shown every evening for the enjoyment of the campers. After seeing the film Justin was impelled to dig out a favorite four-stringer and do his version of the Williams score. Here’s the video and sound track his sidekick Nikki produced.