Bob White still is "out there" regarding visitors from other planets. And I mean that in a good way.
Since I wrote about the Branson West resident seven years ago, White, 74, has attracted attention around this planet with an odd chunk of metal he says came from a brilliantly glowing, astonishingly fast "unidentified flying object."
White displayed the carrot-shaped curiosity he jokingly calls "space doo-doo" in a storefront museum in Reeds Spring from 2000 to 2004. Nowadays he takes it on tour in a 42-foot-long former city bus.
White has submitted the strange souvenir for analysis at eight laboratories, and he's passed two lie-detector tests. He has been interviewed on several radio programs, and last year was featured on the British TV show "Jane Goldman Investigates."
Most recently, White caught the attention of American cable TV's History Channel, which will focus on White and his mysterious metallic glob in a segment of its "UFO Files" series scheduled to show at 7 p.m. Monday.
When the History Channel crew arrived at his Stone County home two months ago, "my neighbors saw the three vans and the cameras, and they thought I'd won a million dollars from that (Publishers) Clearing House thing," White recalls with a chuckle.
White's UFO encounter occurred one night in the early 1980s, when he still was on the road as a musician. He and a friend were driving near Grand Junction, Colo., when they saw a glowing orb alongside a remote highway.
White says that when he tried to approach the bizarre light, it zoomed skyward and melded with a larger UFO, then disappeared — but not before something fell off and plummeted in a fireball.
White says he retrieved the blob of metal but kept it to himself for a dozen years because he "didn't want to be ridiculed as some 'flying saucer nut.'"
Eventually, however, he decided to go public with what he feels is a piece of "hard evidence" that proves UFOs aren't all mere optical illusions or the product of hucksters.
In his first-ever interview in 1998, White told me he hoped that if enough people became aware of his find, scientific experts and government agencies would be forced to seriously investigate UFOs — or reveal secrets already known about alien spacecraft.
That hasn't happened. But White isn't discouraged. This week's History Channel show is a sign of public interest, he believes. And he recently learned that his may not be the only known example of "hard evidence."
"They found an object that looks just like mine in Denmark back in the 1940s," White says. "We got a government report that had been 'classified' for years. On the cover are the words 'Recovered from flying saucer in Denmark.' Inside are photos of the thing — and it looks exactly like mine."
That would be remarkable because the metal object that White usually keeps locked in a local bank vault is extraordinary in its appearance.
The conical curiosity started out about 10 inches long, but has lost a half-inch due to whittling for lab samples. It is almost three inches in diameter at the large end, and tapers to about a half-inch on the small end. It weighs 1.5 pounds.
The most unusual aspect of the object to the casual observer is its surface texture. It appears almost organic, like petrified tree bark or neatly layered bird feathers.
Scientific observers find unusual properties as well, according to White. Lab analyses have revealed the object to be of uncommon composition. White says he is particularly intrigued by test results showing his object has "strontium isotope abundance ratios" that match properties of meteorites recovered in India and Antarctica.
White details all this and more in a new 125-page book titled "UFO Hard Evidence," available from the publisher (www.galdepress.com) or White's Web site (www.ufohardevidence.com).
Accompanied by neighbor Larry Cekander, White plans to head westward soon for a nine-month tour in the mobile museum to show off his "space doo-doo." He figures the History Channel exposure will bring invitations to park the bus in prominent spots likely to attract crowds.
"I'm not trying to get rich off this thing," White insists. He wants admission to the mobile museum to be free, and is counting on sales of the book and T-shirts to keep the bus rolling.
"Honest and truly," White emphasizes, "all I'm trying to do is encourage people who believe they've actually seen UFOs to come forward. A lot of them are reluctant because the government and the military and some so-called experts have declared them to be nuts.
"Well, I saw a UFO, and I know I'm not a nut because a piece of it came off and I have it. I don't know for sure exactly what it is, but I do know it's real. You can see it; you can touch it.
"So if enough people demand that some legitimate authority determine the origin of this object, and if it's proven to be extraterrestrial, then I predict people will be coming out of the woodwork telling about UFOs they've seen but been afraid to talk about.
"Nobody wants to be alone in claiming they've seen a UFO. I've been there, done that, and it's no fun," White says.
"But maybe now we have the key to prove, once and for all, that UFOs or flying saucers or whatever you want to call them really are out there."