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Letters: Lone Ranger, Tonto and UFOs
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Letters: Lone Ranger, Tonto and UFOs

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Letters: Lone Ranger, Tonto and UFOs
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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

It's Thursday, the day we read from your e-mail. First, though, two corrections. In the commentary this week, Dan Schorr referred to a human rights activist having trouble delivering a petition to the American embassy in the United Arab Emirates. According to The Washington Post, which reported the story, the incident occurred on Bahrain, not the UAE.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Second, in our review of an album by the Dominican musician Puerto Plata, we incorrectly called Santiago the capital of the Dominican Republic. While Santiago is one of the country's largest cities, the capital is Sto. Domingo.

SIEGEL: And now we're going to move straight to some of the lighter topics on our program this past week that brought in most of the mail. First, my extensive investigation into that iconic character, the Lone Ranger.

(Soundbite of "The William Tell Overture")

BLOCK: Well, that theme hugged at the hearts of some listeners. In fact, it appears to have made grown men cry, at least Steve Polcam(ph) of Oakley, Utah.

SIEGEL: When I heard the refrain from the William Tell Overture and your announcement of the story about the masked man and his faithful companion, he writes, tears came to my eyes as I remembered the many evenings my grandfather and I spent listening to "Amos and Andy," "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon," Gene Autry and, of course, "The Lone Ranger." Hi-yo Silver, away. I'm writing this now with tears of happiness in my eyes, remembering what a wonderful time of innocence it was. No one got shot or died in those episodes, just arrested by the sheriff.

BLOCK: Jose Aribe(ph) of Ambler, Pennsylvania was struck by something else. I always wondered how Mr. Fran Striker could come up with the name of Tonto. In Spanish, it could mean stupid, idiot or playing the fool. I believe that the series would not be successful today but an insult to Native Americans. I can tell you that my kids will not read those stories at my house.

SIEGEL: That's good point, Melissa, because since our bosses only allowed me 13 minutes for the Lone Ranger story, there were many fascinating outtakes. And this is one of them. I asked Fran Striker Jr. about where his father got the name Tonto.

Mr. FRAN STRIKER JR. (Fran Striker Sr.'s son): And he opened up the atlas and found a place called Tonto Basin, Arizona. And he said, gee, I like that first name, Tonto. It's hard, it's fast, it's quick, it's easy to remember.

BLOCK: Well, there you go. Now, to the story that has filled up our inbox. Yesterday, we reported on recent UFO sightings in Stephenville, Texas. Police officer Leroy Gatin says he saw it and so did his 8-year-old son.

Unidentified Man: First, my dad saw some bright red lights. And then I came out there with him. We saw, like, some bright red lights flying around, like, dancing around. And then, then they just took off.

SIEGEL: Well, we got all sorts of mail about this story from skeptics, believers and scientists.

Scott Paine works at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

BLOCK: He writes: You missed an opportunity to educate your listeners about the superior mirage phenomenon, which is a likely cause of events like this. Superior, in this case, means overhead. Many are familiar with the more common inferior mirages, such as the sky reflected on a layer of hot air on a roadway. Similarly, Paine continues, a steep temperature inversion in the atmosphere can act as a giant mirror in the sky, reflecting landscape features or the lights of another town over the horizon. Tilting of the inversion will give the impression of rapid movement.

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