Weld County is no stranger to unusual and severe weather. Hail, thunderstorms, and tornadoes are an ever-looming threat on the high plains. However, in 1949, one Weld County resident believed that something out of this world had occurred on his ranch.
Ildo Williams received a phone call from a fellow farmer to warn him that a fire was burning danger
ously close to his barn. Acting quickly, Ildo went outside to find a broken power line and a tree ablaze on his property. He hastily shoveled dirt over the fire, and it eventually died down.
After the excitement of the fire, Ildo noticed a reddish glow emitting from the ground. Upon closer inspection, he discovered a large rock-like knob protruding from the dirt. Curiosity piqued, he dug around the object to uncover what he believed to be a meteorite which he described as being “shaped like an alligator about two feet long.” The object remained hot enough to cause water to sizzle four hours after its discovery.
Word spread quickly about the meteorite striking the ranch and burning Ildo’s cottonwood. Reporters came to photograph the odd shaped specimen and hear Ildo’s first-hand account of the fire and discovery.
However, not everyone took the rancher’s story and assessment of the meteorite at face value. Professor Lee West from Colorado State College of Education investigated the object and remarked that it had characteristics inconsistent with a meteorite, such as chipping and splintering from the outside with internal melting. Professor West concluded that the object was a fusion of silt, clay, and sand. He further theorized that this fusion occurred when lightning struck the power line and tree, producing heat intense enough to create the ‘meteorite.’
This object now resides in the collections of the City of Greeley Museums. To learn about other curious objects in the museum’s collection and stories from Greeley’s past, visit the exhibits at 714 8th Street. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday 10am-4:00 pm, and Sunday 12pm-4pm.
By Ashley Baranyk, former City of Greeley Museums Archives Assistant.
Originally published in the Greeley Tribune.