The cylindrical object reclined on a low stand. It was about 12 feet long and four feet in diameter, like a chunk of culvert that had been painted a dull green.
I rapped on the outside of the culvert with my knuckles. I couldn't tell what sort of metal the casing was made of, but it was extremely solid.
"Don't do that!" exclaimed my wife. "You might set it off!"
"'It' has a name," I replied. "Says right here that it's called Mark-36."
"The sign also says that it's a thermonuclear bomb, so leave it alone!" she said.
This was not the sort of thing we expected during our recent adventure in Omaha, but life is full of surprises. It would have been just my luck if among those surprises was the accidental detonation of a device that could level a city.
Our youngest - and most peripatetic - son now lives in Omaha. This is much closer than his previous location of Los Angeles, which is a bit of a haul even in good traffic.
A big part of our recent expedition to Omaha was delivering to our son some of our homegrown Jersey beef.
I realize that there is a business called Omaha Beef and that hauling beef to Omaha is similar to carrying a bucket of sand to a beach party. But this is our beef and from a Jersey steer to boot. It is therefore vastly superior to any similar product available in the Gateway City.
Omaha has much to offer. There is a vibrant arts scene, shopping galore and a good number of entertainment venues. There is also my pal Warren, who has somehow earned the nickname "The Oracle of Omaha." Warren and I were supposed to get together while I was in the city to discuss a loan - that Warren! He's always in some sort of scrape! - and generally shoot the breeze. Warren is forever begging me for investment advice.
Finding ourselves with some free time, my wife, our son and I thought it might be fun to go look at an intercontinental ballistic missile. Fortunately, there were some situated nearby.
The Strategic Air and Space Museum is located near Ashland, Neb., a short scoot down the road from Omaha. You know that you've arrived at the museum when you see a shiny, tall-as-a-silo rocket glimmering in the sunshine.
World-class barely begins to describe the Strategic Air and Space Museum. I've never seen such a huge collection of exotic metals!
Greeting visitors in the atrium is one of the coolest planes ever built, the SR-71A "Blackbird." With a top speed of nearly 2,200 mph, the Blackbird can outrun almost anything. It could take you from London to Los Angeles in less than four hours, which means you could have lunch in England and get to the West Coast in time for that morning's breakfast.
The museum has war birds of every size. One of their goliaths is the B-36 "Peacemaker," which has a wingspan of 230 feet. Propulsion was provided by six ginormous piston engines and two pairs of jet engines. It was thus often said of the Peacemaker "six turnin' and four burnin'!"
On the other end of the spectrum was the XF-85 "Goblin." The diminutive Goblin, which was designed to be a parasite escort fighter for the B-36, is essentially a silver egg with stubby wings and a jet engine. It's an unsightly little thing and well deserving of its name.
My favorite aircraft were those in the Museum that saw action during the Second World War, the B-25, the B-26 and the B-17. A B-29 named Lucky Lady sported a comely pinup girl on its nose. Even though she is fully clothed by today's standards, I imagine that artwork was once considered pretty racy.
One particular display that grabbed my attention was the cockpit of a B-52 "Stratofortress," which had been removed from the aircraft and made available to the public. I couldn't resist climbing in and settling into the left seat.
As my eyes swept across the mind-blowing array of gauges and switches, one thought coursed through my head: "Holy crap! What does all this stuff DO?"
I began to feel comfortable after a bit and started to flip switches and throw levers. Thank goodness none of them were functional or I might have wiped the Kardashians clean off the map.
I finally exited the cockpit when I noticed that the windscreen was becoming blurry. That's what happens when you make too many motor sounds with your mouth.
We had a very nice time in Omaha, even though that Buffet guy was a no-show. Which was just as well, because he still owes me money from last time.