A few times a year, Keith Lanan takes his boat into Lake Kathleen, to see if there are any lily pads that needs to be sprayed. A resident of the area for almost 20 years, he lives by the lake in small red cabin he calls “Rotten Wood.”
Two weeks ago, during a routine lily pad survey, he noticed a cone-shaped metallic head protruding out the water.
At first, Lanan thought it might be some sort of ancient kayak. But then he remembered rumors he heard previously about some sort of airplane piece floating around in the lake.
So with the help of his neighbor, Lanan yanked out a 13-foot metal tank that had a crude hole cut into one of its sides.
“The aerodynamic shape and fins made it look like an aircraft drop tank,” he said after ruling out a bomb because of a partially missing naming plate, gas filler portals and two fins attached to the tail.
A drop tank is an external fuel tank on an aircraft that is often dropped when empty.
After sending an email to some of his friends, the speculation was that the drop tank was probably a part of a F-86 Sabre Jet, probably from the 1950s. The F-86 Sabre was America’s first swept-wing fighter, designed to compete against the Soviet MiG-15 in dogfights during the Korean War.
But Lanan prefers to call it his ‘aluminum whale.’
The aluminum whale has made its way around Lake Kathleen residents before. According to Brady Moss, a previous resident of Lake Kathleen, he purchased it when he was 10 years old in 1971 for $5.
“We used to paddle that thing all over the lake,” said Moss. “Four different people owned it before I had it. Summer time, we’d pile up on it and swim on it. It wasn’t very fast, but it was fun.”
Moss said others would often borrow it and leave it at different parts of the lake. He thought someone had stolen it, not realizing it had sunk back into the lake.
Currently, the drop tank is sitting on Lanan’s dock — or party barge as he calls it — lending toward interesting conversations with interested neighbors. But Lanan is hoping that the party barge doesn’t end up being a permanent home for the aluminum whale.
“Someone asked me an ugly question — ‘What are you going to do with it?'” he said. “I hadn’t thought that far. Usually if you catch something big, you have it mounted and hang it on the wall. But I don’t think it will fit. Another friend asked if it is a state record. I don’t know and probably won’t check because I don’t know if drop tanks are in season. Guess I could plant it in the lawn and call it art. Maybe this story will lead to it finding a better home.”