Whenever I fret too much about modern environmental degradation, I like to think back to the not-so-good old days of the 1950s when the United States conducted over 150 above ground tests of nuclear weapons.
Most of these were at the Nevada Test Site. In 1955 my mother, who was divorced, moved with me to Three Rivers, California. Three Rivers is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the other side of which lies Nevada.
Nowadays people worry over miniscule bits of contamination in our food, water, and air. Back in the '50s it was no big deal to set off honking large nuclear bombs above ground in the Nevada desert, spewing radioactive material all over the place.
I do remember concerns about us kids (I was six when we moved to California) being exposed to radiation in milk via cows that ate contaminated feed. But in general nobody raised much of a fuss over the testing.
After all, this was the height of the Cold War. We needed to make sure that our nuclear shield worked so the Commies couldn't take us over.
My brother-in-law, Bob, used to be a survival instructor in the Air Force. He gave me a parachute. It came in handy in the late '50s, when there was advance notice of a nuclear test on the other side of the Sierras.
Our local newspaper said that it was going to be big enough to generate a shock wave of wind that we'd be able to feel in the Kaweah River valley (the Kaweah's three forks give "Three Rivers" its name).
Shortly before the nuclear bomb was to be detonated I unfolded the parachute. I laid it out on our yard so the chute faced away from the mountains. I fastened the straps around my too-small nine year old body (I believe this test was in 1957 or 1958).
It was exciting. I can still vividly recall the whoosh as an intense blast of nuclear test wind carried over the mountains, down the river valley, and into the parachute. It filled up and pulled me along our back yard.
Wow! Nuclear bomb tests are fun!
Except for all the people who got cancer from the radiation. And their family members.
Fortunately, we've come a long ways from those "What, me worry?" days of nuclear ignorance.
People had no clue back then. Amazing story. I grew up in the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge and we know now too much iodine was released from Hanford impacting many who lived around it as well as down river. We get upset with our government now but it's always been careless (or worse) about such things
Posted by: Rain | November 15, 2007 at 07:42 AM