The Rockies

Word From The Mountain: Natural Law And Taylor Ranch

Wood Cutters, Grazers, Loggers. . . Not So Fast There, Peak Baggers

July 13, 2004 in New Mexico Politics,Rio Grande West,The Rockies | Comments (0)

Tags: ,

The 80,000-acre Taylor ranch in the south of Colorado’s San Luis Valley has birds, mammals, fish, fresh streams, high lakes, tree-lined meadows, and tall pine forests, all crowned by 14,047-foot Culebra Peak.

Last month in the town of San Luis a district court judge issued an order opening the mountain ranch to a group of local people for livestock grazing, firewood gathering and timber cutting. (more…)

Travels With A Neganative, Part 2

Can the U.S. 84 Corridor Survive?

October 23, 2003 in The Rockies | Comments (0)


Echo Amphitheater overlooking the dry Ghost Ranch valley is easily accessible from the highway, now that the Forest Service has completed its renovation of the campground. The great resonant sandstone arch is worth the walk through the trees. It sits in the wall like a giant ear. And it has heard a lot, including the speeches of Reies Lopez Tijerina, who came to national attention when his land-grant “Alianza” took over the little campground in November 1966. (more…)

Travels With A Neganative, Part 1

This is not a travel feature. Travel writers are the pilot fish for sharks.

October 13, 2003 in The Rockies | Comments (0)

Tags: ,

I’m a bad traveling companion if you want to go around falling in love with the mountain West. I was born in Wyoming and grew up in Colorado. I’m a “used to be” traveler in Colorado, always telling how there used to be an old mill here, used to be a miners’ saloon there, used to be a river ford, used to be wilderness. And if you want directions in Santa Fe, I’ll tell you to turn where Big Jo Lumber or something used to be.

Above Wilson Mesa near Telluride on the track to Silver Pick Basin there used to be this ranch. It was drop dead beautiful. The aspen. The meadow. The pitched roof house. The wall of Wilson Peak reflecting in the bay window. The last time I was there, about 15 years ago with a favorite friend, we trespassed. An old cowboy on a work horse appeared suddenly and silently. We apologized and told him it was awful nice up there. He just sat his settled horse and agreed, and we hiked away. His name was Orville Schmidt. He was very old.

In recent years Wilson Mesa has become an uncomfortable place for people who don’t carry keys to a log chateau. Parking has been cut off at Silver Pick Basin mine. I have not wanted to go back. I have not wanted to see where Orville’s incredible ranch used to be.

I’m also a bad Colorado travelling companion because I’m always looking for a property that will compensate for the real estate fortunes I have missed. Last summer I was checking out a little $250,000 1 b.r. 1 bath opportunity in Ridgway when the remodeler mentioned he once lived on Wilson Mesa. At that very same ranch, as a matter of fact. The guy had a look in his eyes that said paradise.

Orville before his death declared his wish that the place, where he had been born about a hundred years ago, would remain a working cattle ranch. His heirs made a deal, the remodeler said, that would carry out that wish while enabling them to stay ahead financially. They had sold the development rights to a wealthy conservation trust. So paradise was not, so to speak, lost.

But I don’t think the Orville’s ranch solution is going to be the answer everywhere in the West. There’s too much of it to save. A news article out of Las Cruces the other day said the price of scenic ranch land in New Mexico has reached the point that it’s too costly for ranching. A New Mexico State University agricultural economist based his conclusion on a study of 500 ranch sales between 1996 and 2002, when prices escalated 10-12 per cent a year.

My thoughts turned to the magic stretch of Old West along U.S. 84 in Rio Arriba County from Abiquiu to Chama. Most of it is in the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant. This peculiarity, because of title disputes and the “history of chicanery,” has been its salvation.

But it’s threatened. First come the artists, then the celebrities, then the travel writers, who make the maps for armies of developers and real estate pushers. Abiquiu with disturbing regularity contributes fine properties to the Santa Fe real estate ads.

So far the real estate price pushers have not declared victory. The area looks like it did when I came to New Mexico. Let me describe a drive up U.S. 84.
It begins at Bode’s store at the Abiquiu junction. I like to stop and get gas, whether I need it or not. The new owners have invested in electronic gas pumps, but they’ve kept the old general store the way it was. Bode’s carries merchandise that people in the area still use — for example, carpenter’s pencils impressed with the store’s name.

Nobody will prevent you from driving up to the village and peeking over the wall of Georgia O’Keeffe’s old house. But why do it? You can see enough from the highway, and you can buy O’Keeffe posters at the Abiquiu Inn on the highway. See, after the famous painter died, the federal government developed plans and funding for an O’Keeffe National Monument at Abiquiu. Even with parking at the bottom of the hill and shuttle service to the house, the local people opposed it. They do not want to attract tourists.

A more fitting monument to O’Keeffe is visible to everybody up the road — past the public school on the right built with her donation — where the highway inclines up the Rio Grande Fault. You rise above the wild meanders of the Rio Chama, pass Abiquiu Dam turnoff (unless you want to turn left to investigate a Cadillac Desert boondoggle): there, rising on the skyline, is the Pedernal.

About 30 years ago, during the administration of Gov. Jerry Apodaca, O’Keeffe consented to a show in the State Capitol — the inaugural of the what has become the Governor’s Gallery. All the landscapes, which she chose herself, showed the Pedernal. She once said God told her that if she painted that lone butte enough, “I could have it.”

The exact quote appears in a little exhibit up the highway at my next stop: Ghost Ranch Conference Center. O’Keeffe was friends of the Pack family, which gave the ranch to the Presbyterian Church. It’s contained by a stunning box canyon with layered walls of gold, silver, and rose sandstone.

You can stop at Ghost Ranch and dream, “Getaway.” The schedule of one-week seminars and workshops on everything from conversational Spanish to calligraphy to a lineup of religious and moral discussions is accessible to anyone who’s willing to pay the moderate fees. This is not a resort, but a working ranch with a mess hall, central showers and a crowded library. So the participants tend to be serious.

The general absence of motor vehicles and the presence of horses makes this ranch real and Western. The picturesque log house on the entry road, however, is not real. It’s left over from a set of “City Slickers.” Gov. Bill Richardson had his picture taken near this spot for the state’s Broadway billboard.

A little up the valley, I ignore the U.S. Forest Service information center, which used to have a controversial zoo. The dirt road to the upper Chama River canyon takes off near here. It enters a marvelous area, but it’s not for passenger cars or RV’s, particularly in wet weather. And the last thing this wild and fragile canyon, with Christ in the Desert Monastery at its head, needs is a travel writer.

Loathing Of Wilderness Does Not Come Naturally

It’s taught by politicians

August 13, 2003 in The Rockies | Comments (0)

The logic of President Bush’s appointment of Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency is this: Leavitt is governor of Utah; Utah despises federal interference; the EPA interferes; therefore Leavitt will disable the EPA.

It’s true that the Republican governor, a former Salt Lake insurance agent, advocated a “conference of the states” to rewrite the U.S. Constitution and that his states’ rights campaign was a reaction more than anything to increased federal protection of Utah wilderness – – perfectly exemplified by Bill Clinton’s creation of the Grand Staircase-Red Rock Canyons National Monument in the Escalante country by executive order during the campaign of 1996.

But I’m not sure the people of Utah, or the Republican West, were decisively behind Leavitt, or, if they were then, that they are now. Utah has more love of wilderness than you think, a sentiment going back to Brigham Young.

This was clear to me during a trip in the Escalante canyons last spring. The backpacker traffic in Coyote Gulch was significantly greater than I had ever seen. We met new people every 10 minutes, it seemed. And the important point is most of them were families or youth groups from Utah, especially from Salt Lake City. I know because I made a point of asking them. At Hamblin Arch a large group of college-age kids entertained themselves with a creative sport: they had tied a climbing rope across the sandy gulch and they were holding a tightrope walking competition.

While the trip did not qualify as wilderness experience, it was encouraging to see so many people enjoying the place. It’s popular. And I didn’t notice any derision of the project at the edge of town: construction of a new federal joint agency recreation headquarters. It’s going to be an economic development of the sort that can’t be convincingly ridiculed, even by the underemployed locals who think sending a bulldozer up a roadless canyon is an act of political courage and gather at the Golden Loop to talk about guns and liberals.

But it occurs to me that what the Clinton administration got started at Escalante is a good example of what the Bush administration opposes, under the premise that we need to take care of existing parks as opposed to using the same money to create new ones (the Bush administration is doing neither).

On the same trip through the natural wonders of southern Utah we also met two uniformed National Park Service personnel, Ranger Bill and Ranger Barbara, who personified the argument against another gimmick in the Bush administration’s implicit intent to disable the national park system. This is the proposal to privatize most of the parks, turning their management over to for-profit contractors. This sometimes is called “outsourcing.”
For about two decades, Ranger Bill has been patroling the Escalante canyons, which are administered by the park service as part of the Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area. He works alone and must walk thousands of miles a year. We met him several years ago in a neighboring canyon, and Ranger Bill is famous for his one-man battle against salt cedars. Wherever he goes in the Escalante country, he cuts them down by hand, sometimes on his days off. His work is not part of the competitive outsourcing equation proposed by the Bush administration. You cannot get private enterprise to cut down salt cedars on its own time.

A few days later, we ran into Ranger Barbara in a remote area of Canyonlands National Park. She also works alone — as the protector of Horseshoe Canyon, which contains probably the oldest, and certainly most mysterious, rock art in the Southwest. Ranger Barbara with her husband live in a trailer on a mesa, and it seems to be a lonely life, except for the canyon where she has worked for two decades, resisting transfers or promotions.

Since there were no other visitors that morning, Ranger Barbara took us on a four-hour tour. She seemed to know every painted figure in the canyon in intimate detail, but she said she saw something new every day. She named dozens of plants, told stories about everything from a cougar kill to the strange visitor who confessed that he was a space alien. She saw a rock with initials newly carved on it — something that had not been there the day before — and buried it and made a note.

Back at the rim of the canyon we thanked Ranger Barbara and she nodded. She said she was doing her job. But of course the knowledge and spirit and dedication and love of the country was not in the job description. You can’t put a price on this sort of pride. You can’t acquire it through competitive outsourcing.

What you get instead is the sort of ranger we met in the parking lot at the base of the Elephant Hills trail in Canyonlands. We had spent three days in the back country and were sitting on the tailgate taking stock. The ranger arrived in a government pickup. He approached in the way that police officers approach suspects. He asked if we had been backpacking, and we said yes. He asked where, and we told him.

He smiled an official smile and pushed up his sunglasses and said, “Do you have a permit?” I pulled it out of the pack. He said that the regulations required that it be visible at all times. And so forth, until he reentered his truck and drove away to find another citizen to harrass.

Friends of the C&T: “America’s Premier Historic Railroad”

And you don’t need a ticket to see the history part

July 10, 2003 in The Rockies | Comments (0)


The Four Corners region has two steam railroads: the Durango & Silverton based in Durango, Colo., and the Cumbres & Toltec based in Chama, NM. They are the biggest surviving pieces of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s 19th Century narrow gauge (3 feet) experiment.

I love ’em both, but for different reasons. The Durango & Silverton is the most popular by far, due to the mountain sports chic of the two towns on the Animas River, and it provides access to the remotest high country wilderness in the West. But the Cumbres & Toltec is the most authentic, due to the lucky survival of the Chama yards at the base of the 4 per cent grade up Cumbres Pass.

In late June I was fascinated by what I saw at Chama. About 100 volunteers from Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec were at work preserving, restoring, reconditioning, rebuilding, cleaning, painting and fixing buildings, locomotives and rolling stock. They were concluding a two-week session, most staying in RV’s at their own expense, and I was told another two weeks is scheduled for August.

It’s like walking through a model railroad, only full size. You can see the depot, shops, roundhouse, bunkhouse, coal tipple, water tank, loading docks, scales, and miles of switching track. The restored rolling stock include an original luxury coach, boxcars, flatcars, livestock cars, hopper cars, gondola cars, tank cars and an original caboose.

And there are a couple of big steam-powered rotary snowplows with crew cars and cook cars. The last time the one that works was put in service was in May 1997 on the south side of Cumbres, and I was lucky enough to be among the fascinated onlookers as it sputtered through the 8-foot drifts, pushed by two locomotives.

At the 104-year-old passenger depot I was greeted by a volunteer with a brochure that features a walking tour of the Chama yards, which date from 1880. Published by the Albuquerque-based Friends, it has a map with inset line drawings of the major attractions. The unpaid volunteers are motivated by their love of what the Friends literature calls “America’s premier historic railroad.”

UpCumbres (CTSRR Photo)

The emphasis is on historic. The Durango & Silverton is the more glamorous, evoking images of young Robert Redford on location with Paul Newman there for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” In Durango, I grabbed a parking space at MacDonald’s, bought a drink and slipped out for a tour of the Durango yards as I recalled them from years ago. Hah!

The downtown railroad property is now prime resort real estate, and every square foot of the former yards and shops has been fenced off and sanitized. The old cars that used to sit on the mainline passing tracks in town are gone, gone. The passenger platform is as secure as an airport: the fence gates are kept locked between trains, as are the depot doors.

Later I stopped at the Silverton depot to buy a roundtrip ticket to Needleton. (Sticker shock warning: the short trip now costs the same as the full roundtrip.) The remnant of the yards at Silverton has little to offer. The same is true of Antonito, where a depot and yard were created in 1970 at the end of the Cumbres and Toltec. If you want to see yards, Chama is the place.

For ordinary families, taking a ride on either railroad is expensive and tiresome. Adult tickets at both Durango and Chama are $60. Either roundtrip takes all day, even going one way by rail and the other by bus. The northern third of the Cumbres & Toltec is especially tiresome — a straight shot through the sage brush. But a walk in the Chama yards is free, and the Friends have made it a lot more interesting.

Drought Cycle Is Not Something You Ride Around Moab

Ed Abbey somehow has made his way to Heaven

May 14, 2003 in The Rockies | Comments (0)

Tags: ,

In a startling comment to the Salt Lake Tribune, a U. S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist named Andrew Gilmore said that given four more years of this drought, “It’s conceivable that we could run out of water at Lake Powell.”

Lake Powell a mud puddle? The place nobody knew unindundated? Will it be Mother Nature who throws the ultimate monkey wrench? RIP, Ed Abbey, it could happen. Glen Canyon is half full and draining.

At 53 percent full, Lake Powell holds about 13 million acre-feet of water. The early forecast called for the reservoir to gain about 4 million acre-feet in the coming runoff. But under the Colorado River Compact, Lake Powell owes 8.23 million acre-feet a year downstream.

In southern Utah in late April I took the ferry from Hall’s Crossing to Bullfrog. The big boat had to dock at a makeshift platform at the end of a newly bladed dirt road down to the waterline. The white stain of high water was 75 or 80 feet up the red cliffs.

On the way to Escalante — no use boycotting the Burr Trail highway — I took a walk in Bullfrog Basin. A new weed was thriving in the dried muck. Seashells littered the sand. Weird six-foot marker buoys were marooned like space vehicles on the moonscape, with no water in sight.

I was told it was the same to the north where the Colorado River is exposed and running at Hite for the first time in 30 years.

On the way back to Santa Fe in May I asked a guide in Bluff, Utah, how the river running business was going. The San Juan, flows by the little desert town on its way to Lake Powell. He said the rafting companies have all but suspended business because of the sand bars — they were tired of dragging the boats while passengers waded.
As the Southwestern drought continues, there is no relief in sight. The spring runoff is about to begin, but the latest water forecasts are, for example, 43 percent on the Rio Grande at Elephant Butte, 42 percent on the San Juan at Navajo Reservoir. Those are percentages of normal. But many are beginning to wonder: what’s really normal?

Wise people from Hopi elders to Wallace Stegner have warned us: cycles of drought are normal in the arid West. The dams, including the monster at Glen Canyon, are water storage projects — with recreation added as a bonus — and right now they are doing their job. But the Bureau of Rec, drunk with Congressional appropriations, may have deluded itself.

Archeologists have noted: tree rings show long cycles within the short cycles of drought. The dry spell in the 12th Century was about 70 years long. The Anasazi moved. The empire of Chaco Canyon evaporated.

But why worry? The government will think of something. Buy that house boat while the prices are down. Wasn’t there a lot of late snow in Denver? Droughts don’t last more than three or four years, do they? And they can always buy up the agricultural water rights and convert them to condo and golf use. It drives out the poor.

Some biologists are saying low water is good for fish. Some promoters are pointing out that Glen Canyon scenery submerged since at least 1973 is now accessible off Lake Powell. Maybe they’ll find Everett Ruess. And tourism does not seem to dropping along with the water. The scenery that draws people here is, after all, first and foremost, desert scenery. Isn’t that what all the SUV ads are about?

And desertification probably improves oil reserves. Just look at Saudi Arabia.

The Man Who Found Trinity Site

Remembering David Hawkins

February 21, 2003 in THE KITCHEN SINK,The Rockies | Comments (0)

Tags: ,

A friend in Colorado told me my favorite college professor, David Hawkins, had died in Boulder at the age of 88. I went to the Internet and found an obituary from the Washington Post. It looked familiar. As I read on I got the eerie feeling that. . . I had written it!

David HawkinsIt was not, however, one of those Santa Fe woo-woo moments. The obit was based almost entirely on quotes from my interivew with Hawkins on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Trinity test. He was a college friend of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who hired him as official historian of the Manhattan Project — and unofficially as his troubleshooter in dealings with the Army.

I did not like the obituary. What I had written was appropriate for the July 15, 1995, anniversary of the birth of the nuclear age, but certainly not as a summary of a great man’s life. He was a distinguished professor of philosophy, winner of a MacArthur Foundation award among other honors, author of a classic analysis of modern science called “The Language of Nature,” a beloved husband, father, teacher. Few people in Boulder even knew his association with the building of the first atomic bomb. His official history was classified for 15 years, and he seldom spoke of it.

Hawkins grew up in El Paso and LaLuz, near Alamogordo. His father was William Ashton Hawkins, a leader of the New Mexico Republican Party and a lawyer who wrote the book, as they say, on water law.Hawkins told me he had a wonderful youth. “I had horses to ride, and I had a Model A Ford pickup truck to drive. We wandered all over the Tularosa Basin, one way or another, looking for minerals, looking for excitement, looking for rattlesnakes, looking for adventure of the desert kind.”

Hawkins was probably the first to suggest the Jornada del Muerto for the first test of the atomic bomb. It was in that arid basin with the McDonald Ranch as headquarters that the Army built the world’s first Ground Zero, with its 20 miles of straight blacktop roads, thousands of miles of cables, rows of barracks, concrete bunkers and, dead center, a 10-story prefabricated steel tower.

Hawkins was one of the last remaining witnesses of Oppenheimer’s flirtation with the 1930’s radical left, which was the reason for cancellation of both their security clearances in the 1950’s. They met at the University of California in Berkeley, where Oppenheimer was teaching and Hawkins was completing his philosophy PhD with a doctoral thesis in the mathematical theory of probability.

“We were the self-appointed left-wing protectors of political wisdom on the campus,” said Hawkins, recalling their main leftist activity was forming a teacher’s union, which Oppenheimer supported. “He would speak at meetings. He was always very impressive.” They also tried to focus political attention on the Spanish Civil War and the Nazis. Hawkins said Oppenheimer’s family, as American Jews with relatives in Germany, “knew a lot more about Hitler than most Americans at that time.”

Oppenheimer was impressive in groups, Hawkins said, because “he had a high-powered intellect of a certain type that would grasp the essence of an argument or a situation and be able to describe it to great eloquence — in any field he turned his serious attention to.” As a young man Oppenheimer published poetry and essays in a literary magazine called Hound and Horn that was, Hawkins said, “very elite — poetry and prose of a rather precious kind.”

After his three-year blaze through Harvard with honors, Oppenheimer studied in Germany and Denmark. “He was one of the people who quickly assimilated the ideas of Niels Bohr, which were still new and still causing much distress to traditional-minded physicists.” When Oppenheimer returned, Hawkins said, “he was probably the only physicist in the United States for a while that was a real master of this developing discipline called quantum mechanics. What came out of it was the physics of the atom and in particular the turning of attention to the nucleus of the atom.”

Soon physicists were probing nuclei with high-energy particles. Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago had what Hawkins called “an intuition about the heavy metals, particularly Uranium,” and Fermi accomplished the first controlled nuclear reaction. Leo Szilard had already conjectured that some heavy elements might fission in a chain reaction, creating a nuclear bomb. (The persuasive Hungarian who had barely escaped the Nazis persuaded the British Admiralty to take out a secret patent on his idea, Hawkins said. Acquiring the patent drove Manhattan Project officials nuts because Szilard insisted on giving it to them rather than taking the customary and legally binding $1.)

In late 1941, Oppenheimer became scarce at Berkeley, and early in 1943, Hawkins got a call from him on a bad circuit, saying, “We need you.”
“I knew immediately that this thing was on, and I didn’t want to be excluded from knowing about it. I was intrigued by the thought of being part of this extraordinary development. And it was still of course in those days entirely focused on the terrible thought that the Germans might get this weapon and win World War II.

“The spirit at Los Alamos was one of excitement about this extraordinary new technology. These were academic physicists, but they were on their way to becoming — we invented the word — weaponeers.” Hawkins’ first assignment from Oppenheimer was to mediate disputes between the Los Alamos scientists and the Army. “The military created the place as an Army post, and being in their own traditions accustomed to the fact that the military in such a place would be on top and the civilians would be under them, it was a hard struggle to accept the attitude of the scientists, which was that the military were their servants.”

Hawkins never had to mediate between the leaders of the two sides Í lab director Oppenheimer and Brigadier Gen. Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project. “They were like this,” Hawkins said, holding together two fingers. “They needed no mediation.” The popular story has always been that Oppenheimer and Groves were natural-born adversaries, but Hawkins saw a deep mutual respect between the two men. “It is well known that Groves picked Oppenheimer against the advice of other physicists who considered themselves perhaps senior to Oppenheimer. But Groves had a belief that Oppenheimer was the man who could do this job, and he was right.

David Hawkins

“Oppenheimer had a kind of presence, a kind of style, that enabled quite senior physicist types to accept his leadership happily. It’s a remarkable talent. He could be quite obtuse about some things. That’s not too surprising.

“Many people with tremendously rapid intellectual qualifications can miss the boat,” Hawkins said. Groves, on the other hand, “wasn’t an ideologue. He had some kind of imagination. It didn’t make him more attractive, but it made him more respectable,” Hawkins said, adding: “Oppenheimer really did, I think, make a deal with Groves.”

The deal was Oppenheimer would be free to run the secret Los Alamos lab as he wished and Groves would protect him from the FBI and G-2 military intelligence. “They’d already reported to him about Oppenheimer’s left-wing activities, and of course this was a time when the anti-Communist scare wasn’t what it became later publicly, but it was very powerful then. Communists were demons, especially in the intelligence world,” Hawkins said. He acknowledged that he too, for a short time, was a member of the Berkeley Communist Party, a youthful mistake that the Rocky Mountain News mined endlessly for screaming Communist-At-Boulder headlines in the Sixties.

Hawkins was no fan of Edward Teller, whose secret testimony would be instrumental in removing Oppenheimer’s security clearance after the war. Teller, Hawkins told me, “belonged in the company of the engineer who wants to build the tallest building or the longest bridge. He wanted the biggest bang.” Oppenheimer had assigned Teller and his special theoretical group to investigate the question whether the atomic bomb might trigger a runaway nuclear reaction of nitrogen in the earth’s atmosphere.

“Teller told me the chance of such a thing happening was one in a million,” Hawkins said. “I knew very well that was a figure of speech because you don’t calculate that kind of chance.” Hawkins wondered if the atmosphere of the earth actually might burn up. So he asked Teller. “He smiled at me and said, `Well, David, worse things could happen.’ And I knew then he had at least a strong bit of nihilism in his makeup.”
Teller’s response: “I would think Hawkins had a certain amount of nonsense in his makeup.”

Hawkins said Oppenheimer’s deal with the Army was not, as author John Freeman Dyson and others have said, a deal with the Devil.
“Oppenheimer and, indeed, all of us who knew what a factor of a million meant, knew that this was a change in the nature of world affairs and it couldn’t be blinked. It couldn’t be set aside. It was there and something would happen with it.” The binding energy of matter let loose in a nuclear reaction is millions of times greater than the energy released by the same mass in an explosive chemical reaction.

“If it wasn’t developed in World War II, it would appear secretly in the arsenals of nations after World War II during peace time. And the greatest hope for coping with this new development was to recognize and to persuade the world to recognize that this was not a military weapon. This destructive power was beyond anything that warfare itself as an institution could tolerate. If we’re going to continue to have wars, they can’t be this bad.”

Bohr was the first to propose international openness. The Danish physicist proposed it when he visited Los Alamos in 1944 under the code name Nicholas Baker.”Oppenheimer knew it already in some way. We all knew it in some way, and we had therefore this idealistic side to the contract with the Devil, if that’s what it was, that it would be necessary to develop the weapon to have it known to the whole world, in order that the world could protect itself.”

And Hawkins told me a story which he said was documented in a wartime memo he wrote, on request, from the notes of Oppenheimer’s secretary. The physicist Robert Wilson, who in recent years has expressed great regrets about failing to quit Los Alamos as soon as the Nazis were defeated, came to Oppenheimer some time in June 1945.

“Wilson among all that group was probably closest to being a real pacficist and was doing what he was doing with reluctance and had been persuaded by this argument: `If we don’t do it, the Nazis will.’ Now the war was over and therefore the Nazis wouldn’t and therefore, why shouldn’t we stop? He wanted a new argument.”

Oppenheimer provided it in a brilliant impromptu speech at a meeting of Wilson’s cyclotron group. “He spelled out his conviction that this weapon must be known to the world in World War II, must be used as a weapon of destruction in World War II, because that was the only way in which its potential destructiveness as a weapon would be understood world wide: that it must be known all over the world,” Hawkins said, adding, “Wilson was satisfied.”

Sacrifice Japanese cities for the good of the rest of the world?
“It wasn’t put in those words,” Hawkins said. “In that period of time everybody that was directly or indirectly involved after that long warfare got kind of bloodthirsty.”

Hawkins was essential enough in the Manhattan Project that he had held one of the plutonium hemispheres for the Trinity device. It was warm, like a living thing. “It warmed itself,” he said.

And he was essential enough as official historian to see its energy unbound in the desert at 5:30 a.m. mountain war time, July 15, 1945.
But Hawkins quietly boycotted Trinity. He said nothing at the time. He just didn’t go. “I didn’t want to see it,” he said. He finished his history and left Los Alamos, dating the preface Aug. 6, 1946, the first anniversary of Hiroshima.

Hawkins was not welcome at Los Alamos in the ensuing Cold War years, after the persecution of Oppenheimer. But soon after the Trinity anniversary it was announced that Hawkins was the winner of the annual J. Robert Oppenheimer award, given at the lab.

His return to the hill, and his warm welcome by the audience that night in the Los Alamos civic center, closed a circle. He told them how strange it was that they had spent their lives making things “that can never be used.”