Takes a licking and keeps on ticking

geiger counter

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Tom, the retired USAF colonel who occupied the office next to me in the bomb shelter of the old National Guard HQ in Santa Fe, NM, should have known a lot about radioactivity.   He spent the entire Cuban Missile Crisis camped under the wing of his B-47 bomber.  Had all kinds of tales about the flight maneuvers a pilot had to perform to drop a hydrogen bomb and come away in one piece.

The New Mexico Emergency Planning and Management Bureau [EMPAC] was all housed in that bomb shelter.  Most of the section chiefs were retired colonels, except my humble self, and Louis, head of Radiation Control.  When nothing was going on there’d always be a few of us gathered in one office or another telling and listening to interesting experiences in our varied pasts.

So when Tom found his travel schedule was going to coincide with the one-day-per-year the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was detonated allowed visitors, we all envied him.  He was gone a week travelling all over the State, and a few days after he returned several of us gathered in his office to hear all about it.

Naturally there’d been a nice dog and pony show at an old ranch house from the time a mile or so away, now converted to oversight center.  Then, off to ground zero.

Tom described how it was all bare sand and soil, how they’d scraped away all the green glass that used to cover the spot.  How visitors were warned not to pick up any of that green glass if they should find a piece. 

So when his glance downward showed him a piece of that green glass peeking out of the sand near his foot, of course he had to tie his shoe.  Slipped it into his pocket.  Gave us all a sly smile when he pulled it out and held it in his palm.

Wow!  A piece of green glass from the first nuclear detonation on earth!  We all wanted to hold it.  Passed it around, all except Louis.  Our Rad Control section head.  He stepped back a pace when his turn came to hold it.

I’d like to put an instrument on that.”  Louis had access to plenty of instruments, had more than a thousand of them spotted all over New Mexico.  Part of the mission of his section was going around changing the batteries on those Geiger Counters regularly.

He was out the door and back while the rest of us waited in mild curiosity.  The glass was back on Tom’s desk and Louis clicked the power switch.  Didn’t actually have to get too near with the probe to peg the needle.  Didn’t have to put on the headset to hear the buzz.  We all heard it.

Louis had a straight shot at the doorway and he was first out.  Followed closely by everyone but Tom.  He just sat staring at that piece of green glass.  Probably wondering what the hell to do with it.

I’ve always wanted to visit the Trinity Site, but I never got around to it.  Even when I was living several years just up the road from it.

Old Jules

18 responses to “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking

  1. Oleo Acres Resort and RV park

    Sure wish that I could find one of those counters at a fair price. My homestead has some of those “no see um” workings going on over at the New Mexico State line. Would like to turn it on when we get a strong western wind, just to see if that stuff floats in the wind….:)

    • Hi Eddie. They’re cheap on EBay, the old ones such as the one in the pic. Someday I’m figuring on owning one to check out cat food that might be coming out of the Pacific. If I get one I’ll loan it to you. Gracias, J

  2. So…what happened to the glass, darn it? Or is it top secret?

  3. You left out the part about him having carried it around in his pocket for a while and it having left a mark of some kind on his leg… *smile*

  4. Did he ever father kids after that?

  5. Good post, excellent writing. Ann

  6. Oleo Acres Resort and RV park


    I am so happy, I could almost ship my pants. I am awaiting e-bay to ship my radiation ticker. Thanks for the tip on procurement of same……. as I try to patiently wait for it’s arrival……. Got the 25 foot remote sensor model so I can mount in on front of the car and get the ticks, therefore warning, before I get my feet or tires burned all up. Just in case I need it I reckons.

    • Good morning Eddie. Exciting stuff. Hadn’t realized the hood on your car’s so long. Gives you plenty of time to swerve and maneuver before the ticks get you. Gracias, J

  7. I’m glad I am not Tom. That would have freaked me out.

  8. I have several pieces of that stuff, which is called trinitite. I also own a geiger counter. The radiation emitted is pretty negligible, mostly alpha, which can’t even penetrate skin. Alpha is a big problem if it gets inside the human body though, such as inhalation of the radioactive particles. Given the fact that all trinitite is almost 70 years old, a lot of it is kind of crumbly, which can pose a risk if the particles are breathed in.

    Aside from that, there is a small amount of beta and gamma emitted from the trinitite, which my geiger counter picks up, but it’s pretty small. Granted, I don’t exactly have it lying around the house. I keep mine in a steal box outside of my home, but it’s not nearly as hot as Uranium ore such as carnotite and pitchblende.

    Just my two cents.

    I like your blog.


    Cactus Man

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