My parents made me stay behind the glass of the front window, watching forlornly while my friends joyfully rode their trikes and bikes in the massive, magnificent, billowing clouds of DDT sprayed monthly out of the back of the Benton County Mosquito Abatement District truck.
DDT was Safer
As it turned out, the DDT fogbank was probably a whole lot safer than the other deadly clouds infiltrating our home, undetected, through open windows on hot desert nights.
I was born October 26, 1950, in Richland, Washington. Deep within the desert expanse of Eastern Washington, Richland prided itself on clean streets, picket-fenced yards, and mighty neighborly neighbors. To all appearances, this was a great place to raise a family. I was cherished and over-protected.
An Elite Atomic City
My Dad was a nuclear engineer. As a child, I was certain that, after riding to work on the bus with blacked-out windows, my Dad got on a train and drove it somewhere every day, except weekends. That is the only kind of engineer I had ever heard of. As a young child, I searched through the closets for his train engineer’s hat, which I never found.
I believed most Dads were engineers, pathologists, or chemists. These, after all, were the professions of almost all the Dads on our street, and the streets beyond, there in Richland, the elite atomic city that housed Hanford “operators” and their families.
The Hole in the Shield
My parents also kept me out of preschool during the polio epidemic of the early 1950s. In retrospect, I am thankful my parents isolated me during the epidemic until the Salk polio vaccine became available in 1955. People of my age who still suffer the residual effects of polio are somber reminders of what could have been.
My overprotective parents did their utmost to shield their precious only child from pesticide clouds and pathogens.
But we lived in an Atomic City, where my dad and his colleagues ignored the radioactive fission byproducts released by his plant on a daily basis, and the radio idodine passing into the milk supply.
Where, in a heartbeat, we could all be annihilated by a nuclear criticality in any of Hanford’s nine plutonium production reactors pushed, as part of US Cold War Nuclear Deterrence, to full production capacity.