Texas Peacework and WRL (Part II)

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War Resisters League - One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance

Part 2 (continues from previous blog post)

...So life went on at The Farm, hosting peace camps, attending public meetings about Pantex, doing lectures about nukes, planting and watering trees, hosting pilgrimages passing through like Pastors for Peace and Bike Aid, following nuclear weapons truck convoys into and out of Pantex as part of a nationwide bomb truck route mapping project, publishing The Farm's news magazine. I heard about WRL as a far away benevolent entity organizing nonviolence trainings like the one where Mavis Belisle and Bob Henschen met in the early 80's, providing good literature and conferences, and doing far away civil resistance actions which helped inform our actions at Pantex.

Since Amarillo was in a large, fairly sparsely-populated area, news coverage of Peace Farm activities was pretty good, just because of being unusual, so that reporting on our events and letters to the editor and op eds in the local paper stirred controversy and sold papers and TV news ads. An op ed I wrote noting that the Texas panhandle is quite windy and Pantex workers could shift from building weapons of mass destruction to windmills for local green power generated a three panel editorial cartoon of a woman burying a bomb which grows up to be a windmill.

Cindy and Les got pregnant, and concerned about contamination of the well water at The Farm after news came out that lab chemicals from Pantex high explosives fabrication had been carelessly disposed of and seeped into the Ogallala aquifer below Pantex and the entire center of the U.S., as well as into "perched" water pockets above the Ogallala, including probably the farm's water. So they left me as manager on site at the farm in 1989, much earlier than I was ready for, though by then we had a board of directors and other residents so I was not all on my own. Red River continued to hold mostly August summer peace camps at the farm as well as also holding 3 Mother's Day camps in the late 80's.

After I left the farm in early 1991, moving to Dallas to marry Larry Egbert whom I had met in Red River, Mavis Belisle moved to the farm later that year, and ran it for many years, still the same thorn in Pantex's side, watching, reporting and educating about what comes from Pantex, as well as what stays there. Bombs retired by arms treaties are DISassembled at Pantex, and tens of thousands of plutonium pits are now stored in old bunkers left at the plant after its World War 2 task of building conventional naval bombs.

As anti-nuclear fervor of the 80's and 90's faded, the Peace Camps ended and WRL affiliate Red River dissolved. Eventually the actual 20 acre Peace Farm became too much for too few so most of the land was sold. But The Peace Farm still legally exists as one acre still directly adjacent to Pantex in order to maintain legal rights to receive plant information, and a board directed by Jerry Stein, a Catholic priest who moved from the Kansas diocese to work with The Peace Farm and Red River in the 80's and has never left Amarillo, but later left the priesthood, married, and remained a good friend and care giver of Amarillo Bishop and Peace Farm friend Leroy Matthiesen all the way to the Bishop's death.

Mavis Belisle (back in Dallas) is excited about the WRL 100th traveling exhibit, and hopes to help arrange a series of showings across TX, in Dallas and Houston, and maybe Amarillo and Austin. La lucha continua.

-blog post by Ellen Barfield


Pictures: (Top) Planting a tree at the Peace Farm. That's me with one of the shovels in the white hoodie, Kay Robinson in the wheelchair, Katharine someone behind Kay; (Middle) Cartoon by Amarillo Globe Times editorial cartoonist Pat McCarthy, from whom I bought it in the late 90's, and who died in Aug, 2008.; (Middle) Anne Murray from Oklahoma City, OK, the other person I don't know, holding the first 2 panels of a string of calligraphied panels of the Julia Ward Howe Mother's Day Peace Proclamation, used to block the Pantex gate. The other panel is a logo from Mothers and Others Connecting All, a group which joined the action; (Bottom) the JWHowe Mother's Day Proclamation blocking the Pantex gate. Cartoon and photos courtesy Ellen Barfield