There was a time before nukes and progress covered up the pretty places in North Texas.


Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant rests on a concrete-dome-penetrated hilltop a few miles above Glen Rose, which was described in a Fort Worth Weekly article as a “bustling little town with all the amenities.” That prosperity comes from Texas Utilities and before that from Brown & Root, the company that built the nuclear plant (for $11 billion) and, as Kellogg Brown & Root, owns Dick Cheney’s very own Halliburton. The same company that siphons billions of dollars from taxpayers for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The same Brown & Root that gave us all those airplane runways in Viet Nam. The same war profiteers who invaded my home and spread fear and cancer over the land, barely three miles from the bullet-shaped towers of Comanche Peak.
Now these same nuclear predators want to erect two more concrete death chambers at Comanche Peak. There was a public cheerleading event in March welcoming more of the federally subsidized nuclear industry into the quaint little town of Glen Rose. No one seemed at all aware of any possible problems with the plant. No one spoke of the ever-increasing numbers of spent fuel rods, laced with high-level uranium, being stored there at the plant on the edge of Squaw Creek Reservoir. No one worries much about the unseen dangers; after all, there are no black clouds of sulfur smoke. We can see only the results of radioactive poisoning. Slow, painful cancers take people and animals.
My neighbor’s mom was the first to go. She lived only a mile from the plant. Cancer took her in 1994. Our neighbor David died in 2005, finally taken down by a lingering cancer at the age of 47. How many more? No one really knows. Just a few years after the plant opened, we moved to New Mexico to escape the dangers of radiation poisoning. On a return visit, I noticed a sign out in front of the Granbury bowling alley: “Bowl for the American Cancer Society.” And I knew the agonies had already crept into the heart of that strong and kind and intelligent ranch and farm community I had once called home. We were there in 1983 before McDonald’s. Before Wal-Mart and Taco Bell. Before Home Depot and Lowe’s covered those sweet green hay fields south and east of town now buried beneath concrete. Drive north of Granbury. Then hurry on to Weatherford where the land teems with gas wells and people. Go to Chili’s and Applebee’s. Fill up on grease at Fuddrucker’s. See the progress come to the country.
In 1984 we raised hogs and chickens and a calf or two. We always kept a milk cow – we enjoyed rich Jersey cream from a dairy ration of ground milo and cottonseed meal and molasses, prepared specially at Bond Feed Store in Granbury on the road to Thorp Springs. Less than 10 years later, I watched my milk cow slowly choke to death from radiation poisoning. I watched my younger boy’s horse, Peanut, suffer and die from cancer. I watched as our sow gave birth to pigs with twisted feet.
And I think again of the time before. Before Comanche Peak invaded Hood and Somerville counties with its bloated excess, its Texas Utilities perfidies, its radioactive steam and its contaminated spent fuel rods filling the dump at Squaw Creek Reservoir. Before the suburban cancers of growth and spending. Before things cost so much, when the corporations had yet to spread their box-store blight. Before, when people lived in small communities or worked farms with their families. Before, when the local drug store and the grocery and the five-and-dime were in walking distance. Before, when the downtown square included a general grocery store and a barber shop and a movie theater. Before the nuclear power plant and now the depredations of natural gas. Before, when the Brazos River flowed free, and a polluted Squaw Creek Reservoir was some Texas Utilities nightmare dream.
There’s nothing safe about nuclear power. There’s nothing safe about depleting and poisoning our water supply. There’s nothing profitable about squandering our natural resources for short-term gain. And when nuclear power and natural gas are revealed as expensive and nonviable alternatives to wind and solar, will the so-called public utilities restore the land and waters, or will the next generation bear the consequences? One more place spoiled by greed. One more cancer plague to be visited on Texas.
Kendall McCook is a Fort Worth poet and teacher.

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