Missileman Minutes and Me



Today we visited a Minuteman control room that was buried about 4 floors down near the Badlands.  Rayman was very excited because he worked around missile silos when he was in the Air Force.  I, on the other hand, had no idea what to expect and so I went along to see 1.) what a silo was  2.  what the mission control underground bunker entailed.  We were extremely lucky to get a really great guide.  He had worked at this mission control station when he was in the air force about 25 or 30 years ago.  So, here’s his best joke.  What did the dyslexic, insomniac, atheist do last night?   Answer.  Stayed up all night wondering if there really was a dog.

But I digress.

We saw huge, thick doors, old control panels with rotary dials.  He explained all the procedures for launching an end-of-the-world attack with the Minuteman missles.  Nothing was left to chance and all orders were verified, coded, with backup manual key turning involved.  Quite an operation and it just told me that no way should Donal Trump be president.  He might not even know that the Minuteman missiles versions 1 and 2 have been decommissioned.  Only the Minuteman missile, version 3s are still aimed and ready to rain down nuclear warheads on enemies.  Further, the gravity of the situation during the cold war was really brought home to me as a visitor to this historical site.  It was a war of deterrence which worked.  However, on several occasions we almost went to war.  Instead we sat on the brink of annihilation.  Believe me when I tell you, folks, that I do not want a real estate tycoon more known for running beauty pageants (no, it is not international experience), and firing people on TV to be in charge of firing these missiles.  Just no way.   The other thing that I wonder about is why Republicans want to drown the government in the bathtub.  All those trillions of dollars in military this and that have given us an excellent military.  Think what we could do if we valued, say, education the same way.  Or rapid transit?  or climate change?  Why don’t we want to spend serious money on these ventures?   We can do it.  And we can pay for it.  Isn’t it worth it?  I wonder about all these things tonight.  Which may or may not be why travel is so interesting.  It gets you thinking.

And I learned that women now run the current iteration of the Minuteman missile program.  When they integrated the personnel, it was in the late 70s.  Now it’s a completely different situation, with women in charge.  The thing is that when you are down in the control room, you are there for like 3 days at a time.  You do not come out.  It is very labor intensive to come and go so movement is kept to a minimum.   You take turns sleeping with only person sleeping at any one time.  (there are three people in each shift).  It takes a special kind of person to be able to do this work.  He says they keep you busy but when you are not busy, you study for your Master’s degree.  I know I could not do it.  Way too confined.  I will say though, our guide, Jim, had a wonderful complexion.  From lack of sun exposure, I’m sure.

Let me see.  What else?  Oh, we visited a house on the prairie that was a homestead.  Mr. and Mrs. Brown homesteaded 160 acres just outside the entrance to the Badlands National Park.

With a dirt floor and built into the side of a hill, it gave one pause to think about making such a venture successful.  They did this because the government incented people to move West with the Homestead Act.  I knew all this but to see it an actual homestead was quite interesting.

After our visit to the Minuteman command center, we drove down the road to see one of the silos.  Looked right into it’s glass top and there it was.  The missile (goodness they look phallic) was still there sans the warhead.  Rayman reported that his silos were bigger.  Just saying.


After all this education, we drove back to Wall, South Dakota reading all the Wall Drug signs strewn along I-90.  There was nothing else to look at because there was, again, no traffic.  At this point the Rayman pointed out that the I-90 was build to accommodate all those missiles.  Still it is annoying to see almost no traffic on a four lane freeway.  Okay.  I’ll give it a rest.

We packed up the Dog House and headed to Spearfish.  We had seen everything we came to see and it was time to move on.

Spearfish is a lovely little town and we scored a wonderful spot for 8 days.  It has trees everywhere.  There are few people here as their season hasn’t gotten started yet.  If fact, as I type I’m listening to thunder and pitter patter of rain on the tin can we call home.  Thankfully, it is not cold (it’s snowing in Yellowstone right now) and I don’t care to experience that again.  Of course, unless we have to.   We are currently at 3970 feet about sea level.  Hopefully a cold front won’t follow the rain.

Last night I fixed shrimp and asparagus risotto.  It was wonderful.  So wonderful that when I took my shower, the Beaumeister helped himself to the leftovers that were cooling on the table.  Bad me.  So, this p.m. when we arrived here at Spearfish, we set up, cleaned the Dog House and decided we were really hungry.  Found a great Mexican fusion place, composed my own salad, Rayman composed his own taco (they made them as you watched), ordered a beer to split and chowed down.  Then if was off to Safeway for a few groceries and here we are safe and sound for the night.


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