Friday, January 9, 2009

Essay 34 Old Brindle

Essay 34

When I was a boy we had a brindle-colored cow named, aptly, Old Brindle. I detested that ornery old cow.

Old Brindle had a talent for getting out! She would go into the barn and, refusing to go into her stall* the first time, she always forced the north barn door. Someone then had to chase her to the garage and drive her back to the barn. After this escapade, Old Brindle would go directly into her stall without further fuss.

On one occasion I arranged just outside the north barn door a wobbly structure, containing “a ton” of debris, such as concrete blocks and the like, so that, when Old Brindle made her escape through the barn door, the sky would fall on her. It did, and I enjoyed the ensuing spectacle a lot, but there was no discernible change in Old Brindle’s behavior. Shucks!

One day Uncle Mason, who had mounted a horn taken from a Greyhound bus on his Model A Ford, was driving north on the Zenith road when he encountered Old Brindle standing in the road. Because she was facing into the wind, away from his Model A, it is likely that Old Brindle was unaware of his presence. He drove up immediately behind her, and, expecting a surprise blast of that big bus horn would fun to watch, he honked the horn. Without otherwise moving, Old Brindle promptly kicked out one of his headlights! And stood there!

This event confirmed my belief that old cows had nervous systems that transmitted signals directly from their sensors to their muscles, by-passing brains. However, I suspect that Uncle Mason found some way to attract her attention before he went on home. One lesson learned was that people and vehicles may scatter when they heard that horn, but Old Brindle did not.

This historical event ultimately triggered a whole series of events, detailed in the following essay.
* Each cow had her own stall, and almost never attempted to go into another cow’s stall.

Essay 35 What Hath Old Brindle Wrought?

Essay 35 What Hath Old Brindle Wrought?
(Pictures for this post are yet to be added.)

In May, 1963 a brief Associated Press article appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It reported that the Hornchurch Drum and Trumpet Corps, of Hornchurch, England, had been practicing in farmer Reed’s pasture, and when the drums crashed and the trumpets blared starting the march “Semper Fidelis” six cows belonging to farmer Reed dropped dead.
This was a blurb made to order for our bulletin board at the lab, and it triggered comments.
I claimed the article to be patently false, believing it impossible to scare a cow to death with mere noise. Had I not seen it tried?
Paul Mutschlecner was unimpressed with this argument, saying the cows had just died of “coronaries”. I knew better, but there was work to do, and we discussed it no more.
Time passed—a lot of time passed, and another item appeared in the Albuquerque Journal reporting a difficulty experienced with a Pershing Missile.
I immediately made the argument that scattering cows made sense, and none of them died. Paul’s argument was that this only demonstrated that the Hornchurch Drum and Trumpet Corps was more deadly than one of our Pershing Missiles.
The argument once having waned, waxed. We compromised by deciding to write two letters, one to the Director of the Corps, and one to Mr. Reed. We believed that if the event in question happened in a pasture, Hornchurch must be a small town, and the letters might be deliverable.
We never had a response from Mr. Reed, but we did hear quite promptly from Mrs. Keeler, the wife of the Director. By purest chance, one week before our letter arrived the Keelers had discovered that Mr. Reed had “concocted” the story so that the Corps would not practice in the camp adjacent to his field. Brian Keeler had taken our letter to the Editor of the Hornchurch Recorder and a nice article was published.
Quite an informative article! We were pleased to be described “a farmer in Mexico”, and the missile to a lorry. We were exceptionally pleased with the words of their Ministry of Agriculture that if the cows were in a rather weak state it might be possible to frighten them to death. Weak State indeed!
I felt that I had won the argument, but there were complications. Specifically, we had a number of British Colleagues at the lab preparing for a British nuclear test. They were quite intrigued by these events, and when they returned to England they went to Hornchurch to learn more about the Corps, and Hornchurch. When they returned they gave us the “Official Guide” to Hornchurch and discovered that it is now a suburb of London.
The population was more than 150,000 and growing, and the place was anything but the sleepy village we had imagined. Indeed, the fact that our letter was delivered was pretty surprising.
Mrs. Keeler included in her letter the thought that we might be able to see the boys some day. She reported that they had a cows head on the arm patch of their uniforms, and that crowds mooed at them when they appeared in public—they were the “cow killers”. That was why Mr. Keeler had tried to set the record straight. We had responded to her letter with the information that we were going to be going to England in the near future, and would like to hear the Corps.
We also dreamed up the idea of writing to His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip, who was a patron of such activities as the Hornchurch Drum and Trumpet Corps. Paul drafted a wonderful letter, asking for an aide to come to their defense. From my perspective it was how Paul closed the letter that made it truly historic. The last paragraph is shown below:
Ultimately we had a very nice response from Buckingham Palace, from Squadron Leader David Checketts.
On August 9th we met Mr. Keeler at the front of Westminster Abbey, and he took us to his home for a splendid English lunch. It was toward the end of the meal that Mr. Keeler said “We’ll have to be moving along, for the BBC will be here to interview you at Two, and then there is the parade at Three”.
To our amazement, The BBC guy who arrived did the morning show on BBC that was entirely comparable to our “good morning America” show. The interview went pretty well until suddenly, out of the blue, came the question “Now, why don’t we just be honest here, and you admit that you are really Pershing missile experts, here to learn whatever you can about the dangers of the Hornchurch Drum and Trumpet Corps?”
I almost fainted away because in fact I was on committee that was evaluating Pershing Missiles from the point of view of safety, and on the way from Los Alamos to London I had attended a classified meeting in Washington about Pershings and their troubles. My response was a classic fumbling, bumbling kind of mindless “harrumphing”, and it demonstrated how unprepared I was to be interviewed.
For the parade we rode with the Mayor and his wife in their official car that greatly resembled cars used by the Royals. On the way around the track Paul kept holding his hand up with the classic V signal of Winston Churchill (who was still alive on this occasion) and Addie Leah and I tried to copy those peculiar hand waves that the Royal family keep making.
The families and friends of the band members were in the stands, and in front of us the entire band played, opened ranks, and we were invited into the group to inspect, and were each given instruments with which we could play along.
During this entire affair, representatives of eight London newspapers were present taking lots of pictures. This could have been just a bit intimidating for Mexican farmers, and it was certainly so for us also.
Here we see one of hosts, a mother, the Mayor’s wife and the Mayor, Paul, me, and Addie Leah.

A close-up of a close-up inspection is fun to see, as is a careful look at the Mayor’s wife. As seen through eyes nearly forty-four years older, she is the spittin’ image of Mrs. Bucket from the British comedy program “Keeping Up Appearances”.

Our more formal picture gives one a much better feeling for the importance and formality of the day.

We made the next morning’s papers without difficulty.

Once again Hornchurch made the international press!
It was the Las Vegas paper’s account that gave us the most difficulty, for now our colleagues discovered we were “rocket scientists”, and that was mighty hard to live down. Amazingly enough, our names were spelled correctly, and that also did not do us any good.
Hornchurch will live long in our memories.
But surely, Old Brindle could not have been responsible for ALL of this!

We visited Hornchurch again in 2003, and continue to admire the Church.

(pictures for this post are yet to be added.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Breaking Stained Glass

During several trips to Europe I became fascinated by the stained glass windows in the cathedrals I’d happened to visit, and decided to learn more about them. Thereafter I tried to go to at least one new cathedral on each trip, and took lots of photographs and did what reading I could.

I’d long had the habit of taking the time to discover how something was done, and once I understood it, moving on to the next item of interest. I started trying to make some small stained glass panels in the bedroom, learned how to do a variety of kinds of artistic items, and was hooked. The result was a shop built in the backyard where I could spread out to create larger panels, and windows.

Our church in Los Alamos had been a military chapel of classic design in World War II, with a small balcony at the rear. At about the time I became a fan of church windows, our choir decided they no longer wished to sing in the balcony and proposed swapping ends of the sanctuary. Accomplishing this required a substantial remodeling, and the new church entrance would now be through a portion of the building that was an add-on with several architectural debits.
I was opposed to this plan because it would cost more money that I thought we should spend on ourselves. I spoke against it, and pointed out that if the plan were to be approved, even more money would be required to do something about those opaque, broken, ugly, no-two-alike now to be entryway windows.

The plan was approved.

I decided to construct a small window at the rear of the “new” sanctuary, one that was heretofore visible only near to a very small kitchen. That having been deemed acceptable, I proposed trying two others, and when those were completed I offered to do the remaining ones in the new entryway if someone were willing to pay for them. It was not very long before they were all subscribed, and that was that. The first one I finished in 1977, and the last one in 2002. Altogether there were 16 of them, counting the rose window in the chapel. The latter window I worked on for three years before completion.
I was aware that, historically, once a stained glass window was given in honor of something or somebody and was installed in a church, there was no way to get rid of it. Windstorms, fires, and little boys with rocks were a godsend even if the windows were first rate. Otherwise, there was just no way for a new window to appear. Thanks to the fact that one of the church members, Bob Marr, was a genius at working with wrought iron, and also there were several members who gave me great help, we were able to create identical window frames, making glass panels easily changeable. Therefore the United Church at Los Alamos is the only place I know of where one stained glass window panel might be changed to another during a church service. This also made it possible for anyone, at anytime, to create a new panel honoring someone or some event. There are two such windows, called the “Living Windows”. The windows are shown here, roughly in the order in which they were made.


The multiple borders in this window are traditional as similar borders are to be seen in many European cathedral windows. The deep cobalt blue in the border-arch is commonly found in medieval churches. The dove has been used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit for many centuries and the circle about the head is believed it be derived from the Crusader’s cross. The lower portion of the window has a water lily to represent the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. This symbol is thought to be about 3 months old.

The window was given in memory of Michael Gene Groseclose, April 14-May 23, 1976 by his grandparents, Addie Leah and Bob Brownlee.

The Jesus Window

The Jesus window was designed in praise of God the Son. Four symbols have been chosen that have been associated with Jesus for centuries: the IX Christogram in the top panel, the budded cross, the crown, and the Christmas rose.
The budded cross is actually a cross with a modified trefoil at its ends. The trefoil has traditionally been a symbol of the Trinity, and the budded cross, sometimes called the Bottonnee Cross has been used in conjunction with young Christians, signifying “potential”, as does a flower bud.
The crown is intended to suggest the “King of Kings’ though every preacher worth his salt has a “Cross and Crown” sermon at the ready.
There is a plant that blooms about Christmas time throughout central and southern Europe that has become known as the “Christmas Rose”. A centuries old legend has it that the rose began its peculiar behavior by bursting into bloom when Jesus visited Roman England with Joseph of Arimathea in the winter time.
Other parts of the window are patterned after some windows in European cathedrals. A red cross can be found in a 13th century window in the cathedral at Potiers, France. Many windows of the 12th and later centuries have rows of “beads”, usually small circles of light, hence the beaded feature achieved through the use of small golden rectangles. The multiple borders and Gothic arch are also intended to make the window an “oldie”.
Several members of the congregation have helped with the windows construction. They are Karl Bergstresser, Mary Maxwell, Krik Krikorian, and Ted Crawford. The materials have been donated by Karl and May Bergstresser in memory of their parents. (August 14, 1977)


Where symbolism is a large part of the “Holy Spirit” and “Jesus “ windows, especially the latter, in these we find a traditional and a familiar symbol of God the Father only in the Hands. These hands open and relaxed re intended to show that the creation has purpose even though we may regard it as unfathomable.
The rays in the upper panels, radiating from above, are tri-colored, representing the Trinity. The color green has been used from time to time in the past to represent Jesus, and the red-orange represents the Holy Spirit, gold represents God the Father.
The remaining portions of the window are astronomical. The left-most window represents the universe itself, with a double galaxy (one of which is exploding) and a large spiral galaxy all seen through nearby stars. There is even a supernova! Can you find it? The right-most window represents a solar system, with a sun and planets. One planet has a ring and one is obvious special, containing with complexity and ethereality the promise of life and hope, perhaps even love.
In the lowest part of the right hand panel there is a small piece of black glass—with he space around it “wrinkled” and distorted—that represents an astronomical wonder, the black hole. Astronomers currently believe that such a place represents death to matter insofar as our universe is involved. Death being present in creation, obviously like life, has purpose. The black hole can also represent the mysteries of he universe, mysteries that fascinate and inspire us, yet at the same time can be beyond our comprehensions.
The individual stars of of different colors. While to astronomers colors are clues to temperatures and ages, Paul said in I Corinthians 15:41 “there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory”. Perhaps that says it best!
But who can forget in Psalms 19 (from The Living Bible) “the heavens are telling the glory of God: they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep telling about God. Without a word or sound, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to the entire world.
These windows were given to us by Mr. and Mrs. N. Krikorian in memory of her mother, Mrs. I. E. Patterson, and by Mrs. Lee Ennis in memory of her parents and those of her late husband, Eugene. Those helping with the construction were Krik Krikorian and Mary Maxwell. The hands were painted by Glenn Rigg. Ted Crawford did the ironwork and installation.


How does God make his will known to man? His word comes to us in various ways, and the tablets of Moses and the Holy Bible surely come to mind most readily. I representation of the ten commandments in the top panel shows four on one side and six on the other, reminding the viewer that the first four commandments deal with man’s relation with God, and the remainder with man’s relation with his fellow-man. Jesus summarized these tablets most beautifully in Mark 12: 29-31.
The Bible dominates this window. It is superimposed upon an anchor, for it is itself an anchor to our faith.
The lamp reminds of Psalm 119:105, “The word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”. However, in Proverbs 6:23 we find “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light”. A stained glass window certainly deals with light—why not with the law?
In the lower left are two irises, traditional symbols of the Trintiy, meant to remind us of the beauty of God’s word.
In the lower right is seen a centuries-old Christian symbol of salvation—bulrushes. The origin of this symbol is obscure but perhaps it is derived from the life of Moses. The symbol here can remind the viewer that God is the God of Salvation. In fact, all religions can be described as asserting ways to salvation. But to Jews and Christians, God has saved his people, and will save them—this is their gospel? Salvation is therefore the central theme of the whole Bible, i.e., God’s Word. Note Psalms 74:12, “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth”. In the light of that verse don’t you think “Moses’ bulrushes” an appropriate symbol?
The window was given by Rosemary Benton in honor of Verne A Spindell. It was constructed with the substantial help of Addie Leah Brownlee and Nerses Krikorian. The frame and installation are due to the excellent handiwork of Ted Crawford. (November 10, 1978)


The birth of Christ has long been commemorated in stained glass. This window has some traditional scenes, but there are certain symbols peculiar to it.
For example, the bottom panel is intended to represent our own way of celebrating Christmas with bells and poinsettias. The poinsettia is a flower found originally in Mexico and would not be expected in any European Christmas decoration. This panel, then, is definitely North American.
The second panel from the bottom has a central medallion depicting the wise men. This is intended as a “gifts” panel, illustrating God’s gift to men as well as our gifts to each other. The “boxed” gift in the lower left is made of three diamonds, intended to suggest the Trinity. The large “Christmas Tree Ornament”, upper right, is actually the ancient heraldic symbol of a fountain, and is intended to symbolize Zechariah 13: 1: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.”
The gold and purple crown in the upper left suggests the kingship of Jesus, and has been a traditionally promised gift to each Christian.
The central panel’s medallion shows Mary, Jesus, and Joseph, and like the other figures is intended to attract children of all ages and to cause them to recall the stories and happy experiences of Christmases past.
The top panels are self evident, depicting stellar and heavenly objects.
The Christmas theme is accented through liberal use of red and green colors.
The geometric features of this window are patterned after geometries than can be seen in some windows in the cathedrals at Chartres, Notre Dame in Paris, and at Canterbury in England.
This window has been given by Durango Natural Foods, Inc. in memory of Water E. Roberts. The frame and installation are due to the excellent handiwork of Ted Crawford, Nerses Krikorian, and Bob Marr.


This window has been designed as a companion to the Nativity Window with principal colors of green and gold rather than green and red. As before, the geometry and “busy” design have been patterned after some windows in several European cathedrals, especially those at Chartres in France.
The bottom panel is intended to invoke a spring feeling of the renewal of life with tulips and two stylized lilies. The second panel features lilies and ivy. Ivy has been a traditional symbol of life eternal because of its continuous green color, and of fidelity because of the manner in which it clings to its support.
The medallion in the third panel depicts Jesus and two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and is a derivative of the famous painting by the Swiss painter Girardet—“The walk to Emmaus”, created in 1904. Ivy appears again as two butterflies recalling a metamorphosis of life as can be experienced here on earth. (Those who have difficulty in believing in the Resurrection would probably not be willing to take Butterflies on faith, either.) It is in this panel that singers and music appear, and who can think of Easter morning without music—and perhaps humming along with “I know that my Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s “Messiah”? In honor of choirs experienced and remembered, one “blue” note has been added to the musical notes in the upper left of panel three. Joy and sincerity are much more important than perfection in our Easter excitement and worship!
The fourth panel from the bottom’s medallion represents the walled city of Jerusalem on Easter morning, with Easter’s light flooding the world. The empty cross dominates the city, including the buildings of other religions. The music theme is continued with trumpet players and their golden notes, and singers positively exuberant!
The top panel, like the Nativity window, has a participating angel; but this one is beating a Chochiti drum!
The Resurrection window was given in memory of Walt Roberts by the Roberts family. Thanks are owed for its construction to Addie Leah Brownlee, Bob Marr, Ted Crawford and Karl Bergstresser who are responsible for the frame, installation and protection.


In this picture the left window if in bright sun, the right in shadow. They are shown without the elliptical panels the can be placed, and changed, in the windows in only a few minutes.

New stained glass windows are always exciting but in time they tend to become part of the landscape, and are easy to ignore. And there is a areal downside to a window, for once installed there is no acceptable way to replace it. They are installed in memory of someone. A change can easily be considered insulting, or worse.
Despite our efforts to protect against the first three, each of them, especially the third, should be regarded as heaven-sent! The Lord certainly has to endure a lot of bad windows and though His patience is legendary the Old Testament strongly suggests it is no infinite!

Believing our congregation deserves new windows from time to time (us old-timers should not have all the fun!) I had desired that these last two windows be made in such a way that the center ellipses could be changed from one set of panels to another in a matter of a few minutes. This would make possible the creation of new windows with timely themes by members of the congregation as the need arises, or the spirit moves. The future would contain many wonderful surprises.

The idea for this came hard, for there was nowhere to be found an example of how to do it. Thanks to Bob Marr who knew full well that anybody I might consult would assure me that what we wanted to do with wrought iron was not worth the effort, a truly magnificent piece of work was achieved, and today, voila! The improbable exists. Incidentally, we know of no place anywhere else in the world where stained glass windows can be changed out in a few minutes.

The original two ellipses were designed to Betty Smith, and were to have been executed by Kenneth Schowalter. When Kenneth died, Glenn Rigg volunteered to make them in Ken’s memory. A second pair of ellipses had been designed and constructed by Roger and Betty Smith. A third pair was done by Bob Brownlee. As this is being written, (July, 2004) a fourth set exists, the work of Glenn Rigg’s daughter, Karen Leach. The plan is unfolding just as originally hoped.


The ellipses for the above panels were made by Glenn Rigg.

These two panels were mine, intended to represent the fall season in Los Alamos. Frequently at that time of pumpkins and peppers our mountains already have snow.

Here are the window panels made by Karen Leach, Bob Marr's daughter.

The panels are those of Betty and Roger Smith. Betty joined with me many years ago in stained glass work and discussions. Roger being a superb craftsman, it was only a matter of time until he fell into line. As can be seen, their work is superb. How eager we are to see more.


Not only were 13th and 14th century windows used to educate their viewers, but they did so in different ways. A first was simple and direct, figures directly from Bible stories, or other historical events. I given window or portion thereof could represent something else entirely. Sometimes the symbolism was old, traditional and easily recognized. But other times they were derived from local events and personal points of view, and were entirely obscure, especially as we view them today.
Some cathedral windows were used to teach certain viewers, perhaps seminary students, both theology and philosophy. Complexity could abound, so naturally it did. Many windows therefore had three entirely different sets of interpretations—one for children, and for adults, and one for seminarians.
A small step toward this complicated situation has been taken with the windows showing Noah’s ark, and the Thanksgiving window.
Firstly, the windows can be looked upon as separate, each complete within itself. Clues can be found however that more complexity is intended. For example, the rainbow in each window is the same rainbow. The top panels contain the earth and the spaceship Columbia, with the earth in the background. The continents on the earth are not shown in their present positions, as they too have been on the move. Moving continents? Earth, spaceships? One rainbow? One can view thanksgiving as a theme for all kinds of journeys containing emotion in contemplating the safe arrival at journey’s end. Noah’s journey started things anew, as did the voyage of the Mayflower and the spaceship Columbia, yet as passengers on the space ship Earth, the sight of a rainbow can remind us that journeys do end, and always in God’s care, with His promises glowing before our eyes.
On interesting historical note: this window was installed while the Columbia was still in space on its maiden voyage, and there was a big hurry to have it up before the landing happened, lest something go wrong. What faith!
Jean and Bob Smith sponsored the window of Noah’s ark, and Rose and Ace Lyle the Thanksgiving window. John McClements was the artist for the ark, and the Mayflower. The excellent frames were made by Bob Marr. Ted Crawford and Karl Bergstresser were responsible for the windows installation and protection.
(Note added in 2004. The Columbia eventually did end in tragedy. We are comforted that in honoring it while it achieved one success after another, we still honor the people who lost their lives in it. More than that, we still honor the spirit of man from Noah, Columbus, Columbia and beyond.)

The institution of marriage is known to contain complexities that sometimes defy analysis and our understanding. It is perhaps these complexities together with a more certain understanding of self, and a greater concern for others, that permit many Christians to relationships so profound as to make their marriages exceedingly noteworthy.
In representing Christian marriage in a stained glass window, one is thus faced with difficulties of some magnitude. Certain passages from the Song of Solomon spring to mind, but these probably require windows of a different size and location than ours. It also seems true that there is very little else in the Bible about marriage that seem right for artistic depiction with the possible exception of Jesus and the wedding in Cana—the traditional story used to solve this particular window problem. It is not surprising, therefore, that as the whole matter is pondered, abstractions become increasingly attractive.
This window is intended to be enjoyed, but the enjoyment might be enhanced if the window were studied briefly. One needs to examine it panel by panel from bottom to top. Against a background of some disorder different possibilities are seen. With upward progress, certain complexities increase, while others fall away.
Perhaps one can see changing relationships, developing appreciate of personality and continued need for individuality, growth, hope and joy, fulfillment, and a distant ideal. (Perhaps not!)
The window was created at the request of interested persons. It was installed by Ted Crawford and Terry Langham. The beautifully constructed frame was made by Bob Marr. The outside protection was installed by Karl Bergstresser. (June 7, 1981)


Many people are fascinated by parts of the Old Testament, and the book of Ezekiel has long served as an inspiration to many musicians, story tellers, and missionaries. Sometimes Ezekiel has even been the basis for exciting sermons! And the references to “wheels in the air”, etc. had even been interpreted to be an authentic eye-witness account of a visit to earth by an alien space ship! This by a well known Russian astronomer! (The idea was promptly trashed by the Soviet government for it quickly understood everything that was wrong with such a thought!)
In medieval cathedrals one can find Ezekiel windows, but they are exceedingly rare in modern times.
The themes for this window came from the first and seventeenth chapters. The latter is believed by some scholars to have special significance because of the nature of the parable found there.
It is important that each viewer decide for himself what the various symbols represent. Read the book of Ezekiel; remember to look for symbols of the Trinity and Jesus; ask yourself how a parable involving a tree and birds might be relevant to today’s world.
After collaborating with Prof. William H. Brownlee, and Ezekiel scholar who died in the course of the window’s construction, Robert R. Brownlee designed and constructed the window with the very considerable help from Mary Maxwell. Addie Leah Brownlee also contributed much time, assistance and support. The frame was constructed by Bob Marr, and Ted, Dorothy and Matt Crawford were principals in the window’s installation.
The window was given by Gene and Martha Zukas in celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary, and other members of The United Church who also celebrated their 40th anniversaries in the same year. These include; Frank and Wilma Durham, Lucille and Morris Rea, Doug and Jessie Venable, Sherman and Shirley (deceased) Rabideau, and Addie Leah and Bob Brownlee.
(September 30, 1983)

At the Dedication of the window in The United Church of Los Alamos
September 30, 1983
A number of years ago the Bishop of Woolwich of the Church of England, the good Bishop Robinson, authored a number of books and articles of some interest. A couple of his books are in the church library. I remember one article in which he proposed that a streamlined version of the Bible be created—one that would contain those scriptures that are relevant to our Christian beliefs, and which would omit passages that were of no value. He gave some examples of the latter, one of which was the Song of Deborah. Some of you will remember her song of triumph, which among other things celebrated the driving of a spike through the temple of an enemy. Well, perhaps that is a bit on the primitive side! The Bishop of course suggested that the genealogies be done away with—remember, like where Jesse begets David, who begets Solomon, and so on. (I made those up, for the actual begets all have names that I can’t pronounce.
This perhaps appears at first blush to be a reasonable suggestion. Bishop Robinson surely does not approve of the story of the Witch of Endor—but that is nothing new. Whole seminaries have pretended that story is missing from the Bible. He finally listed Psalms 91 as containing promises that make no sense at all is this enlightened age. Now, this Psalm is one of my favorites! And yours too, I’ll bet! Clearly the good Bishop has quit preaching and gone to meddling.
Since reading that article I have been increasingly sensitive to the fact that any part of the Bible can be significant to someone! It was recently reported to me that a preacher once had a marvelous sermon on the Song of Deborah. And not long ago a Presbyterian minister in Santa Fe told me that a favorite part of scripture for him had always been the begets!
Well, the book of Ezekiel has always been fascinating to me.
When we were growing up, my cousins and I were exposed to all parts of the Old Testament, for it was definitely required reading. Each of those old stories was familiar to us, even the difficult ones. And if we did not hear about a particular passage from our minister at church, or from our parents at home, we were suspicious that it contained some details that made adults nervous, so of course we read those parts for ourselves. Furthermore, we were all aware of the verses in II Timothy, which reads,
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
(This verse is obviously very useful as a father’s authority for requiring Bible study.)
Therefore it was very clear to us that if a passage appeared to be meaningless, we were obviously at fault. “Spiritual Blindness” I believed it was called. But having good imaginations, and not wishing to add yet another sin to our repertoires, let alone one of spiritual blindness, we stuck with a passage until we saw the relevance. (This is apparently not a common practice in the Church of England.) Some stories were easy, though. We never had any difficulty whatsoever understanding why two she-bears tore up all those kids who mocked Elijah’s bald head. We knew boys just like that. And to this day I treat itinerant bald-headed prophets with real respect!


After a series of conversations with Martha MacMillan, I resolved to design a window that might express to a very small degree some of the feelings about those individuals who differ in such a way as to be called “handicapped”. We observe that each person differs in some ways from others, and some of such differences are not always in his favor. Thus in some sense each person can be said to be handicapped, having some elements that do not fit. Families with severely handicapped members have special problems and merit honor and care.
First, what are the “mechanics” of this window? There are about 1,300 pieces of glass, and about 30 different kinds of glass. The geometric design is derived from classic Arabic geometry. Muslims are forbidden to represent the human figure in their art and as a result the decorations in their mosques have evolved into incredibly elaborate geometry with breathtaking patterns of exceptional beauty. Because their designs are created with continuous lines, my particular design can only be said to be “derived” since it contains abrupt discontinuities. It can probably be said that the glass has become more important than the lines and because of this the design does not do justice to Arabic art. (Just before this window was completed, the mosque on the Temple on the Mount in Jerusalem was discovered to have a window with this same basic geometry!)
Secondly, a repeating design for each panel was selected to represent the high degree of complexity and order in people. The average person has an innate sense of what is “normal” even though he cannot define it, nor describe it with any precision. Frequently just when we have our whole world structured into the pattern we believe to be normal (or better than normal!) God reaches down, occasionally like a lightning bolt, and alters the pattern in ways we do not understand or approve. We are prone to think that our way would have been better, and sometimes proclaim loudly that we don’t know why this should happen to us. But in the altered pattern we may very well discover that there is a beauty all its own—a beauty to be learned. When one can do this, he is especially blessed as he comes to appreciate greater levels of beauty and understanding.
There is a natural tendency on the part of each of us to feel uncomfortable and to “look away” when we encounter a severely handicapped person—someone who is not “normal”, and who perhaps differs in ways embarrassing to us. If only we take the time to draw closer, we will most certainly find new depths of appreciation for God’s work of beauty and wonder.
Notice that the window center has two lightning bolts flashing through the design. Between them the geometry is damaged and now contains glass that is quite unattractive in normal light. But when the same glass is seen with the sun shining on it (and that frequently happens to this window just at the close of the morning service) they you will see a remarkable transformation; it is much more beautiful than the regular glass! Similarly, those families of handicapped persons can come to appreciation and understanding that may be overlooked by the rest of us.
While this window is dedicated to each person who might be described as handicapped, it was designed and constructed with Elizabeth MacMillan and my sister Doris Kay Brownlee in mind.
The youth of the church are the sponsors of this window. Addie Leah Brownlee aided immeasurably in its construction. Bob Marr constructed and donated the frame (itself a work of art) and Ted Crawford is responsible for its installation. Many thanks go to each, including those who give words of encouragement.
October 14, 1982


Sometime in the early 1950s I first heard of Teilhard de Charmin, a French priest and a famous paleontologist. He believed in evolution as an on-going process, and was famous for blending science as it was known in the first half of the 20th century with Christianity. Various ones of his theories got him in trouble with the Roman Catholic Church and with the Jesuits (he was a member of that order.) When he was ordained he had taken a vow of obedience, and was always true to that vow. So, when he was ordered not to publish his books, he obeyed. As a result, his books were published by his friends after his death in 1955, the most famous one probably being “The Phenomenon of Man”. My own favorite is his book “The Divine Milieu”. I suggest you read them.
He saw the entire universe moving inexorably toward the Omega Point, the moment when Christ comes again. But his vision transcended mere earth, and I am attracted very much to vision, and I think his vision, of what Man can yet become.
In this window I have endeavored to look into the future while simultaneously trying to hint at the existence of a multi-dimensional universe—one that is sweeping all of us toward a wondrous final moment. Remembering that time itself was created in the Big Bang, I have attempted to hint at regularities as seen as one moment changing dramatically into discontinuities as time progresses. I have also added a few foot prints to suggest that we have only just begun this journey.
Teilard de Chardin believed that the second coming would occur when we had done everything within our power to prepare for that day. Despite the fact that this seems to me to be a slight suggestion of the doctrine of good works in this idea, I am still attracted by the thought that that unimaginable event might have something to do with me. I have been told by experts that I was to know not when, but should only expect it to be unexpected. These ideas pushed me in the direction of thinking of other subjects.
This window was the last of my windows for The United Church of Los Alamos. As usual, Bob Marr made the frame, and Ted Crawford masterminded the installation. (July, 2004)

The remaining stained glass window I built for the United Church is the Rose Window, discussed in the following chapter.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Essay 28.1 Reflections in a Dental Chair

Essay 28.1


(Triggered by a desire to slow tooth decay)

I have an enormous empathy for those who repeatedly point out the ramifications of Loveland, Colorado’s growth. They are good observers, with good memories, and are justly troubled by the changes that they have experienced and will likely see in the future. Some describe continued development as blight, others see it as opportunity. Whatever the view, all the possible problems that can accompany growth certainly have not yet been dealt with, probably not yet been thought of. There is little doubt that there is trouble ahead.

It is vital to appreciate the fact that there really is no such thing as “zero growth”. Every culture, society, community, institution, organization and individual is, at any given moment, an amalgam of both growth and decay. These occur simultaneously. Here I can use “growth” in the context of learning, but whatever its form, it is ever-present in all living and evolving things.. If one were to be successful in halting growth, there is left only decay. It very well may be that the only thing worse than growth is decay. Furthermore, the two are not symmetrical, in that decay is unrelenting, while growth is problematic.

The United States has doubled in population since I was born. But despite this growth, I have seen my home town, located in a neighboring state, dying. Some years ago the community leaders made a conscious effort to keep the city as it was, waving away pressures to change life styles with housing developments, new businesses, etc. Growth was minimized, and guess what? Decay crept along, then picked up speed, and soon became rampant. (When you are over the hill, you pick up speed!) The younger generation departed for other climes. The people who wanted to keep things as they were retired, and their businesses disappeared shortly thereafter and, frequently, so did they! Occasionally a house would burn. It was not replaced. Then business places became empty. Doctors and other professional people became fewer. It was necessary to travel considerable distances for health care and other essentials (and all the while, a bigger percentage of the population needed such care!) The tax base decreased, of course, so there was less money for public matters. Occasionally some money was raised to raze individual buildings and groups of buildings. The vacant places were not needed for parking lots, nor were they used for sculptures. The band shell decayed to the point of classic eyesore, and it was years before volunteers restored that part of the city park, first to grass, ultimately to weeds.

Meanwhile, nearby cities, with discernable differences only in attitude, increased in population, added services and “things to do”. Guess where people in my home town now go for almost everything essential. They also go to neighboring places because they are bored at home. And they leave to visit the kids and grandkids, since the kids can’t seem to make it back home very often. It seems that people inevitably want to go where the action is! Also, they spend money while they are there.

My home town is quiet, and beautiful, and peaceful. But as I remember the good old days, I think of vibrant things--the large high school, the many activities, community affairs, etc. It is the boom town days we take pleasure in recalling, more than depressions.

Too much can be made of my first-hand observations of decay. There were of course many factors involved, and I am probably aware of only some of them. But I would urge all of us, from those who inevitably opt for the status quo to those who are avid developers, to remember that we are obligated to fight decay just as much as we are to praise or decry growth. We all need to work at the task of enhancing community life, and community services. We want all age groups here, including those young families moving here for new jobs. True life requires generations.

I have been very impressed with the level of volunteer work that is made available to us here in Loveland, and this is a necessary ingredient of a viable community. Another key ingredient resides with the city staff, who appear to me to be much better qualified than the staff of any analogous community I have known. They are not quite as good as we deserve, of course, but are much better than we have any right to expect. I notice that they are getting better all the time, adjusting to new technologies and opportunities quite a bit faster than the average citizen. We should offer every encouragement, and celebrate their good common sense.

Finally, I am thankful that it is possible to be against “growth” without being mean spirited about it, and possible to be for “growth” without being greedy. And no matter which of these two “groups” you choose to describe some of your beliefs, keep looking for ways to fight decay! It will be our ability to handle that problem that will determine our future, and not, for example, the number of cars in a given intersection at a given moment.

And does anybody have any new ideas about fighting tooth decay?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ninnescah Stories

Growing up a few meters north of the North Fork of the Ninnescah, in central Kansas, was a wonderful experience. A few small stories about the place can cause one to wonder if such a place ever existed.


Dad and his brothers--Dave, Hugh, Oscar, Charles, Irving, and Frank were hunters. There was a hunter’s blind down by the lake, and they frequently wanted geese to eat.
When one, two, or three brothers went into the blind, and then one or two left, the geese knew that hunters were still present. But if four hunters went into the blind, and three left, the geese thought the blind was empty. This simplified the hunt by a significant degree. Conclusion: at least along the Ninnescah, geese could only count to three.


Putting up hay was vitally important. One’s prosperity could easily depend upon it.
The best days for this activity were the worst for hay makers. The hay needed to be absolutely dry, and very hot, very dry days were the ones chosen for the hard work at hand.
We had the hay wagon nearly full. The last bit required each one to extend the pitch fork to full arms length, and to try to pitch what hay he could to the very top of the stack.
One of our hired men, Merle Stinson I believe was his name, performed this action, and with the thrust upward, a very long snake fell out of the hay, and down the back of Merle’s shirt. It then wrapped itself around his waist.
We still had lots of rattlesnakes is those days, and Merle’s reaction was a blur of action in tearing his shirt in shreds, dancing up and down and around in circles and hollering like crazy.
The snake was six feet long, and was a bull snake. All was well.
I was always a good observer, so I still remember this event. Afterward I always inspected the hay on my pitch fork before I put it over my head.


As a young lad, Uncle Frank was going to bed. He walked from the kitchen area of the house across the dark room at the west end, but returned quickly saying that he had been stung by a wasp.
Examination revealed that he had been bitten by a rattlesnake; it was discovered and dispatched. A tourniquet was immediately applied, the wound was cut, and there was a hurried trip in the buggy to see Doctor Bauer in Sylvia.
I only knew Doctor Bauer as Doc Bauer. So it was Doc Bauer who gave Uncle Frank drinks of whisky, then he loosened the tourniquet by a small amount, repeating this procedure for some time. Uncle Frank was very ill, and became terribly afraid of snakes from this moment onward.
A few years later the boys were going across the creek, but Uncle Frank refused to cross. The older boys ran back and forth across the creek, over and over, to demonstrate that all was well, and there was no need to be afraid.
Uncle Frank finally became convinced, started across, froze in place. A water moccasin was wrapped tightly around his leg. It was not a poison one, so he lived, but just barely.
In the Brownlee home, everyone learned to carry a lamp when they were on the way to bed.

This happened before my time and I heard the story only a few times.
After Dad bought the farm from Ansell Hopper, a decision was made to put a full size scale just north of the cow shed. One could then weigh truck loads of grain and other farm products, including cattle.
The Brownlee brothers participated in this endeavor. While the work was in progress, there was one very long piece of lumber that was yet to be used.
How long was it?
Each man weighed in. Uncle Hugh’s number was 22 feet, and that was the highest number. The others disputed his estimate, but then he announced that it was no estimate. He had measured it.
Time passed. Finally Uncle Oscar decided that it could not possibly be 22 feet long, and he was inspired to ask the critical question.
“What did you measure it with?” he asked.
“My eye”, Uncle Hugh replied.

Sometimes the brain can trump observations.


Bob Saved Ginger!
When she was very small, Ginger fell into one of Grandma McComb's ponds. Grandma had several little ponds of water around the yard. Most were shallow and made of cement, with little sea-shells embedded in the edges. For years she kept goldfish in those ponds. One pond, designed to be a fountain and made of iron, had been welded. The rim was made from a big iron tractor wheel from which the cleats had been removed. The first tractors in use after the steam engines were huge; they had large iron wheels with big triangular cleats.
The bottom, which was cone-shaped, was made of iron. A pipe rose from the center to a height of about five feet above ground level. It was so constructed that a garden hose could be connected to the pipe . When the water was turned on, it flowed to the top of the pipe and out over a round metal piece welded near the top. In the old days, this was used on rare occasions, such as, for instance, the Fourth of July. Daddy had put a fence around the pond with a view to keeping the children out. However, it proved to be no real barrier to a child who really wanted to get in; a child could climb the fence.
Once, when we were very young, Ginger toddled out to that pond, threw her doll over the fence, then crawled over the fence to retrieve the doll -and fell into the pond.
Ginger must have been about a year and a half or two years old; she was able to walk and climb.
The conical bottom of the pond was covered with algae and was very slick, and Ginger slipped to the bottom.
I have no memory of the event. Mother always said that I reached my hand through the fence, grabbed Ginger's hand, and held on, and yelled.
Bob heard me yelling and came to the rescue. He scaled the fence and got Ginger-and the doll out of the pond.
Bob says he doesn't remember whether Ginger's head was above or under the water when he got there.
Bob saved the day. And aren't we thankful for Bob!

Note: God created McCombs able to yell; I'm just thankful that this time it served a good purpose.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Essay 53.1

Essay 53.1


As soon as the kids were judged capable of taking care of themselves, but could still pretty much do as they were told, they began their ventures to foreign countries. The “minimum” age for such learning was guessed to be about 14, though there was some variation from teen to teen. Fortunately or not, they seemed to attain such an age very quickly, and soon became a group clamoring for more. Whenever possible, grandchildren were added if they qualified.

We had a habit of inviting other family members and friends to accompany us when possible, and some of the results have been 18 of us in Kenya, 14 in England and Scotland, 14 in France, 22 in Peru, 18 in China, 11 in Egypt and 16 in Antarctica. For a number of trips there may have been only four or five of us; there were four of us in South Africa one time, and five of us were on another trip to China.

I have always believed that the monies invested in these trips were well spent, for the returns keep arriving decade after decade. Appreciations for our country grow immeasurably after a number of other countries are experienced. We also relive many of our experiences when we are together, and the howls of laughter when memories are shared make a day incredibly bright.
Even before we started traveling as a family to foreign lands we had a habit of taking the family flag with us. Ultimately there were seven stars on the flag, and thirteen stripes representing the grandchildren. The flag will show great-grandchildren when they join the tribe for future travels to foreign countries.
There follows a potpourri of pictures illustrating family behavior in various places.

The Step Pyramid, Egypt

The Summit of Huayna Picchu, Peru

With the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, China

Near the Antarctica Peninsula

At the Tower of London

Balloon trip over the Masai Mara, Kenya

At the Door of the Cathedral, Lima, Peru Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

The Karnak Temple, Egypt

Our Feluccas for Sailing Down the Nile

On the Nile with Felucca Crew

On the Antarctica Pennisula

In Colca Canyon, Peru

On one of the Floating Islands, Lake Titicacca, Peru

Each of these excursions was planned for about a year. The priorities were several;
1. It is imperative that the most be obtained for the least money
2. A “back up” plan is designed to enable surprises to be handled more easily.
3. Each person is responsible for his own stuff, and his own actions4. Scattering is OK if information and directions are left behind.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Essay 19 Strike Your Colors!

Essay 19

World War II left a good many relics scattered over the world. There was a congressional law that “new” machinery and equipment manufactured for the war and exported overseas could not be imported into the US again. As a result, I myself saw many brand new road graders and bull dozers being pushed over the cliffs of Guam into the Pacific Ocean! But there was a surfeit of equipment scattered over the atolls of the Pacific, and particularly in the Marshall Islands.

So when the Joint Task Force Seven arrived in the Marshalls for the nuclear tests of l952, many relics were placed into task force service--specifically many T-boats and M-boats were used for task force duties.

When we were working on the “up” islands (islands to the north) of Bikini Atoll in 1956, we lived in T-boats, anchored in the lagoon, and traveled to and from the islands in M-boats. Occasionally we would return to the island of Bikini for supplies, transportation to Enewetak, or Kwajalein.

Although the lagoon was normally quiescent, certainly compared to the open sea, there was sufficient motion that after two or three weeks on the T-boat the whole world developed a beautifully regular roll, soothing even to landlubbers like myself. But a trip to Bikini was welcome. There were movies there, and ice cream!

On one occasion several of us in my Group J-15 were to return to Bikini for some reason or other, and the two hour trip was quite welcome. The M-boat was run by an employee of Holmes and Narver, H&N, an AEC subcontractor. They were the equivalent of a civilian navy. The regular Navy was one of the elements of the Task Force, and they oversaw the Navy interests and activities. In truth, the civilian scientists were in charge of the show, but all principal support of airplanes, ships and communications came to us from the military.

The commander of the task force at this time was a navy two-star admiral, and his scientific deputy commander happened to be my group leader, Gaelen Felt. These two men ran the show, one for the military and one for civilians. There were other deputy commanders, one for each of the armed services.
The Navy had present at this time in the Bikini lagoon a ship to aid with task force aircraft, also commanded by an admiral--anyway, there was an admiral on board. I believe it was the USS Curtis.

It happened that J-15 was a pretty good crew, and at one time there were l5 of us in the group. So we had a group flag. It was of standard size, blue, and it had on it one white star (painted) for each of us. By coincidence of course, the flag looked a little bit like the Admiral’s flag. His two stars were sewn on so surely there was no possibility of someone thinking that we had a l5 star admiral!

On the way to Bikini, we were flying our flag on the M-boat, as we almost always did. On our way to the dock, we sailed directly past that enormous ship. By the purest chance, I was the “ranking” person aboard the M-boat, since I had a PhD. My “simulated” military rank was that of major. Everybody had to have a simulated rank for otherwise the military would not know how to treat us. But majors were sufficiently plentiful and discredited during WWII that nobody with any standing ever pays any attention to them.

Anyway, as we were drawing near--very close, actually--to the ship, it was a most impressive sight. It towered many stories above us, and was huge! Further, we observed several officers on the bridge, way up there in the sky, observing us through their enormous binoculars. And as we drew closer, the number of men on the bridge increased. We scrounged up our one pair of binocs, and looked back (really, UP!). Sure enough, they were looking right at us. I confess that at this moment the thought of the flag being the problem had not yet occurred to me. But then the radio on our M-boat crackled with our call letters, coming from the H&N communications office near the dock. We were told that they had just received an order from the carrier for us to STRIKE YOUR COLORS!

Sure enough, our flag was flying, but by what stretch of the imagination could our stars possibly outrank the admiral’s two? The M-boat operator hollered to me, “Do I have to take down the flag?” I thought hard, and for a time, too! My years of military training flashed before my eyes. The niceties of the situation were rare in precedent, requiring thought. My immediate boss was the deputy commander of the task force, and the situation was exactly the same for the admiral on the carrier, as his boss was another deputy commander! Also I knew Galen pretty well, and I had a hunch that he would not really see things the same way as admirals did.

So-o-o, after a pause, I responded “No”. There is no exclamation mark here, for I was keenly aware that I was treading new territory. It turned out that the H&N’ers were absolutely delighted by my answer, and I was not given the opportunity to reconsider. The word NO was trumpeted, first to the harbor, then to the ship. They explained that the flag belonged to the “users”, over which H&N had no jurisdiction, so of course they were helpless. We sailed on, waiting for the sky to fall.

It never did! I became a trouble-making celebrity. Galen was delighted, and no doubt he and his admiral enjoyed the story over martinis. There were ramifications, however, as I was never invited aboard that ship! (Actually, I would have been afraid to go!)

Sometime later, on Enewetak where I was in residence, I was lying on my bunk in a metal building immediately next to the building housing Gaelen and the commander. The metal window was open, as always except during a rain. There appeared a face in this window--a face belonging to a new navy commander who had just arrived on the island. He inquired about the l5-star flag flying on a pole at the door of our barracks. What was it? (Not “whose”!) We explained that it was our group flag. The commander suggested that it must be insulting to the task force Commander. (His flag was flying outside his quarters, immediately to the north.) We were surprised to hear this, and said surely not. He then asked us to take down the flag. Having survived this kind of irresponsible thinking before, I was much more confident. I politely told him that we would do so when ordered to do so by our boss, Dr. Galen Felt. We heard no more.