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Readin' Round-Up

By Dave Remley
Raptors of New Mexico, Jean-Luc E. Cartron, ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010. Cloth, 710 pp., $50.00

Cartron gathers the writings of 41 contributing authors to provide a comprehensive treatment of all hawks, eagles, kites, vultures, falcons, and owls breeding or wintering in New Mexico, or migrating through the State.

The first book to focus specifically on our birds of prey, Raptors of New Mexico draws on numberless scientific studies and surveys and includes data trom rehab people and shelters across the State on diseases and injuries sustained by raptors. Included are stories from the field such as rare observations of skirmishes in the skies and clumsy fledglings crashing to the ground.

Profusely illustrated with more than seven hundred color photos, this wonderful book celebrates both New Mexico's birds of prey and our State's natural heritage.

All birders must own it!

Buy now direct from UNM Press. Call 1-800-249-7737. ~ DR

 


BOOK REVIEWS BY DAVE REMLEY
· Arena Legacy: The heritage of American Rodeo
· The Crash of TWA Flight 260
· From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches, 1874-1886
· Manhattan Project to the Santa Fe Institute
· Raptors of New Mexico


 
 

Manhattan Project to the Santa Fe Institute: The Memoirs of George A. Cowan, by George A. Cowan. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010, cloth, 175pp., $27.95.

George A. Cowan is one of the very few men and women still living who brought "the Atomic Age" into being. He was a sophomore student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1938 when the announcement appeared in the newspapers that German scientists had just produced nuclear fission. Cowan cut out the historic announcement from his paper and brought the article to class. His professor then gave a lecture on the subject, concluding that the use of fission to build a bomb was unlikely.

After earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry, Cowan went on to Princeton for graduate work where he was invited to join the university's cyclotron research program. By now, two World Wars were raging, one in Europe with the Germans, the other in the Pacific with the Japanese.

Meantime, the top secret "Manhattan Project" was underway at the University of Chicago. Manhattan's object was to create nuclear fission that might be used to build a bomb like no other the world had ever seen, and to accomplish it before the Germans did.

In 1942 Princeton's cyclotron scientists were moved to Chicago to join Manhattan. Cowan was one of this group. He remained in Chicago until after the project successfully produced controlled fission (of all places, in a pile placed under the University of Chicago football stadium, presumably where spies would be least likely to notice). It is indeed a historic site, in importance not unlike White Sands in New Mexico where the first bomb was actually tested. About 1956 I visited the Manhattan site myself.

When the project was completed at the University of Chicago, Cowan moved to Los Alamos National Laboratory where he remained at work in research in nuclear chemistry and physics for nearly forty years. Late in life he was a founder of the Santa Fe Institute, a community of students devoted to discussing ways of "finding common ground" between the worlds of natural science and of general human affairs, a most difficult subject, more difficult probably than developing nuclear fission.

This is a book that students of the nuclear age will want to read. Cowan knew what went on. He knew the processes themselves, and he knew the great names of the time, those who developed the knowledge that produced the terrors of the bomb and the human horrors of our age -- the Oppenheimers, the Edward Tellers, and many others. ~ DR


The Crash of TWA Flight 260, by Charles M. Williams. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010, pbk., 250pp.

At 7:O5 a. m. on the morning of February 19, 1955, Trans World Airlines flight # 260 departed Albuquerque airport. She carried thirteen passengers and her normal crew of three: Captain Ivan Spong, First Officer Jesse J. Creason, and Flight Hostess Sharon Schoening. The aircraft was a Martin 404 "Skyliner," a popular twin engine, nose wheel type of her day, a smaller partner to the Lockheed Constellation, the famous "Connie," the big four engine airliner. Flight # 260 had begun in San Francisco the day before, with a stop in Las Vegas, and an overnight with a crew change in Albuquerque.

Her flight plan would take her to Santa Fe and eventually to Baltimore, where she would turn about to retrace her way to San Francisco. The flight was regularly scheduled, the aircraft proven, the captain had flown thousands of hours. The weather this morning though was unusually thick. Heavy clouds with rain and snow blocked the sky toward the north. High winds buffeted the surface. The lower foothills to the east were visible, but the Sandia Mountains were not.

Tower sent # 260 off on runway one one toward the southeast. After lift off, she was to bank around to a northwesterly heading at 9,000 feet until she cleared the north end of the Sandia Mountains. Maintaining that altitude, she was to turn northeasterly into Santa Fe for landing. Flight altitude was considerably lower than the high ridge of the Sandia Mountains. Since visibility would be zero, the flight had to be IFR, on instruments. The pilots could see little or nothing out the windscreens.

At least two people last saw # 260 airborne. Three minutes after takeoff, airport Ground Service Help saw her flying east a half mile north of the airport. Seconds later, an Air Force colonel, who happened to be standing out in front of his house, saw her a mile and a half northeast of the airport. He remembered noting at the time that if she was eastbound, she was too low to clear the Sandias, and if northbound, she had to be off course.

At just seconds after 7:12 a. m., Tower called # 260 to confirm her position in order to clear another flight for takeoff. Tower called repeatedly, "TWA 260. ABQ Approach Control. Over!" Pause. "TWA 260. ABQ Approach Control. Over!" There was no answer. By then, just seven minutes and a few seconds after takeoff, the pilots had banked their Skyliner hard left and raised her nose to drive her head on into a craggy pinnacle of the Sandia Mountains. Minutes later she was reported overdue at Santa Fe.

Immediately began a monumental search followed by years of investigations. Fifty-five years later, the persistence of a handful of doubters would finally answer the questions and would produce this unusual book, a full-scale study of the many, many facets of a modern airline disaster. At first, the CAB report had it all wrong. Pilots Spong and Creason were even accused by some of purposely committing suicide and taking their passengers with them. But the long time commitment of a fellow TWA captain, Larry DeCelles, and of the author of this book, among others, finally cleared the crew of fault; and the crash was at last charged to a known design problem in essential equipment aboard this aircraft and others of her time.

Frightening? Yes. If you're a pilot, or if you enjoy flying, read this book to see for yourself. It's an experience you won't want to miss. ~ DR


Arena Legacy: The Heritage of American Rodeo, by Richard C. Rattenbury. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, 416 pp, 620 color and b/w plates, $ 65.

This is the most impressive book ever published on rodeo, the West’s contribution to sporting contests worldwide! Drawing on the vast collections of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Arena Legacy traces the history of the sport from its beginnings in Spanish, Mexican, and California cow culture to the National Finals contest, the World’s Series of rodeo.

The major feature of the book is its brilliant array of photos. Opening with snapshots of cowboy Clay Wilkes on a wild-eyed steer; and cowgirls Bessie and Ruby Dickey at a rodeo in Tucumcari about 1918, the photographic display continues with plates of contestants, their equipment, and the trophies they won over the span of a hundred years: saddles, spurs, chaps, boots, ropes, buckles, trophy cups, and Stetson hats of the cowboys and cowgirls. The huge ten and twelve-inch book weighs four pounds!

Renowned New Mexico champions are here: Charmayne James, all-time winning female athlete, appears on her special horse, Scamper. Ropers Troy Fort and Bob Crosby on his horse Nickel; Homer Pettigrew, maybe the top steer wrestler of all time; Everett Bowman, world all-around Champ and president of the first Cowboys’ Union; and three Coopers --- Tuffy, Roy, and Jimmie.

Whether you rodeo yourself, or just love to watch the action from the bleachers, get this book. For cow people, there’s nothing like it! You’ll be glad you did, and your kids and grandkids will thank you.

Order OU Press Books by calling 1-800-627-7377
Or online from ~ www.oupress.com


From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches, 1874-1886, by Edwin R. Sweeney. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, cloth, 706 pp, $39.95

This new book answers vital questions about the late 19th century Chiricahua Apaches in southern New Mexico, Eastern Arizona, and West Texas. It is the third, and last, of a trilogy by Edwin R. Sweeney, the great student of the Chiricahua people and the author of Cochise (1991) and Mangas Coloradas (1998).

Sweeney argues convincingly that Office of Indian Affairs stupidity and bungling caused the Chiricahuas' increasing hostility toward settlers, miners and soldiers after 1874. Having settled them on two reservations in their homelands --- Ojo Caliente in eastern New Mexico and Chiricahua in southeastern Arizona --- Indian Affairs, for the sake of "efficiency" decided to settle ALL the People on the hated San Carlos Reservations between Fort Thomas and Globe, Arizona. First, this move forced them out of their mountainous homelands. Second, it settled bands that were traditional enemies, side by side. Third, it put hundreds of them on the Gila Flats --- the Gila River flows across the southern San Carlos Reservation --- where they died from mosquito-borne malaria, unknown in their beloved high country.

And fourth, corrupt Indian Affairs agents and inspectors spent more time prospecting for precious metals than looking out for their charges. After the move to San Carlos, Apaches literally fought in order to die until Geronimo finally surrendered them. Later, the People were "removed" to prisons in the East. Perhaps the greatest value of this book though, is the new information it offers from Sweeney's remarkably extensive research in Mexican and American archives, some only recently opened to historians.

OU Press has just released this essential book. Interested in the Apache story? Buy a copy while you can get a first edition, first printing. Enjoy reading it as you watch its dollar value grow.

 



   


 

 
         
 

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