The Los Alamos Historical Society presented the Los Alamos Centennial Celebration and Gala at the Los Alamos Historical Museum in September. My painting “Los Alamos Before the Storm” was installed in the museum for the celebration, and still hangs there today.
I’m glad I followed through on my father’s encouragement to paint a scene of a LARS boy being tested on his jumping skills. Father told me that his father, Fermor Church, had sat in the field with a clipboard to help him judge the boy’s skills. My great-grandfather, Ashley Pond, started the ranch school where boys were trained to become capable men.
Grandmother Peggy used to tell me of her joy in wandering free on the Pajarito Plateau as a child, and riding alone across the Valles Caldera as a young woman. Los Alamos was a peaceful place where wind and sun caressed lizards sunning on silent aged cliffs, which held the stories of those who had lived there before. As I formulated my painting, I realized that I needed to include the dissolution of that quiet peace. A letter from the Secretary of War finally left no choice to Los Alamos Ranch School, and the land was taken to create a different kind of cloud than the blessed rain cloud historically danced, sung, and prayed for in New Mexico.
It was thrilling to be a part of the celebration and to interact with individuals who knew my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I learned about letters my grandmother Peggy had written to a Pueblo woman, which her family still cherish. I learned to deal graciously with statements of “it is an honor to have you here.” The awareness that I was representing previous generations, and listening to praise they had earned, grew with every similar greeting.
I was very happy to say hello to the horses and courageous young boy scouts who put on a flag presentation for those of us gathered near Fuller Lodge. The boys rode dressed in period Boy Scout uniforms. They looked so much like to the “old days” that I could almost see the ghosts of other boys with them, who had ridden past the Lodge in similar ceremonies. For a moment, we were back in peaceful days in Los Alamos, when boys were taught excellent academics, learned discipline, spent time in nature, and had their own horse to ride and care for in preparation to be strong, capable leaders.