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KAREN A. BYARS Les and Cindy Breeding at the Pantex main gate Nuremberg Defense in a Texas Court BY BUCK RAMSEY Amarillo ON THE LAST DAY of March, 1988, Carson County Sheriff Connie Reed got a telephone call from Les Breeding. Breeding informed Reed that three people would kneel in protest to block traffic early the next morning on the roadway entrance to Pantex, the assembly plant where all the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal are armed. Spring, as sometimes happens up here, had made a false start and brought on the blossoms, but they would all freeze before the week was out. Blowing snow was forecast for the next morning, something the sheriff considered mentioning but decided would make no difference; the following day would be Good Friday and the symbolism of the day was integral to the act. And this had happened before. Breeding had plea. bargained for a $600 fine for a similar offense on the Good Friday previous, and in August of 1986 he had helped negotiate similar fines in a similar incident involving a group of protestors known as the Pantex Seven. The sheriff notified his people and Pantex security. Breeding and his companions at the Peace Farm, located across the highway from the weapon’s plant, notified the Amarillo press corps. The incident came off as planned, except perhaps, traffic might have been impeded more by the three carloads of county troops, the security guards, and press than by the three who knelt for a moment in the entrance before almost eagerly allowing themselves to be loaded in county vehicles to be taken to jail. “It was mighty cold,” the sheriff would testify at their trial, “and we were all ready to get out of there.” The three arrested were Les Breeding, his wife, Cindy Breeding, and Ellen Gruver. Les Breeding grew up in the Panhandle, graduated in 1973 from Hereford High School, and later from West Texas State University. He worked mostly as a counselor in Christian outreach programs for a few years before going to the University of Ohio, with plans to get a degree in sociology. While there, he and some friends watched a television documentary about Pantex that revealed its awesome role in our Poet Buck Ramsey lives in Amarillo. country’s war preparations. A friend pointed out that the facility was near Breeding’s hometown. That was when Les Breeding started thinking about “getting involved.” The upshot of it all was that he returned to Amarillo, met Cindy and married her in 1986, and together they managed to borrow enough money to buy 20 acres of farmland on Highway 60, across from the spot where all rail shipments enter and leave Pantex. From their small plot of land they can monitor, in particular, nuclear missile traffic from the plant. They dug a well, began improvising quarters, and called the place the Peace Farm. Cindy had grown up on the Texas coast and was teaching high school in Clear Creek when her students asked her to sponsor a “Stop Nuclear War Club.” She was soon heavily involved in the Peace Movement. In 1985, she moved to Amarillo. As an English teacher at Alamo Catholic High School, she became an associate of Bishop Mathiesen, by far the most prominent of that fairly small faction of area citizens speaking out against Pantex operations. Ellen Gruver spent her first 13 years in Macon, Georgia, moved with her family to Lubbock, where she graduated from high school in 1973, then moved to Amarillo where she married an army man. She enlisted in the army with him and was discharged in 1981, got a degree in Animal Science from West Texas State in 1984, and for a while was in vet school at Texas A&M. But she had attended a peace camp gathering with the Breedings and others and was unable to shake its influence. She threw in full time with the Peace Farm in 1987. Shall we call them the “Peace Farm Three?” One recalls the days of the Catonsville Nine, the Milwaukee Fourteen, others and all those moving reports by Francine DuPlessix Gray, when the left had the sympathetic attention of so many of America’s best writers. This cause is surely as important, and the players, if more obscure, are no less dedicated and courageous. One gets the feeling that all those invisible engineers of evil are more implacable and pleased with themselves than ever. I have come away from the modest set-to that is the subject of this report with the impression that the biggest difference in those incidents and this one excepting, of course, the general tenor of the times THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9