So why is the place called “Brainwash Butte”? Was it tagged that way by some deranged prospector or rancher? Maybe some sinister facet of TTR? Or just something stupid? As is often true in life, stupid usually wins.
In the early Spring of 1995, I was still learning about the mysteries of the Nellis Range, and was interested in what other viewing spots might exist. Tikaboo had already turned out to be a great find, but I was sure there had to be others like it. Study of the maps suggested Silverbow, and my wife and I headed out for a look. At that time of year, we found the road pretty wet and slimy, and we weren’t able to drive all the way to the end. We stopped well short of beautiful downtown Silverbow, and hiked about a half mile north to gain a view of the TTR/S4 area. We were quite impressed and pleased with the panorama. Very beautiful place, unlike the barrenness of Tikaboo Valley. After being buzzed by low flying B-1s, we left the location, carefully noting all the mileages and mapping out a route allowing access without being seen from the TTR facility. It’s not necessarily the quickest way in, but it IS sneaky. And sneaky is what we live for.
In July of 1995, there was a rather unusual gathering of various Interceptor loser-types, initially focussed on the wackiness of the 50th anniversary of the Trinity blast. Seemed like a good excuse to poke around our favorite secret facility, a mere state away.
The Minister of Words, scammer extraordinare that he is, managed to bag a full-on humvee, an assortment of night vision devices and a thermal imager. All this under the guise of “product testing” (for a magazine with will remain nameless, but was very popular in a science sort of way), which was perfectly true. Thus equipped, we decided to camp out a night at Silverbow and see what we could see. The Minister and Agent X piloted the humvee, and I had my 4wd camper. (As an aside, we had OUR Texas Instruments non-cryogenic thermal imager out there a full year before the Cammodudes had theirs, so nyaa, nyaa, nyaa…)
I had some concerns around how we were going to deal with the logistics of getting to the top of the hill above Silverbow. The humvee had a chance of making the off-road climb and maybe getting most of the way there, but my vehicle certainly couldn’t. The other options were carrying the gear, but we are all pretty much lazy asses, and the Minister is one of those NY city types that like elevators. There was always the option of just camping at the bottom and telling everyone we had been at the top, a time-tested Interceptor favorite! Fortunately, fate intervened.
On my first visit to Silverbow, I noted a number of potential campsites in the scenic adjacent valley, and also spotted an interesting set of double tracks going up the south ridge of the valley. On our way in this time, we stopped and walked up the tracks and found we didn’t need to go any further…..It was a great view, better than Silverbow! The humvee made it right up the steep slope, and it took me only a couple of runs. We found ourselves sitting on a nice, bare, exposed hill top, with a commanding view of the TTR valley. Due to the exposure, I decided to hide my camper back down near the bottom in the Junipers while the humvee remained on top. It was a nice olive drab, and looked very military issue. No one would question a humvee on the hill. Having all our gear on top, we then settled in for the day.
Did I mention it was exposed? Oh yeah, I did. Did I mention it was July? Why yes I did. Would any normal sort of folks figure it just might be HOT??! We spent most of the day cowering under one of the few bushes on top, trying to stay out of the sun, like cammo-clad lizards. Towards the latter part of the day, I went down to the camper and returned with chilled refreshments I had acquired in a shop in Las Vegas. Knowing the rather strange tastes of the Interceptors, I had picked up several bottles of “Fukola Cola” (and no, I’m not making up the name), and something called “Brainwash Cola”. Nasty, vile colored stuff. Brainwash was the clear favorite.
Later in the afternoon, the heat eased a bit, we crawled out of our shadowy lair to set up the ritual lawnchairs. We were able to at last spend a bit of time viewing the surroundings with the scopes. The air was a little hazy, but as those of you who have been there know, it is a pretty amazing sight. Then, just after sunset, things became phenomenal. For a period of about 15 minutes, just before twilight set in, the visibility became crystal clear. Everything we could see, all the way to Area 19 in the NTS just jumped out at us.
As the sun set further, things faded to black, and we began to be buzzed by Nighthawks. No, not the planes…..the birds. These little monsters would skim just above the ground in search of flying insects, and whip by just over our heads. A bit disconcerting at first, but we grew used to it. The only activity of note that evening was a large aircraft taking off late from TTR, making a couple of circles over the base, then quickly landed and hustled back to its hangar.
The next groggy morning, we decided such a fine place needed an appropriate name. It being early, Brainwash Butte was about as stupid a name as we could muster, so that was it. Just another example of product placement. We were paid handsomely the makers of Brainwash to name the location. We left an empty bottle of Brainwash on the top to sanctify the spot and I added the place to my road directions to Silverbow.
Interestingly, my next trip back to Brainwash was many years later and no trace was to be found of the bottle we left. My guess is that Brainwash Cola dissolves glass….