About two miles before the locked gates to Tatum Salt Dome lied a dirt-road entrance to Tom Breshears’ home he has inhabited since 1974.
A half-mile down the dirt road, his old wooden house appeared with overgrown grass and trees and old equipment littering his lot. On Breshears’ farm, there were large bales of hay and two large tractors.
Breshears, 68, lived in Baxterville, Mississippi, a city situated next to Purvis, most of his life and remembered the morning in October 1964 when three distinctive ripples shook the earth three miles from his parent’s home.
“It was something to see,” he said, describing the scene that looked exactly like the ripples a rock makes when it is thrown into a puddle.
Breshears sat on a rusted tractor scoop wearing blue snap front cotton overalls, a Nasonex camouflage cap and a silver watch. He steadied himself with a wooden cane tied with colorful scraps of fabric, tattered at its edges and talked about the memory he carried 50 years later.
Eighteen-year-old Breshears was just released from the hospital from knee surgery a few days before the blast. He lived in his parents’ house a few miles away during this time. The government told residents that the test was scheduled for 10 a.m.
Breshears said he walked outside in his yard and sat down on the ground.
He said an engineer drove by his home and said, “Oh my God, get up off the ground. This thing will burst your insides.” Breshears stood up and shortly after, the shock waves began.
“You could see the trees moving up in the air,” he said. Breshears also described the ripples as a “three-and-half foot terrace row running at you about 75 to 100 yard-lot wide.”
During the blast, the area was strangely quiet with the blast being 2,700 feet below the surface.
“My mom and dad lost 14 head of cows that day,” he said. “Some (were) only three or four years old.”
Breshears remembered that cracked walls and ceilings were not the only part of the atomic bomb aftermath. Once the blast dissipated, residents’ water turned off. He said more reported damage was in the areas surrounding Baxterville, such as Hattiesburg being only about 28 miles away.
“But it wasn’t their fault. You must remember that it’s not the (government’s) fault,” he said sarcastically when discussing the community effects of Project Dribble.
According to Tatum Family Business Records from USM Digital Collections, more than a thousand property claims were made in the months after the test and owners received maximum compensation of $5,000. Today, Breshears’ rendition marks the anniversary of an event comparable to a “shot felt ‘round the world.”
Submitted Video by Chuck Cook