Over the past few months, every American has given more thought than usual to the possibility of a nuclear conflict. That’s especially true for Ed and Pam Butcher, who, because of their proximity to a Minuteman III missile, think about it every day. “Ed’s family had been on this land since his grandparents homesteaded here in 1913, but rarely had life on the ranch felt so precarious … ‘I wonder sometimes what else could go wrong,’ Ed said, as he looked over a hill toward the west end of their ranch, where an active U.S. government nuclear missile was buried just beneath the cow pasture.” The Butchers have had a missile launch site on their Montana property since the Cold War, and they’re not alone. “About 400 of those missiles remain active and ready to launch at a few seconds notice in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. They are located on bison preserves and Indian reservations. They sit across from a national forest, behind a rodeo grandstand, down the road from a one-room schoolhouse, and on dozens of private farms.” WaPo’s always excellent Eli Saslow (Gift Article): What it’s like to live with a bomb stronger than 20 Hiroshimas in a time of rising worldwide tensions. “An Air Force team is stationed in an underground bunker a few miles away, ready to fire the missile at any moment if the order comes. It would tear out of the silo in about 3.4 seconds and climb above the ranch at 10,000 feet per second. It was designed to rise 70 miles above Earth, fly across the world in 25 minutes and detonate within a few hundred yards of its target. The ensuing fireball would vaporize every person and every structure within a half-mile. The blast would flatten buildings across a five-mile radius. Secondary fires and fatal doses of radiation would spread over dozens more miles, resulting in what U.S. military experts have referred to as ‘total nuclear annihilation.'” (It turns out that, give or take a couple expletives, non-experts call it the exact same thing.)