SUMMER IN THE SOUTH

I really can’t think of much that I dislike about living in the South…ummmm…summertime humidity and mosquitoes can be found anywhere. Right? Sometimes we Southerners only have two seasons – “damn cold or damn hot” … occurring in just the blink of an eye. An old South Carolina saying tells us a lot about our climate. “If you don’t like the weather now just wait a minute. It will change.” I find this to be true during the spring and fall.

I remember a “damn Yankee” football player from the early 90’s who had joined us from one of the “I” states, Indiana I think, and who, before our first August football practice, explained to me that “I can handle the heat. It gets hot in Indiana, too.” An hour later, after his eyes had rolled back in his head, I was cooling him off with ice water soaked towels and forcing him to take sips of Gatorade. Yes, it does get hot in Indiana but, “It ain’t the heat in the South. It’s the humidity!”

When Linda Gail and I moved into our little “piece of heaven” we had no air conditioning. Open windows and ceiling fans moved warm and humid air and reminded us of our youth…except for the ceiling fans we did not have during either one of our youths. More concerned with conserving heat during the wintertime, unlike” flat land country” farmhouses, ours had eight foot ceilings instead of ten footers and late in the day our lower ceilings would trap heat. A lot of late evenings were spent talking on the porch until it was cool enough to go to bed. A breeze might bring the smell of honeysuckle while we listened to the cicadas and other night sounds. I might enjoy a cigar while staying hydrated with a few adult beverages…until the mosquitoes came for dinner. No matter how much citronella we burned or how many fans we used, the little blood suckers seemed to always find us…and still do.

Mosquitoes are just a fact of life in the South and I praise God they don’t grow to the size of vultures. On a trip to the coast I remember making an impromptu nature call where the only facility available was an old fire road in the middle of a pine forest off South Carolina’s Highway 17. As I completed my task, I looked down to insure nothing got caught in the zipper and could see a cloud of mosquitoes attempting to make off with my man part. Itchy and it was in November! F&%K it! I DID zip up too quickly! For some reason Linda Gail thought it was hilarious until the little vampires who had followed me in to the car decided she was sweeter meat than I was. I laughed and I laughed and I laughed.

We have “stinging” insects too. Wasps, hornets, bees, even a little bitty thing that might be called a “no see um” … if I could see um’. Generally, I dislike them all. Specifically, I hate the yellow jacket. The little “bastards!” They are small hornets who build nests underground, under leaves or in hollow stumps. Related to bald faced hornets and common wasps, they are much faster, more aggressive and make a honey bee sting seem like a French kiss from your beloved. If you step into a yellow jacket’s nest, you will not get stung once but several times and the little bastards will pursue you. Talk about holding a grudge.

The first time I stepped into a nest I got stung a dozen times, all from the knees down. When I finished beating them off of me I found my legs covered in “stinging” whelps that slowly, over a matter of days, turned into itchy, oozing wounds that resembled cigarette burns despite being treated with Linda Gail’s “old time remedy,” chewing tobacco and Arm and Hammer soda. This was also despite initially wearing heavy blue jeans, boots and heavy socks. I say initially because I “shucked” my pants pretty quick. Over time I have found it better to wear shorts. You get stung fewer times before being alerted to “run like hell” and the wounds are not nearly as bad. It’s as if the yellow jackets, when met with “blue jean” resistance, really got pissed off. I stepped into a nest while using my weed eater near the back door of the house one morning. Luckily I saw the cloud of “little bastards” erupt from their hole and I ran for the safety of our closed in back porch. Yelling, slapping and running, somehow all at the same time, I found my “beloved” slamming the door in my face and screaming, “Don’t come in here they will just follow you in!” Thank you SOOOOOO very much.

As I related in an earlier story I am not the only one to run afoul of the “little bastards.” One of my goats stuck his nose into a yellow jacket’s nest and received numerous stings to the head and neck. With a leather collar around his neck the swelling had nowhere to go causing his head to swell, and swell and swell. By the time I rescued him, his head was the size of a basketball and I was afraid he would begin to chock if I did not release him from the collar. As soon as I cut through the collar his head began to “deflate” and I worried that he would die when the poison hit his heart. He didn’t and just went back to eating. Goats are simple creatures…unlike my wife who would have let the goat come in regardless of how many yellow jackets followed him. It’s good to know where I rate on her hierarchy of animals that she loves.

Few things that I hate about the South? I just got my first yellow jacket sting of the summer. Luckily, just one and I have found their little underground lair of pain. I will make the “little bastards” pay when night time falls. I will come calling with my little can of “payback” and for a brief time there will be one less thing to hate about the South.

This is an excerpt from the soon to be released book “Through the Front Gate”
Don Miller has also written three other books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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OH THE “HUMIDITY”

I was having a vision of a “Donnie” shaped “Hindenburg” bursting into flames while crashing to the ground or maybe I should be having the Mr. Carlson, Les Nessman moment, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” No that doesn’t fit the story because I despise flying and I am somehow both burning up and drowning in my own…sweat. If I were a Southern lady I would be “glistening.” I’m not even a Southern gentleman, so I am just drowning in my own sweat and the biological process is not functioning as it should. Sweating is not keeping me cool because evaporation is not occurring. Instead it is as if I am running within a thick, heavy and wet wool blanket.

The Yogi Berra voice in my head repeats the quote, “It ain’t the heat it is the humidity.” After thirty-nine years of coaching spring sports, always interrupted with an early spring or late winter snow storm along with many days with wind chills near zero, I swore I would never gripe about summer heat again. I haven’t but I did leave myself an out with the humidity.

Running on roads and paths located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Escarpment can be challenging. I cannot run or walk and get away from hills unless I get in my car and drive somewhere flatter and sometimes I do. I should have done so this morning. Instead it was a half mile up, a half mile down, followed by a mile up, a mile “sorta” flat and then reverse the map…except before reversing the map I was dead or at least in the process of drowning in my own sweat. My feet were squishing inside of my shoes and we won’t discuss what is happening within my “breathable and perspiration wicking” underwear. I am reminded on a young football player who had moved in from one of the “I’’ states in the early nineties. We had discovered that withholding water did not make you stronger, it in fact could make you dead, and were moving to unlimited “rehydration” breaks. During a break I noticed the young man was not rehydrating and told him to drink. He said that he was okay that “It gets hot in the ‘I’ state too you know.” Yeah, but it ain’t the heat….” Fifteen minutes later we were fanning him and covering him with wet and cold towels after his eyes had rolled back in his head.

Several years ago I participated in the Morris Broadband Half Marathon on top of Caesar’s Head at DuPont State Forest or the “Half from Hell” as I like to refer to it. The race is up and down at an altitude I was not used to and to add to my discomfort, twenty degrees warmer than I had trained due to an early spring heat wave that included high humidity. At least the mosquitos and gnats had not come out yet. During the last mile, which was cruelly uphill to the finish, I gathered what little strength I had left to pass a young woman. As I neared her I realized she was in a conversation with herself and it wasn’t a nice conversation. She was using the words f@#$ and motherF@#$ in ways just not meant to go together. As I passed, I asked if she was okay. She responded with “I left f@#$ing Ohio two days ago to run in this Motherf@#$ing race. When I left, it was thirty-two F@#$king degrees. I drove a thousand f@#$ing miles to run in this f@#$ing s^&%.” “Well bless your heart.”

We both finished. I even finished second in my age group although there weren’t that many in my age group foolish enough to run it. An hour and a half later, on the winding road down to the flat lands, I passed out…while driving. Somehow I managed to get the jeep off of the road before doing so and could not figure out why Linda Gail was yelling at me to wake up. Now that was a weird dream that wasn’t. “Oh the ‘humidity’” I guess. I am home now and it has been an hour and half. I guess I am okay…for now, despite not having the energy to go to church. God forgive me for my language, for failing to go to church, for…every other sin I have committed.

A friend of mine in the know says it is better to run in the middle of the day when the temperatures are high but the humidity is low. Something about the heat index I guess. I might try it but do have a few questions for him. “How do you know if you are not a runner, and you are not.” and “When is the humidity ever low for the next three months?”

More humorous nonfiction by Don Miller is available at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

DEVIL ON MY SHOULDER

…and in my pants I might add. In the movie “Animal House,” Larry’s evil conscience extorts him to “F@#$ her, F@#$ her brains out!” Larry’s good conscience counters with “For shame! Lawrence, I’m surprised at you!” As the scene plays in my head, the evil conscience takes on the voices of every male friend I had in a kind of “choir from hell” while the good conscience takes on the angelic voice of my mother. Although the movie doesn’t come out until almost ten years later, it characterizes the period of my teenage years that finally ended with my loss of innocence…while I was just barely STILL a teenager. Rest in Peace virginity, you are gone forever but like a song said, “gone but not forgotten, dreadful sorry” …and it was NOT lost without putting up a fight. It also reminds me of my Mother’s admonishment, delivered in an angelic voice that may or may not have been hers and harps playing in the background, “Your virginity is a gift from God and once you give it away you can’t get it back so make sure you give it to someone worthy of it.” According to my Mother God’s greatest gift should only be given on my wedding night. Sorry Mom. Christmas came early I guess. After the fifteen seconds it took to lose it, I had to wonder, “What’s the big deal and why would I want it back?” Well I guess it was a big deal for me but a brief deal for my partner. I did better the second time…I think.

Male-female sexual dynamics have always been confusing to me and I refuse to take all of the blame for my confusion. I also don’t claim to be the only person afflicted with the disease. At least I hope I’m not. When it came to the subject of sex, I paid rapt attention like most adolescent boys…and I guess adolescent girls. I aspired to be an honor student. The problem was a lack of information. What little available information there was tended to be conflicting and often quite useless. There was no handbook for us, unless you count the Bible, and our “education” was mostly delivered at church, by our parents, best buddies or bragging upper-classmen. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn we found the latter two sources to be the most interesting. According to the church, premarital sex was a sin punishable by “hellfire and damnation” which did not sound like fun. Pretty much any fun was deemed a sin by the Church of my youth. At a summer revival I found myself gazing longingly at the visiting preacher’s drop dead gorgeous daughter while day dreaming about…” IT.” The minister of course was delivering a loud and lively message on the evils of the modern world including but not limited to premarital and extramarital sex. Why would you put heaven on the front pew and then try to convince me to stay away from it? Later as I looked across the aisle at Elizabeth, another object of my confusion, I thought “Oh how I wish….” Suddenly, I could almost smell sulfur being given off by brimstone burning in hell. Okay, maybe if I do that other thing until I just need glasses. I know that’s a sin tooooooo!

During my Junior High and Senior High School years, I, like most normal males of the period, pitted my religious and parental admonishments against the temptations that seemed to present themselves at every turn: The voluptuous classmate who thought the key to open any door was located in her bra, the petite brunette who wanted to practice her kissing techniques after choir practice…okay, that’s unfair, I was a willing participant and to be honest the key that opened my door WAS in her bra and I reached for it as often as she would allow me. I also had my on again, off again girlfriend, Brenda Leigh who could ramp up my hormone driven libido just by walking into an area with the same zip code. On again and off again had nothing to do with our activities WHICH always managed to stop just short of …heaven. There was always that motherly admonishment delivered by the good conscience on my shoulder and the fear of “burning in hell.” Brenda Leigh should have been wearing a low-cut, red pants suit accessorized with devil’s horns. I know she prodded me quite often with her pitch fork. I probably worried more about hellfire than the potential of pregnancies or “the clap.” I have to giggle over present day social correctness. For some reason saying that YOU GOT THE CLAP (or worse) sounds much more ominous than YOU GOT AN STD.

Just dating began as a challenge for such a socially inept guy as me. My first date was to be a fall dance for late preteens or very early teens that Charlene had invited me to attend at her church. Charlene was a cute, pleasingly cubby (I guess you could insert “full chested” instead of chubby) blond that was destined to be in my class from the first grade through graduation. My parents were to chauffer us to the big dance and her parents would transport us back a couple of hours later except it never happened. I awoke that Saturday morning filled with anxious anticipation and was greeted with a vision in my bathroom mirror of the world’s largest “goob” sitting squarely in the center of my forehead. Mt. Everest had nothing on this angry red blob. Nicknames like “rhino boy” or “horny” suddenly popped in my head as quickly as “Mt. Saint Pimple” had popped onto my forehead. I also felt heated and queasy. By date time I felt that I was burning up and had spent serious prayer time in front of the porcelain alter. Flu was the diagnosis but I don’t know. I feared that it might have just been a precursor of my love life to come.

As I transitioned from high school to college my virginity was still intact and seemed as heavy as if it were a millstone hanging around my neck. I didn’t think about it every minute of the day but it was always there, lurking in the shadows of my mind just waiting for Reggie “Good-Knockers” to walk by. In the fall of 1968, I’m sure I wasn’t the only virginal guy roaming the halls of Brokaw Dorm but the condition was not something guys talk about. Guys talk about what they would do to so and so if they had the chance, not about the fact they had not had the chance. Thinking that Brenda Leigh’s “stern sheets” were in my rear view mirror, I attempted to get into the swing of campus life and despite not having transportation or a lot of money, I did manage a couple of dates, one with a leggy Pennsylvania Dutch girl and later with a cute freckled red head that would end up auditioning to be ex-wife number one. She would win the audition but not until three years later. Before that could happen Brenda Leigh would re-enter, re-exit and then re-enter my life…only to re-exit again, but not before adding to my confusion…. More to come later…maybe.

An irreverent look at what makes men male: small brains and floppy parts. Don Miller’s second book is a sixty-year non-scientific study of jockstraps, cups, transition and relationships. For a great weekend read you may purchase FLOPPY PARTS at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A GOAT IN THE BATHROOM

Timing is everything…or nothing. We had just completed tearing the old kitchen, pantry, back porch and wash room off of our old farm house. Renovations had begun! Cooking was taking place on the Weber kettle grill, what dishes we were doing were washed in the bathroom sink and Linda Gail’s washer and drier were now located under a hemlock tree, connected electrically with a drop cord and to water by a garden hose, or in the Southern language, a hose pipe. Into this environment of flux came Nae Nae.

We were working on raising a small herd of goats to maintain a large hillside and deeply cut stream bank covered with the southern scourge, kudzu. We had tried to kill it with Round Up, something I was scared to do since our location was so near water. We had also attempted to burn it. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BURN KUDZU! Kudzu likes to be burned and comes back twice as fierce and will grow two feet per day in optimum growing conditions. Burning it gave it optimum growing conditions. We were told introducing goats would control kudzu so let me introduce the goats.

Claude and Claudette, named for former owner Claude Sherriff. Nugene and Nicolette, named for former owner Eugene Nichols. Newt, named for his loss of baby making apparatuses, as in “Newt-or.” Offspring Sha-Na-Na rounded out the herd who had all been named by Linda Gail. All, except Newt, were American Alpine milking goats and because of their genetics had the endearing habit of climbing to the highest point available. The top of your pick-up truck cab or tractor seat, and if young enough, to the top of your head. Not so endearing was their habit of butting…especially if you happened to bend over for some reason…and it really didn’t matter which end got butted. Getting butted between the eyes by a Billy with a three-foot horn spread will stun you just for a second.

Our youngest, Sha-Na-Na, was “with child” and picked this particular “not so good a time” to deliver. The delivery was both a blessing and a sorrow. Nae-Nae entered the world as a breech birth after much effort from both Sha-Na-Na and ourselves. Sha-Na-Na would not survive, the sorrow, and we would be left with a little bundle of joy we had no idea how to raise, Nae-Nae. A phone call to our vet educated us on what was called “colostrum,” which is best described as the mother’s “first milk,” the milk loaded with everything needed for a healthy baby goat or as I found out a healthy baby anything. Our call to the vet also exposed a problem, “WE AIN’T GOT NO COLOSTRUM!”

Our helpful vet put us on a Miss Labrea who told us for five dollars she would provide us a bottle of colostrum. Known by the locals as “the goat lady,” she raised show goats. Show goats? Who knew? When I first saw the “show goats” I thought they must be from another planet…which is saying a lot when you consider how alien normal goats generally look. Our goats were down right beautiful compared to hers with very large, upright ears to go with black fur and white spots or vice versa. Hers? No ears! Just little holes in the sides of their heads. They were all the same uniform color of…pale, very pale. From their necks hung long fleshy “waffles” making them look even more “out of this world.” Lamancha goats originally from Spain, then Oregon and now found on Gap Creek Road…in a “past its prime” single wide trailer.

Okay only the babies were in the single-wide…in a baby “cage” …in the kitchen…along with the fridge, stove and dining table. When I looked in the sink I realized the goat “cage” was the cleanest area of the kitchen. The expectant mothers had their own individual stalls in a run-down barn, the rest populated scattered paddocks and pastures. According to Miss Labrea, “Them baby goats never touch the ground! I catch ’em when they drop and into the kitchen they go!” NO! NOT TO BE EATEN. She would then milk the mothers and begin feeding the kids, causing them to imprint on her rather than their mothers. I have this vision of Miss Labrea leading her “babies” down to the water ala “Clementine and her little ducklings.”

Miss Labrea got her nickname honestly and it may not have been because of her chosen vocation, raising and selling show goats. You know how people who too closely identify with their animals begin to “kinda” look like them? Well, Miss Labrea kind of smelled like them too.

Armed with colostrum and baby goat formula we began the raising of a baby goat…in our bathroom…for six weeks. Did I mention it was our only bathroom? Did I mention we were doing our dishes in there too? I should also mention the flu bug I caught shortly after our new guest moved in…an intestinal kind of flu…a twenty-four-hour intestinal kind of flu…with a baby goat in our only bathroom…as renovations continued around us. It’s okay, we renovated the old bathroom along the way too.

Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A YEAR LATER

This was written one month after the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

“Evil is such an elusive quality…But no matter how you slice it, the earth itself isn’t evil, and neither is the sky or the sea. Evil always begins and ends with man.”
“The Dead Play On”-Heather Graham

“Evil always begins and ends with man” …and not with a square piece of cloth.

I don’t know why I have been hit so hard by the shooting deaths of nine innocents at “Mother Emanuel” Church in Charleston. While their deaths were horrific I feel that somehow I have failed even though I never knew Dylann Roof or the “Emanuel Nine.” How does a young man fall through the cracks of the educational system of which I was a part of for over forty years? In my heart the question is probably “How many have I let fall through the cracks that I could have saved or helped in some way?” All it might have taken was a hand. I know, it “Takes a village to raise a child” but where was his village or was the water so polluted that it didn’t matter? I guess only Dylann or God can answer that.

The families of those innocents showed monumental strength and the forgiving power of the human spirit while leading the people of South Carolina through what had proven to be a volatile minefield in other parts of the nation. All it might have taken was a single spark to cause the situation to explode like Ferguson had. I have hopes that the people of South Carolina are just better than that. The sideshow that became the cry to remove the Confederate Battle Flag may have diverted attention away from the suffering and questioning that was taking place by focusing that attention on that inanimate object which had been both a symbol of heritage for one group and a symbol of hatred for the other. While people raged back and forth on the issue of the flag the Emmanuel Nine were exalted for their love and care for a person who did not look like them and then one by one laid to rest.

While watching the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator, I could not help but feel pride in the way that South Carolina had handled this travesty…until the President spoke and suddenly my social media sites exploded after he mentioned gun control. So much venom was spouted and across a myriad of subjects. Do you suppose the President should go to every dead service member’s funeral? Wouldn’t it make more sense to end the war so there would be no dead service men or women? Between the murders, funerals, gun control, the flag and gay marriage it was a rough week and I suddenly wondered about my group of “friends.” I also realized that Dylann Roof may have been on his way to get what he professed to have wanted: “a race war.” Exactly one month later as I write this I have seen few assurances that this won’t happen.

We have had more death and suffering. An Islamic radical has shot and killed five Marine and Navy personnel and rather than focus on the dead and their family we seem to have more concern about whether the act is branded domestic or foreign terrorism, lone wolf or a cabal. More flag controversy has sprung up but this time it is over the tardiness of lowering the United States Flag to half-mast.

I always taught that period leading up to and including 1968 was the most divisive and dangerous period of our existence as a country since the Civil War. Civil Rights legislation, the Viet Nam War protest, Mai Lai and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy all combined for a low point in my life. I believe that we are in a much more dangerous period with ISIS, The New Black Panthers, KKK, Texas Secessionist and (fill in the blank with any wing nut hate group) have all surfaced like turds in the toilet bowl. Add to those groups the discussion on illegal aliens, gay marriage, a more militant NAACP, #BlackLivesMatter, too many Republican hopefuls, not enough Democratic hopefuls and a president who can’t poop without someone disagreeing with the time, color or texture. The word divisive just doesn’t cover the situation that we are facing.

There are other issues within our country that have to long been overlooked and as I have learned, the longer you let something tend to itself it tends to do nothing but spiral downward. To me none of that matters. It starts and ends with hate and a particularly galling aspect are the statements of history that are being bandied about that are “apologist” or “protagonist” half-truths to make each side feel better and their points more embraceable. To me they are still out and out lies or half-truths at best.

I don’t want this to be a history book. I want it more to be a series of stories that support history but I also know that I am old enough for “my wants not to hurt me” and will supply footnotes and citing’s as I need to. I will also attempt to provide humor wherever I can…and maybe, just maybe a little understanding.

POSTSCRIPT
Since originally writing this piece, divisiveness continues. Cities have erupted over seemingly unjustified police shootings, terrorists have been active all over the world including the US, the NRA battles supporters of gun control over mass shootings and now we have an uproar over transgender bathroom rights.

In the greatest measure of dissatisfaction, Donald Trump has risen to the top of the Republican heap amid controversy and protest swirling around him. He has managed to disparage almost everyone except for whites who are not members of the Republican mainstream. Trump has uncovered an ugly truth; Our government is perceived to have ceased to function for a large portion of our people and people are mad. Trump has also employed a proven method of consolidating his political power: Scapegoating groups of people to focus our hatred upon. I believe Trump is using the fear and hatred that has always been there, our bigotry and racism. Trump is a manifestation of our ugly secret.

Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

LAUNCHING JUNE 19TH.

Coming Soon to a Store Near You!

cigarman501

I am very fortunate and honored to be included in the multi-contributor anthology, “Why Black Lives Matter (Too)”!

Recognizing that the fight for social justice and equality is bigger than any one person and that there is room for diverse talents and expertise of anyone who is committed to freedom, this multi-contributor anthology comprises curated essays written by 50 social justice advocates from across the nation.

Our release date, June 19th, is set to coincide with Juneteenth—also known as Independence Day or Freedom Day—a holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African American slaves throughout the Confederate South.

Book Summary: The Black Lives Matter movement evolved as a protest against police brutality against unarmed Black men. This book extends beyond police brutality to revolutionize the national conversation about racial injustice and inequality and advocate for freedom and…

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HATRED

As Orlando is being debated, one thing IS apparent to me. Doing things over and over the same way while expecting a different outcome IS the definition of insanity. Albert Einstein WAS correct and it would appear we are one insane nation. How many times do we have to have the same type of press conference? Is our only option to wring our hands and shake our heads in disbelief as one terrorist after the other shoots up our citizens?

Immediately we polarized ourselves around gun control and expressed our hatred for the opposing side. Very few people expressed any concern for the fifty dead. There were a FEW so please don’t let me give you a reason to further hate me. First thing this morning, as in Monday morning, two people had already posted a half dozen memes…EACH…expressing their position in none too flattering terms to the opposite side. How many ways can you repeatedly call someone stupid or a sack of shit. Most haters weren’t quite that prolific BUT their hate was still apparent. Ruby Ridge and Wounded Knee were even brought up as the “greatest mass shooting” in American history rather than Orlando. Are we in some type of contest and should we EVEN be keeping score? What effect does that have on us in this situation? None! Their post were about hatred and fear.

Are we so hateful that we can’t even consider a holistic approach to the problem? Are we so spiteful that we can’t come to a compromise…or even consider a compromise? Is it all about the importance of keeping the
right to own a weapon that has only one function or is it all about President Obama using the words terror and hatred instead of radical terrorist? Is it about Muslims or Gays? Is it about Hillary or Donald? No it is about hatred. Do we just have to have someone to hate?

We need a Gandhi. Someone to address the hatred and… RELIGION IS NOT THE KEY so don’t come at me with we need to turn to God. “God helps those who help themselves” and we ain’t doing a very good job of helping ourselves. Until we pull together and get over the hate MY God will stay out of it.

Truthfully…I don’t believe this could have been prevented under the present conditions. How do you stop a New York born, Florida residing, “self-radicalized,” domestic abuser, “hot head,” on an FBI watch list, security guard who still LEGALLY obtained a high capacity, semi-automatic weapon? I’ll let you each answer the question yourselves but you need to put your hatred on hold and attempt to look at it sanely…AND WHILE YOU ARE AT IT…quit trying to fix blame on specific individuals. It seems there is a great deal of blame to go around. We don’t need blame, we need solutions and hating each other won’t get them.

MEETING THE DAY

I am sitting here, coffee in hand, watching for the glow of the impending dawn. I am up for no reason other than I woke up. Every day at 5:00 plus or minus fifteen minutes without setting an alarm. “Bright eyed and bushy tailed” or as a coaching friend used to yell to his charges “Another day in which to excel.” I don’t know about excelling, all I have to do is finish this story, run a bit, cut the backyard and weed in the garden in order to have a successful day. There are other things I need to do but its Friday. Who starts new projects on a Friday? Things have certainly changed since I have retired.

Linda and I greet the day differently. I am up and ready to go. “Hit the decks a running boys!” She on the other hand is “sorta” awake and pissed off about it. Linda Gail likes to ease into the day…over an extended period. “Bring me my coffee and then shut up! Do not talk to me!” Thirty minutes later I check on her…with another cup of coffee to replace the one now cold on her bed side table. Thirty minutes later, she is ready to talk about everything she has been thinking about the last hour. Since our retirement I have decided to use her “ease into the day time” as my exercise time. As you might surmise, I am ready to go to bed about the time Linda Gail is hitting her second wind and fighting sleep like the child that she is. Sometimes I don’t understand how we have survived each other.

The way we meet the day really wasn’t as big an issue when we both worked…well it was when we decided to do our exercise walk…together…before we went to work…in the dark…while she was pissed off. I got up at four-thirty IN THE AM! I would then wake Linda at five-thirty, bring her coffee and a banana and take off for a thirty-minute run with a plan to meet her for a thirty-minute walk at six. That was the plan. Usually I would continue to walk or jog back and forth over the short Airline Road until she showed up…fifteen to thirty minutes late, coffee in hand…and I did not dare make a comment. The one time I commented did not go well. On those mornings she showed up early I knew I better be quiet and just walk. Actually it didn’t matter, any day I should just be quiet and walk until she began to initiate the conversation. “Why are we whispering? Are we afraid we might wake up the bears?”

Linda Gail and I don’t exactly walk for the same reasons. She walks totally for her head to battle depression…with a cup of coffee in her hand and with frequent stops to point out plants, animals or reptiles. In other words, a stroll to “elevate her mind.” I do it for my head too but I also walk for exercise so I have to do double walks. My fitness walks and then her stroll in the park walk. Some mornings I would simply sprint, ha ha, okay, jog away from her and then jog back.

We haven’t been walking together lately. Linda Gail hurt herself playing around on an elliptical and had a flare up of…well…we are not sure. It may just be our age…not on your life…maybe. I’ve missed our walks…not at six IN THE AM, but I have missed them. We finally ventured out to the lake at Look Up Lodge. A nice slow, reasonably flat surface stroll. It proved what I knew, “I have missed our walks.” I have also missed our talks although I did ask if I had her permission to chatter…old habits I guess. Comfortable old habits.

More nonfiction by Don Miller is available at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

GROWING UP WITH MUHAMMAD ALI

I really didn’t actually grow up with Muhammad Ali. I just grew up during his time. He was born in Kentucky, I in South Carolina but for some reason I was drawn to his charisma when he was still billed as Cassius Clay. Sometimes I was drawn to him for some not so nice reasons. I remember first seeing him on a small, fuzzy, black and white TV when he won Olympic gold in 1960. This was before he became the “brash” legend and self-proclaimed “The Greatest” who swaggered his way to the 1964 Heavyweight Championship over the “big, ugly bear” Sonny Liston. In the rural South where I lived he was not the “much loved” Muhammad Ali.

In the middle Sixties, the teenaged me was still drinking a bitter brew of white supremacy, American Exceptionalism and Cold War rhetoric that included slogans like “I’d rather be dead than red.” It would be a decade before I would come to the realization that I might be living IN a lie. I remember the disparaging remarks from my peers along with adults I knew and those I didn’t, and yes from myself. When Ali changed his name from Clay, adopted Islam, called out people about race and then nailed his coffin shut by refusing induction into the army many people were more than just a bit critical. After all, had our idol, Elvis Pressley, not seen his duty and done it? Here was this “mouthy colored boy” refusing to go fight the Reds in order to keep America safe. What a coward!

I did not have to make a decision whether to serve as I was never called up. I met an older man yesterday, my age or a little older. He was wearing a baseball cap proclaiming himself a “Viet Nam Vet.” As we stood in line to pay for what might have been the best fried shrimp I had ever eaten, I thanked him for his service and told him that “I had hidden behind my college deferment.” He was proud but still bitter about returning home and being portrayed as a “baby killer.” I don’t blame him for being bitter. As I think back, I should have paid for his meal while asking what he thought about Ali. It might have made me feel better instead of feeling that I somehow missed out on something, a coward in my own right.

I know exactly what would have happened if I had been called up. I would not have run off to Canada or gone to jail rather than serve. I would have done what thousands did, the expected no matter what my principles were. To have done otherwise would have let someone down, something I seem to have a phobia about despite doing it often. If anything it makes me respect Muhammad Ali even more. He did what was unexpected…for his principles instead of what others thought. His was a special type of bravery that didn’t involve following the “pied piper” of what is expected. Serving in Viet Nam or refusing to serve took a “special kind of guts” that I now realize were both based upon principle.

I don’t know when I began to view him differently, with the respect he deserved for doing what he thought was right. It’s not as if a light suddenly came on; it was more gradual as I became more “educated.” I knew I had found the light when I saw him lighting the Olympic torch in 1996 despite my sorrow over the body that was betraying him. His voice has given voice to other professional athletes and has somehow transcended generation, race and religion. I am truly sorry it has been silenced.

More nonfiction by Don Miller is available at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM