It was October 21, 1962. I’m quite sure of the date. The twelve-year-old me listened intently to the adults gathered around my mother’s formal dining room table awaiting Sunday dinner. That would-be lunch in more civilized circles. Twelve-year-old Donnie was doing as I had been told repeatedly, “children are to be seen, not heard.” Despite being a pre-teen, I was unsure of my standing and decided not to chance a thrashing with a “keen hickory” at the hands of my grandmother.

The news around the table was terrifying to the pre-teen me. Nuclear weapons right down the road in Cuba. Just ninety miles from the good old US of A. An uncle, a member of the Navy reserves, was afraid he was going to be called up to help blockade the island that had become a bristling launching pad of fire and radioactive ruin. A cousin, an army reservist and paratrooper, was afraid he would be making nighttime drops attempting to capture the nuclear sites. Everyone at the table agreed they would rather be “dead than red.” Everyone but me. Me? I wasn’t at all sure.

Despite my youth, I understood the Soviets and the United States hated each other even if the reasons behind the hatred escaped me. My civics teacher had hammered the differences between the Soviet Communists and our democratic form of government, but I just wasn’t sure about the “dead rather than red” thing. I had a lot of living to do even if it were under the thumb of the goose-stepping Red Army and I could see no good in circling the earth in a radioactive cloud.

The following Monday, after an “In Case of Nuclear Attack” drill, I kept watching the heavens hoping not to see a Bear Bomber with its red star dropping a bomb on Indian Land, South Carolina, population…few. I also prayed not to see the telltale contrail of a missile zeroing in on Indian Land School. Just to be sure I kept my largest textbook nearby so I could protect myself if the bomb went off.

Once home I tentatively approached my father. He was hard at rest working on a crossword puzzle after an eight-hour shift at Springs Mills. Ernest didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned that the “Dogs of War” were nipping at our heels.


“Yes, son,” looking over his reading glasses.

“I’m worried about this Cuba thing. Do you think we ought to get a fallout shelter?”

“I tell you what. Get the shovel and pick a place. When you think you’ve dug deep enough call me and I’ll see. Right now, I need a four-letter word that means a dueling sword.”

I wish I felt as calm and collected as he appeared. As I read about North Korean Nukes and a President threatening “fire and fury”, I am sorely concerned. In 1962 cooler heads prevailed. Russian ships intent on breaking the barricade reversed course, nuclear weapons in Cuba were removed and I did not add my ashes to a mushroom shaped cloud.

I don’t know if we have those cooler heads. The little Korean guy scares me. He has “little man’s disease.” Our own guy scares me and if you are waiting for me to say something about “small hands”, well, I just did. I wish it were a sick dream and these two guys were not in charge of nuclear codes, but the truth is they are, and they are on a collision course with us in the middle.

Think I’ll watch “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Peter Sellers can give me perspective since my own president can’t. Where is Slim Pickens when we need him?

For more of Don Miller’s writings and musings, including his latest release, Olivia, please follow his author’s page at


…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