Valentine’s Day Horrors

“On Valentine’s Day, the Spirit Club plastered the school with red streamers and pink balloons and red and pink hearts. It looked like Clifford the Big Red Dog ate a flock of flamingoes and then barfed his guts up.” ― Carolyn Mackler, Vegan, Virgin, Valentine

“Cupid, draw back you bow”

Note to self if you drop a rose bush don’t try to catch it. I’m now oozing blood from five spots on my right hand. Roses have thorns even those purchased from Valentine’s Day.

It seems, every Valentine’s Day is my own version of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre or a Valentine’s slasher movie. I am sure I will have shot myself in the foot by day’s end but at least my bride hasn’t beheaded me like the original St. Valentine. I’m also sure she has considered it.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, like Midas, I have a special talent. Everything I touch turns into poop.

I haven’t had a successful Valentine’s Day since grammar school. We filled out cheap, little Valentines for everyone in class. Short little sayings like “Be Mine!” I remember looking at “Be My Valentine” from Big Lamar, the class bully that should have been two grade levels above us. We had yet to become creative with little poems like, “Roses are red, violets are blue. Your feet smell like cow poop and your breath does too.”

My first negative memory of many was a Valentine’s Day preteen party in the early 1960s. The Church sponsored event was supposed to be a dress up, Sunday best kind of gala. A Kool-Aid and cupcake affair. We were Methodist so dancing would be allowed, and I prayed my two left feet would somehow transform themselves. A cute little blonde girl had agreed to “hang out and talk.” My first date.

The day before, the world’s largest zit appeared in the middle of my forehead.  It didn’t matter. I’m sure the dance was great, but I have no memories of it because I didn’t get to go. My anxiety over my “first date” was so great I threw up and was kept home, in bed, covered in Vick’s VapoRub, the cure-all of the day. It might have been a stomach virus, but Valentine’s Day has been its own virus since. VapoRub was not the cure.

The dance worked out well for my date. A friend took advantage of the situation, and they became a couple. This weird Cupid moment might have been the high point of my attempts at being a romantic Valentine.

Can you imagine? On average, fifty-eight billion pounds or two point two billion dollars’ worth of chocolate will be sold the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Over two-hundred and fifty million roses are produced just for Valentine’s Day. That is two point three billion in flower sales. A whopping six point two billion dollars are spent on jewelry. I have contributed with little success.

Love-struck Americans dole out almost twenty-four billion dollars on Valentine’s Day with men spending twice the average. Men will spend on average, one-hundred and seventy dollars to prove their undying love. Women? Half of that.

I’ve all but given up on making Valentine’s Day a special event. Attempts at romantic dinners have ended with food poisoning. I’ve tried poetry, “Roses are red, violets are blue, pizza is hot, and so are you.” I’ve tried to create artistic and rustic birdhouses with tin hearts or a couple holding hands. Most fell apart as quickly as my attempts at romantic expression.

I’m waiting for a masked psychopath to show up to carve out my heart in a real-life Valentine’s slasher movie. Blood splatter replacing rose petals scattered on the bedroom floor.

Speaking of bloody, how did the violent death of a Catholic saint become a celebration of love anyway? There are three suggested stories about three different Saint Valentines. What do they have in common? Martyrdom. Violent death. Two of the accounts involve beheading. Somehow beheading seems apropos. How many of us have lost our heads over someone we shouldn’t have?  

That still doesn’t explain cards, candy, flowers, and jewelry but a historical change in Nineteenth Century America does. Prior to this time most marriages were economic rather than romantic despite what romantic writers would have us believe. Even the poor founded their marriages more as economic alliances than romantic love. “Two can live as cheaply as one,” I was told once. Someone lied to me.

This changed in the mid-1800s from economics to romance, or at least combined the two. It also triggered an increase in the giving of tokens of love and it has snowballed from there.

I have taken to giving rose plants as a token of my undying affection. My bride and I plant them in a rose garden next to my vegetable garden in hopes they will bloom as our love has. I dig the holes and let my bride plant them and as soon as she does, they become her responsibility. If they die, it’s on her.

My Midas special Midas touch is still in effect. Damn rose plant has thorns and they have already bitten me. This Valentine’s Day is in fact a bloody one.

Don Miller’s author page may be accessed at


I have never wanted to be a poet. I have never liked poetry but today I wish I could write a love sonnet or an ode. I would rhyme about my love, my life, my wife, my Linda Gail.

Should I write a sonnet? I would want to describe her hazel eyes. How they flash green when she is mad, or when she is joking around, or just when. When they flash green I worry…except when I don’t.

If I were a poet I would describe her smile as “impish” …and a little “catawampus.” It is almost a laugh, always welcomed and never seen enough.

She laughs with her whole body, from the tip of her toes to where her aura stops, somewhere near the fringes of the sun.

Scribble out an epic poem? I would chronical our first meeting, our first date, first kiss, first …. I would recount a trip to Charleston when we were not together but seemed as if we should have been.

If I understood iambic pentameter, I would use the rhythm of my heart to describe how I felt when I “SAW” Linda Gail for the first time and knew she was the one, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM.

With no ability to rhyme I would not know of a word that would correspond to Casablanca, the club, site of our first “date” and the movie by the same name.

In fifty years I might be able to compose a “non-sensical” haiku about whether or not “yes” popped out of her mouth before her brain had time to wrap itself around the question I had asked and chide myself for not asking it sooner.

A burlesque poem might describe a tale about a “Santa Claus” in a tuxedo and a drunken chase of a New Orleans’s street car despite knowing another would be by in a few minutes. She just wanted “that one!”

Snuggling all night while watching a Humphrey Bogart Marathon, including the movie Casablanca, on a snowy night with no school the next morning. What is a word that rhymes with snuggle…a romantic word that is?

I wish I could write a happy, tail wagging little doggerel, as humorous and badly written as possible about Bubba, Bogie, Brodie, Sassy Marie, Jackson, Goldie, Matilda Sue and Madeline Rue.

There would have to be many verses to include Little Miss Minny Muffin, Baby Sox, Skitty Skat, Santana and Boomer, all animals adopted by Linda Gail or was it the other way around.

Mostly I desire to wax poetic about thirty-one years of memories and my need to have thirty-one more.

From the love story that became a book, “Through the Front Gate.” Don Miller’s writings accessed, purchased or downloaded at


Sitting in the dark in front of my computer…a bad habit sitting in the dark but one that seems to suit me. Most nights she comes to me in the dark. Tonight it was easy for me to visualize her leaning against the door jamb while gazing out across the pasture and lake that sat below it. Staring out at a ghost that only she saw? I often caught her in this pose but she never told me what she saw…I was afraid to ask. I was not sure I really wanted to know. Her back was against the jamb with one foot on the floor, the other against the jamb, her hands clutched together between her thighs or wrapped under her breast. Could she be looking back at the past as I often do?

She was a fine figure of a woman and there was still be enough dim light from the outside to outline her curves. I could not stifle the rising heat I felt. A simple white cotton dress…the thought made me ache. I missed how the simple cotton dress slid off her smooth skin and smiled at the memory of being able to produce goosebumps on her arms, the tops of her breast, the…my smile turning downward with sorrow as I remembered…she is gone…gone forever and only alive in my memories and dreams. I had lost her once and then regained her…there would be no reclaiming her again.

It is not healthy but I let my memories take over…like so many nights. The nights were the worst…and the best. She came to me during the night and left me as dawn broke. Tonight she led me to the old car…my…our forty-year-old MGB. It was a fine night to put the top down and ride to…anywhere…or nowhere. She sat with her long legs tucked under her, the hem of her dress tantalizingly riding up her dark thighs. Her smile told me she knew what I might be thinking. As I ran through the gears a full moon followed us making the need for headlamps unnecessary on the old river road. Shadows danced around us as we fled through the night…to our spot overlooking the river with the lights of Trinity highlighting the horizon. As I parked and turned to her she came into my arms smelling like the gardenias growing outside of our front porch. I imagined her soft skin prickling slightly as I touched her.

A banshee screamed in the distance. It seemed to be getting closer. The closer it sounded the farther she seemed to be. “No don’t leave…Please…Not yet.” It was no use. She left me again as I staggered to my feet still trying to hang on to any part of the dream despite knowing it was futile. I was stiff and foggy from sleeping in my chair. The inside of mouth was foul from the last cigar of the night…and the fifth bourbon of the evening. Staggering I found the alarm clock and shut down the shrieking. After washing my face, I was not happy with what greeted me in the mirror. Puffy gray skin only accented the red rimmed eyes reflected back at me in the dim early light. Death eating a shit sandwich. I could not go on living like this…nor did I want to.

For more unique life stories by Don Miller visit his author’s page at


For nearly thirty years I have entered “Through the Front Gate” to a home that is much more than just a place to lay my head. For more times than I can possibly count I have entered a haven and a refuge, made so by the woman that lives here, my Linda Gail. When I repeat the Bible verse, “You are my refuge and strength” I am not talking to God, I am talking about the woman who is everything good about the world I live in…the world that you have created Linda Gail. Saying that I love you seems quite inadequate but it will have to do. “Linda Gail, I love you.” These are stories from thirty years of marriage and the unintended consequences of Linda Gail.

Cover photography is my “view through the front gate.”

Don Miller’s fourth book, THROUGH THE FRONT GATE, will launch August 12…MAYBE,


I first saw her sitting like a forlorn puppy dog in a friend’s used car lot…on the back row. Born in Japan in 1968 she was already twenty years old with an odometer having rolled over once showing twenty thousand miles. She was boxy and with her high stance I was told she resembled a postal vehicle. That’s not nice. I had seen FJ 40 Land Cruisers before and had, as President Jimmy Carter said, “Sinned in my mind.” Taupe colored, she didn’t appear to have any rust and when the key turned, fired right up with no blue smoke or hiccups. I was on my way to falling in love. Most importantly, Linda Gail liked her too despite no radio, no air conditioning and hard metal doors. If you look up utilitarian in the dictionary expect to see a picture of her. It didn’t matter, “Yoda the Kamikaze Kruiser” became ours.

Cruising at sixty-five was not her long suit despite being capable. What she could do was crawl up and over a wall in low four-wheel drive. With a suspension stiffer than a brand new pair of jeans, she went over rocks and ruts so hard it would jar the filings right out of your teeth. At sixty-five she rattled like a wind chime made from cast iron. It didn’t matter, Linda Gail and I were young and foolish…and in love…with each other and “Yoda.” During the winter we would go searching for snow to play in and during the rest of the year take the doors off and try to find ways to put the Kamikaze Toyota in harm’s way. We were often successful. While “Yoda” never left us stranded, we left her stranded on several occasions.

The first summer “of love” a sharp, freshly cut sapling ripped out a side wall. Now where is that jack…oh I don’t have one. Stupid and in love. A two-mile hike got us back to Highway 11 and civilization. A neighborly type let us use his phone and a friend came and retrieved us. Now I remember what we did before cell phones. We cautiously approached people and begged to use their home phone. Later on the same summer a weakly constructed ditch crumbled and put us on our side near the summit of Chestnut Mountain. Walking again, a house trailer with what seemed to be several dozen Rottweilers, well four or five, became our salvation. Another phone call to the same friend got us a ride and “Yoda” jerked out of the ditch…by a f@#%ing Jeep Wagoneer no less. Later Linda would put “Yoda” on her side on our mountain. I have a vision of Linda scrambling out of the window because the metal door was too heavy to lift. This time I had my own tractor to pull it upright.

“Yoda” became our go to vehicle. A picnic with Linda Gail and Ashley on our mountain top? Yank a stump out of the ground? Haul wood? Take a goat to the vet? Or just try to tear off a fender on some wilderness trek, CALL “Yoda!” So why did I get rid of her? Trust me I asked myself that question on several occasions. With mileage creeping toward two hundred thousand, a screwy braking system and wiring problems I decided to upgrade. A 1974 Clemson orange FJ 40 with a transplanted V-6 seemed to be the ticket. What a mistake. Looked good and sounded better until a broken rod left her bleeding oil and dead on the side of the road. I didn’t have time to even name her. “Yoda?” She was bought by guy in Simpsonville. I still see her sometimes. With travel stickers holding her rust together, she is still running. Gosh I wish I still had her.

Later there would be an FJ-60. My first trip with newly licensed Ashley was in that truck. I found out she had a lead foot returning from a Columbia soccer tournament. After a couple of years of driving it on dealer tags, I sold it back to the friend who sold it to me originally because of a title problem. What problem? I think the cruiser might have been stolen. But officer I gave it back.

My last one was a ’77. Linda and I went together and true to her love for me she let me drive it home. She wishes we still had “Yoda” too. The ’77 named “Darlin’” was turned in to a piece of junk after being stolen out of my front yard. It was returned months later a mere shell of its former self. Two years later she would catch fire and burn. I think “Darlin’” was so embarrassed she tried committing vehicular suicide by burning herself to death. I say tried because I sold her to a guy who has the intention, means and ability to restore her. I wished him luck with instructions to bring her back for me to see when he completed her restoration. I haven’t heard from him…yet. Hope springs eternal.

I don’t know why we name our cars and refer to them as “her and she.” I talked to mine like they were people but like my wife none ever seemed to listen. For myself and my Land Cruisers it is about the memories of a person who goes with them. Warm and fuzzy ones that never get lost in the fog of time. I see a wild tangle of brown hair blowing in the wind, bug-eyed sun glasses and a big smile as we rattle our way over the top of Chestnut Mountain. I still go on EBay looking for the perfect and affordable FJ 40 to help add to those memories. It may be an impossible search.

Don Miller will be releasing his fourth book, “Through the Front Gate” later this month. Until then go to his author’s page and check it out. On Amazon it can be found at or on Facebook at


Early this past spring I made a blog post lamenting a depression hanging on as tenaciously as the cold of winter. My depression evaporated when I happened upon twelve turkey hens and a tom grazing in a patch of winter rye or possibly chickweed. It caused a revival in my spirits. This morning, as I set off for a run, the cold and wet spring, along with my depression, were far from my mind. I don’t have time to be depressed as the tropical rainforest portion of our summer is upon us. Many of us have been enduring a severe drought and while it has been drier than usual in our little bit of heaven, any drought conditions apparently came to an end with the tropical like thunderstorms appearing in the late evenings for the last five days. Mimicking their first cousins found around the equator they have been torrential and loud on our metal roof. Just ask our weather puppy, Tilly.

My “over producing” garden, Linda Gail’s backyard which resembles a…jungle of ferns, milkweed and morning glories, a tractor that runs only when the spirit moves it, along with optimum kudzu growing conditions will keep me busy for the foreseeable future…so I haven’t been thinking about MY turkeys at all. I know they are not mine but I tend to think of them as if they were. I am willing to share them with the world…unless you are a hunter.

I had not seen MY turkeys for a while. I wasn’t concerned…it is THAT time of the year. I don’t see a lot of MY birds of any variety this time of year. A few come to my feeders but most have abandoned me to the squirrels who never seem to leave. MY birds are busy raising their young. Feeding and teaching, the same activities we humans must see to although the feeding of our off springs shouldn’t involve worms and insects. These child “rearing” activities were evident when a mother hawk used a small open space behind our house to teach her offspring the nuances of hunting field mice…a practice I quite approve of. It was also evident this morning when I ran up upon MY twelve turkey hens and their off springs. There must have been thirty of them. The wide drive was black with them…or brown with them. In the blink of an eye the poults and their mothers had scattered leaving me to wonder momentarily if I had actually seen them or was I having a hallucination caused from my oxygen starved brain. I did not see the tom but I am sure he was around resting, having enjoyed the “fruits of his labor.”

My already high spirits soared even higher just seeing them. I couldn’t wait to tell Linda Gail…but being two miles from home I would have to. Thirty minutes later I was rewarded with the smile I knew my story would evoke…and I didn’t even have to embellish it.

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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


“A dark night, lightened up by thousands of glowing fireflies… It’s magical…”
― Ama H. Vanniarachchy

I sat outside last evening celebrating the spring of my sixty-sixth year. I was happily enjoying a cigar and a dark and amber adult beverage while an evening breeze was being kicked up by a distant thunderstorm. Far away according to my weather app, the storm was close enough to cause the “rain” frogs to break in to a calliope of croaking “music” and my puppy dogs to escape to the shelter of my home. As I watched a rising thunderhead moving south of me I saw a small winking light in one of our black walnut trees…followed by another. It was a “blink, blink” followed by a second “blink, blink” in a code I did not understand. “Lightnin’ bugs” had made their early May appearance.

Late one evening several decades ago, a late-night, spring thunderstorm had knocked off our power just long enough for our thirty-year-old pump to lose its prime. I made the dark and scary trip down to the spring my pump fed from and began the process of priming it. Our old pump was located above a cistern created by the previous owner in the 1950s to catch the spring water escaping from under a very large oak tree. As I bent over and tried to concentrate on priming rather than my fears, I felt I had company. Expecting to find a bear, bobcat or vampire eyeing me as a meal, I instead beheld an eerie sight as fireflies began to awake from their winter hideaways and flash their little mating signal. “Come here. I am ready for you to find me. It is time for us to propagate the species.” Not very romantic but we are talking about fireflies and I don’t think they know the words to “You Light Up My Life….” What made their emergence eerie was the fact they had risen to no higher than three feet above the ground and were all blinking in sequence with each other. I was amazed and just a bit fearful. Twenty-eight years later, they still make their appearance in early May but I’ve never seen their group emergence since. A once in a lifetime occurrence? If it was, it was worth it.

Most of us have memories of fireflies. Before computers games, Play Stations, IPads and adulthood we ran barefoot through the early evening dew as twilight fell, an old canning or jelly jar at the ready, trying to see how many fireflies one might gather between supper and bed time. Did you let yours go? I have a memory of our young daughter, Ashley, no more than four or five years old, running and laughing with Linda-Gail while they filled her jar. I had punched breathing holes in the canning lid the same way my grandmother had punched holes in mine so my brother and I could chase the flashing lights through the privet hedge behind her house. As the most dreaded hour of the day approached, bed time, Ashley refused to part with her lightning bug filled jar, intently watching them as she bathed and later when she curled up with them in her bed. When we checked on her later, I found her still awake and grinning like the “Cheshire Cat.” She slowly pointed to the ceiling and said, “Look flashing stars.” A decade later during a college visit, I found that she had glued florescent stars to the ceiling of her bedroom and I could not help but remember and smile.

After I saw my two lightning bugs, and in spite of my fear of the local bear who periodically tears down my fence and steals my trash, I could not curb my curiosity and walked to the backside of my yard bordering the stream. I had hopes I might see the lightning bug’s group emergence again. There was nothing but darkness and disappointment to greet me, not the silent chorus of lights I was hoping for. Maybe tomorrow night.

Disappointment was short lived. My thoughts wandered to Ashley and my red haired little monkey, granddaughter Miller. It won’t be long until she will be old enough to chase lightning bugs on her own. God, please give us the energy to be able to chase them with her.

More nonfiction by Don Miller is available at


Wow! An actual spring this year. Most years we simple go from the dead of winter to the height of summer in a twenty-four-hour period. There were a couple of days when I worried as the thermometer edged past a somewhat comfortable eighty-five into an uncomfortable near ninety. But thankfully no, it was simply a harbinger of the heat, humidity and mosquitoes to come. We are in the midst of “blackberry winter” with beautiful white blackberry blooms adorning our roadsides bring cool morning temperatures and warm, but not hot, afternoons. Moderate evening temperatures allow for outdoor activities involving a cigar, an adult beverage, a comfortable sweat shirt and the smell of sweet honeysuckle mixing with the aroma of my Dutch Master’s Honey Corona. Ah…Spring!

The local bear paid me his annual spring visit last night, pulling down my fence before making off with two bags of trash. “Pooh Bear” found no honey but seemed to enjoy the empty peanut butter jar…once he got into it. He was not a very tidy diner but at least he left both bags “relatively” close together and intact. Last year his “great trash robbery” was left scattered over an acre. Linda Gail and I have enjoyed watching a small brown snake, variety not color exactly, make his slow, early morning trek up into the tangle mess of Linda’s clematis while waiting for the morning sun to warm the very cockles of his little fork-tongued soul. I’m not too worried about my bird families because even the smallest babies are larger than the snake. Flick, flick goes his tongue. Several mornings ago I watched a doe and two small, spot covered, fawns cautiously follow the stream past my garden. I hope they don’t discover my tender spring plantings. Ah…Spring!

As I sat outside in my camp chair last night, I was treated to a concert of sorts. I had decided to enjoy a second adult beverage and heard the melodic yet lonesome call of a whippoorwill. I heard no answering call and could not help but softly sing “Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, He sounds too blue to fly, the midnight train is whining low, I’m so lonesome I could cry.” Thank you Hank Williams. My moroseness was short lived when the owls began their serenade. They certainly are not lonesome. It won’t be long before their hooting will be joined by the cicadas and their short lived mating chant along with the fireflies and their flashing message, “Here I am, lets skip the light fandango.” Ah…Spring!

Unfortunately, even the Garden of Eden had its serpent. My little piece of heaven does too and I am not speaking about my friendly little brown snake. With spring comes beautiful flowers, green trees, the honeysuckle and my “god awful” allergies! A serpent disguised as postnasal drip…no, disguised as a postnasal flood of biblical proportions. Noah had nothing on me and there are no rainbows to signify the end of the flood. I think I may drown in my own pool of…mucus and wonder why God decided to place our noses upside down over our mouths. I have an equally allergic friend who I converse with several times a week. Our conversations seem to always begin with “My allergies are…” take your pick. I’ve attempted all of the fixes and found I cannot sleep standing up. My allergy tests showed I was allergic to one hundred and forty-four different grasses and weeds, all possibly found in my backyard. Trees, including the dozen or so Beech trees found around the stream behind my house, assorted molds and mildews, and cocklebur. I’ve got them all and I tried all the remedies. Weekly allergy shots for two years to a daily teaspoon of local honey and everything in between including three different allergy prescriptions, all taken at the same time. Maybe a World War One gas mask might work but I fear it would simply fill up and drown me in the end and there is no end in sight until the cold, unwelcomed winds of winter. Ah…Spring…Ahhhhhhh Chooooooooo, sniff, sniff, sniff, cough, cough, cough!

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“As I was motivatin’ over the hill, I saw Maybelline in a Coup de Ville,
Cadillac rollin’ on the open road, nothin’ outrun my V8 Ford”
“Maybelline” by Chuck Berry

It was the summer of my thirteenth year and I was in love. No it wasn’t the little brunette girl in my class with the rapidly expanding chest. It wasn’t my first true love, Sharon. She was still a summer away. I was in love with hot rod cars and the songs about them produced by The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. I could not wait to get behind the wheel of my very own “Little Deuce Coupe” with its very own “409,” race my ’63 split-window Stingray into “Dead Man’s Curve” or maybe a drive to “Drag City” might be safer. During this period, I would not have traded my issue of “Hot Rod” magazine for a subscription to “Playboy.” Okay, who am I kidding? I would have also gone to “Surf City” where there were “two girls for every boy.”

As an eighth grader I would stand all “moony eyed” watching the upperclassmen as they left the school parking lot with their souped-up cars or “No-Go Showboats.” A blue ’53 Chevy looked great dressed in metal flake blue and sporting fake wheel spinners on his rims. Too bad it had the same weak “stove bolt” inline six it was born with. A light blue under white ’59 Ford with a retractable hardtop came next. It was long and low slung, looking even lower with its shiny chrome fender skirts hiding most of the wide, white walled tires it was riding on. I think there might have been fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror and know there was a good looking brunette sitting in the middle of the front seat. Just after the Ford, a red ’58 Impala convertible appeared with a white top and matching interior. The beauty rumbled ominously as it went by, a 348 and glass packs supplying the noise. Finally, the car I was waiting for cruised by. Buck’s ’49 Ford Coupe.

Buck is my cousin and my first “man crush.” Not because he was a stud, even though in my youthful eyes he was. It was his car that cemented his “studly-ness.” Shackled in the rear, its low slung profile made it resemble “fastbacks” of later years. A blue-gray metal flake covered the outside with matching “rolled and pleated” seats on the inside. Finder skirts helped make it look fast even when it was standing still and hid matching rims adorned with shiny “baby moons.” The standard “three on the tree” had been moved to the floor and while the original little flat head was still under the hood, there was little “stock” about it. When you popped the hood twin carburetors winked at you and to quote the Beach Boys, “She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored.” Custom headers were attached to lake pipes running out from under the doors. Yes, I was madly in love with that car and never forgave him when he sold it to buy an equally “bad” ’55 Chevy. I still felt as if my parents had divorced.

Buck wasn’t my only hero. There was a man from Waxhaw who had a “cult” following among the teens and preteens residing along Highway 521. I never knew what his real name. All I knew was that he was a legend in the same manner as Robert Mitchum in the movie “Thunder Road” including the death part when he tried to cheat death one time too many and ran off a road and hit a tree. Prior to his death, “Waxhaw” drove the Highway Patrol crazy making runs through the little finger of land jutting into North Carolina called the Panhandle of Lancaster County.

You could hear him coming from a distance. Un-muffled exhaust pipes screaming in the distance would bring myself and my local friends, Mickey and DJ, out to watch. You better get there quick because “Waxhaw” was pedal to the metal in a “hopped” up ’63 Baby Blue, Ford Falcon Sprint. Belching flames from straight pipes, the little Falcon would scream past my house in a blue blur. Usually a minute or so later the siren of a Highway Patrol could be heard. Despite having a 390 Police Interceptor V-8, they just couldn’t keep up with the overpowered little Falcon. From the turn off at the Waxhaw Highway on to 521, “Waxhaw” would dare the SC Highway Patrol to catch him before he crossed the North Carolina Stateline and safety. To my knowledge they never did.

American men have always been in love with “hot” cars and the “hot” women attracted to them. In the Fifties and Sixties, a more mobile society gave rise to drive-in movies and restaurants, fifteen cent hamburgers and to a certain extent, the suburbs. With expansive back seats and drive-in movies, I would say they also contributed to a rise in the birth rate. I didn’t get my first “hot” car until 1972, a ‘67 British racing green GTO with red striped tires. I didn’t get to keep it as long as I wanted because of the Oil Embargo of 1973. With gas shortages and rising gas prices, a four barreled carburetor mated to a four hundred cubic inch engine would be replaced by an under powered, even for a four cylinder, “F’ing” Pinto for my wife and a ’53 Chevy four door for me purchased for twenty-five dollars.

I never owned another “muscle” car but I still have time. I still listen to the Beach Boys along with Jan and Dean occasionally…and dream. Maybe I can join “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and get a “Super Stock Dodge.” Those new Hellcats sure are nice but at my age I probably should stay out of them. For safety I probably won’t go “Sidewalk Surfin’” either.

Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at