Mind Over Miller: An adventurous life

Mind Over Miller: An adventurous life

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May 01, 2011


Robert M. Miller
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, when I was 15 years old, I volunteered for the Victory Farm Volunteers. Everybody was volunteering, buying U.S. war bonds, collecting recyclables, and supporting the war. Despite the tragedy of war, those years were the most inspiring in my lifetime. There was no protest, no dissension, no political conflict. We were a unified nation engaged in a monumental conflict for survival. I could not imagine that the war would last long enough for me to end up as an 18-year-old soldier in it.

As part of the Victory Farm Volunteers, we were sent to agricultural colleges for a brief training period, which included the harnessing and driving of draft horses since gasoline was already rationed and scarce. Then we were placed on farms to work for $1 a day.

Billy was my roommate at the agricultural school, and one day we each wrote a list of the things we would like to do in our lifetimes. I clearly remember my list—obviously, my adolescent mind could not include a career or any concept of how to earn a living. But it did include a lot of adventure, as follows:

  • To parachute from an airplane
  • To climb mountains
  • To learn to ski
  • To explore the wilderness on horseback, leading a string of packhorses or mules
  • To work as a cowboy on a cattle drive
  • To go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  • To go by boat down wild and tropical rivers and to canoe into wild places
  • To see all 48 states
  • To experience the vast game herd in East Africa and the great annual migration there

Remarkably, except for the parachute jump, I have been able to do everything on my list—some of them many times.

When I went to France on a troop ship, I vowed that I would see and absorb all I could because I just knew that this would the only time in my life that I could see Europe. I have been to Europe more than 40 times since then, and there is a story behind that.

The only phobia in my life has been the fear of having to stand and speak in public. In school and as a Boy Scout, I was paralyzed if assigned such a task.

When I was a pre-veterinary student on the GI Bill, I realized that this silly phobia would one day handicap me, so I fulfilled my humanities requirement by taking two years of speech courses. I learned how to overcome my phobia, and my 40 or so trips to Europe have been as a lecturing veterinarian. Plus, there have been 44 trips to Hawaii, also as a speaker.

As for another item on my list, I learned to ski on furlough in the Bavarian Alps, and it became a recurrent adventure in my life. I once mentioned the Sierra Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) in this column, the world's first veterinary ski (and CE) organization. In February of 2012, the SVMA will hold its 52nd annual meeting at Steamboat Springs, Colo. My equally adventurous wife of 54 years, Debby, and I have been to 51 meetings. (She was in labor the one year we missed.)

All life is an adventure, but mine has been blessed with countless mini-adventures that provide memories, memories, memories forever more.

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at http://robertmmiller.com/.