Letters to My Granddaughter, No. 23

By | September 10, 2023

[September 10, 2023]  Long ago, when I was a tween (not a child but also not a teenager), I was probably 12 years old; I was dropped off by Fanny, my school bus driver, at my home.  Walking with my books under my arm, I noticed a used cigarette burning in the ditch out in front of my house.  Most likely, it was thrown by a passing motorist, careless as so many of them tend to be.  Wow, I thought, I can be like one of the cool kids in school and here is my chance to prove it right now.  As a note on my personality, I believed in filling my head with useful, cool things to do, and smoking seemed like something I could easily add to my repertoire.  I could quickly get a few puffs of smoke before entering my house, and Mom would not be the wiser.

I was wrong.  The first “drag” from the cigarette sent spasms into my lungs and caused involuntary coughing while vomiting my lunch onto the grass.  I was on the ground before I knew what was happening, gasping for fresh air, squirming in a jerking motion, and making the most terrifying noise.  I’m sure all the nearby farm animals were scared, as was I.  That day, I learned a valuable lesson.  Never smoke tobacco; it’s not worth trying to be cool.  There surely were other cool tools I could discover to make myself more “popular” as every 12-year-old wants to be.  Cool like John Wayne — stoic, tough, witty, ready to clobber the bad guys, and never ever taking crap off anybody.  But I did not know this at that age.  Not smoking was a small decision but one of the best decisions I ever made.

I was not very interested in school (a mistake that took many years and much pain to correct), but I wanted to learn about science and girls.  Those puberty hormones were starting to rage, yet I was awkward and socially inexperienced.  I closely observed boys older than me and watched how they interacted with the girls.  Looking back, I oversimplified their behavior and believed that being cool was the solution.  “How do I do cool?”  I could do a few things, and “cool” Doug would magically appear.  Dress cool, walk cool, talk cool, puff on a cigarette cool (nope, strike that one), drink beer, and be aloof like I didn’t care one whit if I did that; even the women teachers might be interested in me (or so I thought).  I was wrong, but you couldn’t have convinced me then.  Maybe that was how to get the girls to notice me.

My Mom drove me to a store to buy a Nehru shirt.  They were all the rage in the 1960s.  It cost me 25 bucks, almost a month’s wages.  I tried to walk with a swagger, and I’m sure it was entertaining.  I even had a friend of a friend who knew somebody over 21 buy me a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  I overpaid.  And the taste was horrific.  When kids in school came near me, I would look away like I was contemplating doing something cool.  All this got me was beaten up once, one girl I had a crush on slapped me (darn hard), several teacher reprimands for failing to turn in homework, and a visit to see the Assistant Principal.  Being cool, indeed, was overrated.  Even my Mom asked me if I was sick or had trouble at school.  If she only knew.  My Mom was cool at her school, so why couldn’t I be?

I failed at being cool.  And catastrophically so.  I was so bad that even a few younger kids pointed fingers at me and smirked.  After all that, one might think I was ready to hand it up and throw away the idea of collecting cool things to do.  But, no.  Learning how to make myself useful and appreciated was the only real alternative.  That’s when I got farm jobs working with cows and pigs (pretty low for a cool kid).  But I got fringe benefits like Linda, the farmer’s daughter and the first girl I kissed.  Wow.  Working became my passion.  The farmer opened up to me and told me how he got started and became successful and how the business worked.  His kids were all girls, so he was looking for young men good enough for his daughters.  Ouch.  I liked girls but wasn’t ready to go down that path.  I told the farmer the truth, and he understood.  Besides, I was 12.  He laughed.  I learned that hard work, honesty, a good attitude, and telling the truth were the most valuable things a boy could do.  Screw being cool.  Work beat that.  And I had a lot more more money than the cool boys at school.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Letters to My Granddaughter, No. 23

  1. Janna Faulkner

    Gen. Satterfield, I love what you are doing here with these letters. I’ve decided to do the same. The only difference is that I’m writing them on paper by hand – the old fashioned way. I will send them to my grandkids when they are old enough to read and ask that they keep them with the advice to read them again when they are an adult.

  2. Cow Blue

    Learn history or you are bound to repeat the mistakes of others. Not my thought but very insightful. Smart is learning from your mistakes, wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others. This letter to his granddaughter is Gen. Satterfield learning to be smart. That is what kids need to do. When they are older, Gen. S. is telling his granddaughter to be wise.

  3. Willie Strumburger

    There are very few people who are willing to put their thoughts down on paper (well, on the internet at least) for their grandkids. Like so many of us, I wish I knew what my grandparents, great grandparents were thinking and feeling about their times and what they went thru. Thisis an inside view of historical events like 9/11 (anniversary tomorrow), wars, disasters, etc. The good and the bad times. What did they do or not do. What were their thoughts? What did they regret not doing or doing? What did they do to protect their family etc? These are the kinds of things you may not think about when living in the future without these threats. Reading what our relatives did and thought long ago would be very helpful today.

      1. Liz at Home

        I think that Gen. Satterfield is doing something to ensure he does not allow his granddaughter to make those same mistakes. He believes she can develop the wisdom of learning from him. He is giving her the opportunity. Will she take that opportunity? That is the real question.

  4. Dale Paul Fox

    “My Mom drove me to a store to buy a Nehru shirt.” I nearly fell out of my chair when I read this. I bought one too. we must be about the same age.

  5. Lady Hawk

    Excellent article and thank you, Gen. Satterfield for a truly wonderful series. I hope … no, I know your granddaughterr will cherish these letters.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      As she should and obviously will. I think any granddaughter or grandson would enjoy them and also, more importantly, learn valuable lessons from them.

  6. Ed Berkmeister

    Once again, a great letter to your granddaughter, Gen. Satterfield, one that gives a small but important lesson, “don’t smoke.” That is the very kind of simple message no longer is considered for kids. i will add to the lesson, “don’t smoke anything.” Not smoking keeps you out of trouble and avoids a terrible habit that will haunt you the rest of your life.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Too many parents today are just not willing to set limits on kids. And, that structure is what helps keep them sane and on the right track in life. Just read Gen. Satterfield’s “55 Rules for a Good Life” and you will get some rules that are worthy of following. Hint, these rules have been around for a long long time.
      You can get your copy on Amazon and please leave a comment for Gen. Satterfield.
      Don’t do stupid.

      1. Obama Cash

        Yes, well said guys. These articles by Gen. Satterfield and this forum are the best things that happened to me in a while. 😊

        1. Bryan Z. Lee

          Good to see you back in the forums Obama Cash. And, I agree, this website actually gives me some great ideas and also a place to get feed back on ideas that I have without crazies jumping down my throat.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.