When I was a kid, I had an uncle who owned an auto repair shop in Minot. Behind it was an alley and on the other side of the alley was a backyard where the owner had installed an underground bomb shelter.

In the ’60s, when relations with the Russians were very bad and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy were verbally jousting over the installation of nuclear missile sites in Cuba, people were encouraged to build bomb shelters.

Then, should a nuclear event occur, they could slip inside to survive, assuming the place was filled with enough food and supplies to hold up for a long period of time.

Usually the shelter was a trench with a strong roof buried under three feet of earth with two ends of the trench having ramps or entrances constructed at right angles to the trench so that gamma rays could not enter.

But many of the shelters that were built were not designed well. Yes, they may have blocked radiation fairly well, but they were not really built to protect people long enough for the threat to dissipate, primarily because they lacked air-handling and waste-disposal systems.

You see, earth is an excellent thermal insulator. But over several weeks of habitation, the shelter temperature goes up markedly as a result the occupants’ body heat. So without good ventilation, the occupants would suffer heat exhaustion or suffocation.

Recently, we’ve become more aware of the possibility of a nuclear war without really believing that it could actually happen.

The assumption is that, even if North Korea is to launch missiles our way, they have to know that we’ll send a volley back and wipe them off the map, don’t they? Let’s hope so.

Still, we need to realize that many of those countries with smaller nuclear arsenals, such as India and Pakistan, are often engaged in regional conflicts, making the possibility of regional nuclear war a real possibility.

Plus, there is always the prospect of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists, God forbid.

Steven Hawking is an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge in England. He once said that, “Life on earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden global nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers that we have not yet thought of.”

In the Bible, Luke 21:36 says to “Keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Good advice.

Dexter Gordon, the American jazz tenor saxophonist offered the most sobering revelation when he said, “In nuclear war, all men are cremated equal.”

All in all, it kind of makes you want to enjoy the moment, doesn’t it?

Kevin Holten is the executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.

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