Tag Archives: family

Country Doctors – A Fading Memory

House Call (CCBY20 tedkerwin)

At eighty-seven, Dr. Russell Dohner still sees patients who come by his office off the town square in Rushville, Illinois, just like he has done for the past sixty years. But time marches on, and Dr. Dohner has been forced to more than double his fee for a first-come-first-served office visit. On their way out, each patient now pays Edith Moore, the eighty-five-year-old secretary, a five dollar fee.

Dr. Dohner doesn’t accept medical insurance–he says it’s not worth the bother. “I always just wanted to be a doctor to help people with their medical problems and that’s all it’s for. It was never intended to make a lot of money.” You can read more of Dr. Dohner’s story here, in the LaCross Tribune.

From the late 1950s, I grew up in a small, rural town in northeast Ohio. There was a little white house across the street from us, where Dr. List had his office. With wisps of gray hair, black-rimmed glasses, and a white coat, Doc List stitched me up when I fell partway through a glass storm door, prescribed medicine whenever I got sick, and he even fitted me with my first pair of glasses. My parents always paid him in cash. Back then, Doc List either didn’t take medical insurance, or we didn’t have that kind of insurance. I’m not sure which was the case, but whenever we needed medical care, we just walked across the street.

Fortunately for me, Doc List’s son followed in his father’s footsteps. When I was about thirteen, and too sick to even walk across the street, the young Dr. List made the last house call I can remember. He ended up sending me straight to the hospital with a 105 degree temperature, and a bad case of viral pneumonia.

In the story, An Irish Miracle, Doc McGowan makes a house call to look after Alastar Connolly, after he took a nasty fall and split his head open. Dr. Dohner, both Dr. Lists, and Doc McGowan are caring, dedicated country doctors. The only difference is that Doc McGowan was a large animal veterinarian, affectionately, a horse doctor. Since his patients usually weighed well over 1000 pounds, it wasn’t really his fault that he might have been a little heavy-handed with the local anesthetics he administered to Alastar.

Would you trust an old country doctor, like the ones in this story, with your medical care today? Their training and methods might have been from a bygone era, but they each cared deeply for their patients, many of whom were also friends and neighbors. Going to a doctor’s office these days seems to begin with “Has your insurance changed?” instead of “It’s nice to see you, how are you feeling?”, and end with a string of cryptic billing statements and frustrating telephone calls that can stretch out for months afterward.

Something in between might be nice.

All the best,
Rob

Homeless Horseman – A Real Life Alastar Connolly

Horse-Keeper (CCBY20 BRAYDAWG on Flickr)

In the story, An Irish Miracle, Alastar Connolly’s horses were not only his companions, they were his best friends. Friends that always listened. Friends that never judged. (Well, almost never.) During dark times, Alastar’s horses were his only family, and he often slept in their stalls, burrowed deep in the fresh hay.

A real-life Alastar Connolly made the local news recently. A state fire marshal inspection on the backstretch of the Cal Expo Harness Racing Track near Sacramento ousted farrier Johnny Walker, and many other grooms, from the barn tack rooms where many of them had been living for years, near the horses they cared for and loved.

From the report in The Sacramento Bee:

Farrier Johnny Walker, who has owned and trained horses at Cal Expo
for 20 years, has been sleeping on a cot outside the stall of his
only horse, The Goose.

"He's my family," said Walker, 64. "I've had him since he was a baby.
I just love him."

"As long as we're racing and keep making money, that keeps me going,"
Walker said. "But if I couldn't keep (my horse), that scares me."

Hopefully, after renovations ordered by the fire marshal are completed, Johnny Walker and his fellow farriers and grooms will be reunited with their living quarters, and their horses, at least in the short term. Tack rooms were never meant to be permanent places of residence.

Alastar Connolly would have empathized with Johnny’s physical and emotional plight. As a boy, being separated from his beloved Molly and Wilbur started Alastar on a journey that took him half way around the world. Fortunately, looking back on his life in Ireland, Alastar wrote:

"I lived a life filled with horses that I loved as friends and
friends that I loved as family."

You can read the story of the real Johnny Walker (not the pipe-smoking gentleman in the picture above) and his horse, The Goose, in the article Cal Expo racetrack workers scramble to find housing during renovations, on The Sacramento Bee website.

My editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, brought Johnny Walker’s story to my attention. Having an editor who expertly helps me polish my words, and who watches out for me between manuscripts, is truly a blessing. Thanks, Robin!

All the best,
Rob

A Skyline Drive Memory

Pig Farm from the Skyline Drive

A dear fellow blogger, Cameron of growing grace farm, wrote about a recent drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway with her daughter. Her post, What Tunnels Can Teach Us About Awareness, is a lovely metaphor about remembering to travel through life with a heightened sense of the world around us … and it sparked a childhood memory I’d like to share.

Cameron’s mention of the Blue Ridge Parkway brought back a childhood memory of my dad. A 1960s family vacation found us on the Skyline Drive, winding along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, above the Shenandoah River, and through some of the most beautiful countryside in America. At one scenic overlook, Pop pointed out a pig farm down in the distant valley. The white farmhouse had a lazy curl of smoke rising from its chimney. In the sunshine and crisp, late summer air, a slight breeze brought a hint of woodsmoke and further evidence of the pigs far below up to our noses. It was a good, earthy smell. It told us of the family farm, teeming with life below.

The Skyline Drive is over a hundred twisty miles long, and the speed limit back in 1966 was something like thirty-five miles an hour. But with so many sights to see along the way, Pop drove it slowly, with frequent stops for “Kodak moments”. It was late evening by the time we reached the northern end of the route in Front Royal, Virginia. We hadn’t planned ahead very well, with only a bag of butterscotch candy in the car, so we were all very hungry by the time we found a restaurant. I’d never seen grilled pineapple on ham before, but the smoke from the charring steaks didn’t sit well with my over-hungry, eight-year-old stomach, and I couldn’t eat much.

The smokey restaurant didn’t bother Pop in the least, however, and that night he had what he said was one of the best meals he could remember. He had a huge Black Angus steak, but he talked about his baked potato, rubbed with rock salt, for the rest of the trip. When we got home, he looked forward to duplicating that delicious potato for himself.

It’s odd how certain things stick in an eight-year-old’s memory for the rest of his life. My guess is that Cameron’s daughter will forever remember the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway with her mom, and how all the dark tunnels through those thick, old mountains made her feel on that late summer day, way back in 2012.

All the best,
Rob