He recalls the life of a veterinarian 60 years ago

WestWordsWEBLater this month, I will be joining my siblings at the family plot in  a southern Minnesota cemetery to bury my dad’s ashes. He died two years ago, gave his body to medical research, and we have recently  received the ashes.

It will be a quiet, little ceremony. In preparing for this occasion, I have been spending my evenings looking at quotes from famous people and authors, seeking something that would be appropriate.

My father was a veterinarian, so the first author I turned to for a quote about that profession was Dr. James Herriott, the Scottish veterinarian best known for his book, “All Creatures Great and Small.”

In another of his books, “If Only They Could Talk,” he wrote: “My mind went back to that picture in the obstetrics book. A cow standing in the middle of a gleaming floor while a sleek veterinary surgeon … inserted his arm to a polite distance. He was relaxed and smiling, the farmer and his helpers were smiling, even the cow was smiling. There was no dirt or blood or sweat anywhere.

“That man in the picture had just finished an excellent lunch and had moved next door to do a bit of calving just for the sheer pleasure of it, as a kind of dessert. He hadn’t crawled shivering from his bed at two o’clock in the morning and bumped over 12 miles of frozen snow, staring sleepily ahead till the lonely farm showed in the headlights. He hadn’t climbed half a mile of white fell-side to the doorless barn where his patient lay.”

My dad made many of the latter kinds of calls over the years. He was grateful for the business.

No farm families had day jobs in town. They got to town once a week, if then. They didn’t have “production facilities.” Many had only a few cows, a few hogs and several  chickens. When he traveled more than five miles from town, the farmer thought he had come a long way, and often invited him in for cake or pie.

It was a different time.

Tom West is the Peach general manager. Reach him at (320) 616-1932 or e-mail [email protected]