This is from the ninth (and very most popular and famous) chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends to join us.
THE DELIVERY (PART 2)
Unknown to me, during the delivery the paramedics had arrived. After getting to the barn, all they could do was watch a new, young physician they had never met attend his first delivery. They stood quietly by, probably not knowing whether to laugh or groan.
They watched the farmer as he offered me his calloused, hardened hand and I took it. He pulled me to my feet. And with an uncalloused and soft heart he gave me a hug. “Thanks, Doc. Thanks. You helped me save the calf.”
When he released me I could see that his eyes were a bit misty. “You did good. Real good.”
I was taken aback by the moistness in his eyes. Then it struck me. This was not just an animal to him. This yearling heifer was something more special than that. It was my first inkling of a mountain reality—that a man’s herd was an extension of his family, especially if he had only a few animals. His life revolved around his animals and his sustenance depended on them. He grew to love each one of them, to name them, to learn their peculiarities and their habits. He could read them — and the weather—better than you or I could read the newspaper. My admiration and respect for the farmer grew immensely in just a few microseconds.
“No,” I told him, “thank you. I appreciate the opportunity and the teaching.”
He smiled. As I turned toward the door, for the first time I saw the paramedics. They too were smiling from ear to ear. As I approached I heard the mountain drawl of one I would come to know so very well over the years. “You the new doc?” asked the shorter and slightly more portly of the two.
“Yes, I am. I’m Walt Larimore. Thanks for coming.”
“I’m Don Grissom, and this here’s Billy.” I turned back to be sure the farmer, the mom, and the baby were OK. Being assured that all was well, we bade them good-bye and left the barn. As we stepped outside, I continued, “I hope this was no trouble. I didn’t know it was a cow.”
Don put his hand on my shoulder. “Not to worry, Doc, we’ve had lots stranger calls than this. And . . . well, the outcome was pretty good, wasn’t it?”
Billy, trying to heap more encouragement on me than I deserved, continued, “Besides, Doc, we’d rather be called when we’re not needed than not be called when we are needed.”
I sheepishly thanked them again, told them I looked forward to getting to know them, and walked over to my Toyota and hopped in. Only then did I realize that the front of my scrubs was soaking wet, as were my hands—wet and sticky. Fortunately, there was a rag in the glove compartment with which I could wipe my hands and the steering wheel.
During the short drive down School House Hill and back up Hospital Hill, I found myself overflowing with relief and grati- tude—not unlike what most physicians feel after an emergency sit- uation where the work is done well and the results are satisfying.
As I arrived home it was nearly 3:00 A.M. Not much time to sleep before another day of practice would begin. Walking to the house, I could see that a new moon had risen—on our small community, on its newest member, and on a new career.
Gary Ayers woke us up at 6:00 A.M. Barb nudged me awake, begging me to “turn that thing off.” But, half-asleep, I smiled and felt a warm comfort when Gary announced, “The new doc in town, Dr. Walt Larimore, delivered his first baby in the middle of the night last night—a white-faced heifer up at Clem Monteith’s place. Word is the cow and calf are fine. No word on the doc . . .”
By late that morning, the news was all over town. The reviews, according to those who talked to “Doc” John, the town’s gregarious pharmacist at Super Swain Drug Store, were “generally good.” I was later to learn that, coming from “Doc” John, this was a high compliment indeed—rarely extended to an “out- sider.” During evening rounds at the hospital, nurses and doctors were offering their congratulations and smiles.
I was sitting at the nurses’ station, writing a progress note on a patient’s chart, when I heard: “Heck of a way to start your career.” The statement was followed by a chuckle from Dr. Bacon. The octogenarian smiled. “I’m proud of you, son. Didn’t know they taught much animal medicine up there in the ivory tower of Duke.” He chuckled again as he took off down the hall at a brisk pace—his hallmark. I presumed, perhaps mistakenly, that this was a compliment—and thus considered the praise of a respected colleague to be sweet.
Mitch chimed in from across the nurses’ station. “Tell you what, son, when we get an afternoon free, I’m gonna teach you all about cattle. Why, I’ll even teach you how to conceive those things!” Before I could ask him to explain what he was talking about, he had left the station and was heading down the hall.
The next day Helen asked me if I had a minute to speak to a patient in the lobby. Mitch’s nurse had a devilish smile on her face.
“What’s going on, Helen?”
The smile quickly left as she perceived me to be questioning her authority. “Just come with me to the waiting room, young man. Now!” I didn’t argue.
As I entered the lobby, it took me a minute to recognize Clem. He was cleaned up—but then so was I. He had his left arm around a homely woman, seemingly dressed in her Sunday best. He walked over with an ear-to-ear smile, missing a few teeth, and began to enthusiastically pump my hand.
“Doc, just came by to say thanks once again for what you done the other night for me and my family. This here’s my wife, Doris.” I was to learn that they had no children. Indeed, Clem’s herd and his wife were his family.
“Well, it’s good to see you again, Mr. Monteith, and it’s good to meet you, Mrs. Monteith.”
“Clem and Doris will work just fine for us.” Clem smiled and then dropped his head for a moment, seemingly gathering his words. (I was to learn that this is a common behavior in the area. It gives the speaker time to think and builds the drama of the moment.)
“Doc, we’re just here to say that we know you’re new in these parts and we know you haven’t done lots of animal work, but we think you done real good and we want you to know we appreciate it.”
“You’re more than welcome,” I stammered, more embarrassed than thankful.
“Doc,” he said falteringly, “we don’t have any way to pay you back for your service just yet. But we’ll pay you when we can.”
“That’s OK,” I replied. After all, I hadn’t even considered charging for my services. No one had ever taught me how to provide medical services to cows, much less how to charge for those services.
He paused for just a moment. I wasn’t quite sure what to do—or what to say.
“Go ahead,” Doris spoke up. “Go ahead and tell him, honey.”
“Well, Doc, we want you to know that we named the calf after you.”
Wow, I thought. Possibly a prize-winning hybrid white-faced heifer. And furthermore, named “Dr. Walt Larimore” or “Professor Larimore” or just “The Doc.” Man-o-man! I was beginning to feel a bit of pride welling up, only to be overcome by curiosity. “What did you name her?” I asked.
“We named her ‘Walter.’”
I could hear Helen trying to swallow her laughter.
Clem and Doris were beaming as they left the office.
I went back to work—after all, there were patients waiting to be seen.
As far as I know, my first full-term delivery is still alive. She’s delivered a bunch of her own calves over the last two decades. But I bet she’s never experienced a birth like her own. And even though I’ve delivered over 1,500 newborns in my career, few of those deliveries are as memorable as the birth of Walter.
(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT FRIDAY)
- Bryson City Tales — The Murder (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Murder (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Murder (Part 3)
- Bryson City Tales — The Arrival (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Arrival (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Hemlock Inn (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Grand Tour (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Grand Tour (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Interview (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Interview (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Interview (Part 3)
- Bryson City Tales — Settling In (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — Settling In (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — First-Day Jitters (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — First-Day Jitters (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — Emergency (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — Emergency (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Delivery (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Delivery (Part 2)
© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.