By Douglas E. Gogerty
I have a very interesting job. I am a veterinarian in a very sparsely populated area of America. In fact, the animals greatly outnumber people here. So, I am kept pretty busy, and I travel almost constantly. After all, if a 2000 pound bull is sick, it is kind of difficult to get him in the truck and get him to the vets office. So, I have to make house calls.
While I have a house in Sheridan Wyoming, I am seldom there. My truck has all of the medical equipment I need, plus a bed. Sometimes my client puts me up for the night, but often I'll be off to the next stop. There are times when I spend the night in between places. It is difficult sometimes, but I meet all kinds of interesting people, and I deal with all kinds of interesting cases.
For instance, on one particular day, I helped a dog with a snake bite, and a snake with a dog bite. On another occasion, I helped get a cow down off a barn, and get a mule out of a well. Thus, on any particular call, you never know what you'll run into next.
To be honest, I do have my share of mundane days. I have spayed and neutered plenty of dogs and cats. I have dealt with plenty cantankerous animals. However, overall I love my job.
Nonetheless, with the remoteness of some of the areas, I am the only medical person some of the people see. Hence, I am called upon, on occasion, to offer some advice on the treatment of people. Mostly, if the problem seems serious enough, I recommend that they see a people doctor. However, I can treat sprains and strains if called upon to do so.
Sometimes, the interesting part of my day is the people I am asked to observe and diagnose. One particular case always comes to my mind when I think of my most interesting cases.
It was a fairly mundane day. I was checking a herd of cattle for various inflictions. This herd got a clean bill of health, and the family invited me in for dinner. I graciously accepted. After all, I was fairly close to home. With a good meal in me, I would be looking forward to sleeping in my own bed that night.
I thought that they were celebrating the health of their herd because they really put on a feast that night. It was only later that I discovered their ulterior motive. They were worried about their Uncle Ben; however, they were not worried about his physical health.
Uncle Ben was a high school math teacher in Cheyenne for many years. His kids were grown and moved out of the state. His wife died a few years ago, and he retired to a small cottage near the Wyoming/Montana border.
The family would check on him every now and again, and he seemed to be doing well on his own. However, not that long ago, they noticed a change in his behavior. Uncle Ben's family tried to get him to talk about it, but he refused. At any rate, that is what they told me.
Further, since I was in the neighborhood, they told me I could drop in to check his animals. That would give me an excuse to talk to the old man. They felt that someone with a medical background would be able to help Uncle Ben with whatever was bothering him.
While I was suspicious of the situation, I grudgingly accepted the challenge. I received directions to Uncle Ben's cabin and was off with a bag of cookies and some leftovers. I am not sure if they were for me or him, but nonetheless, I had them.
The family made it seem like Uncle Ben's place was not far. Perhaps it was not far as the crow flies, but the winding road took me far and wide. It was over an hour before I reached the turnoff to Uncle Ben's place.
As I drove up, I was greeted by a friendly mixed breed dog. Since my excuse for coming was a veterinary trip, I gave her a quick check. There were no signs of abuse. She appeared to be well fed, and she looked as if she had plenty of exercise.
I wandered around the property briefly. He had no livestock that I could see. I found no chickens, pigs, or cattle. This was not unusual for a retired person. Ranching is difficult work.
I did spot a few feral cats living in a shed. They would not let me get close to them, but this type of situation is fairly normal in many agricultural areas. They keep the rodent population in check, but require little intervention from people. While that type of situation pushes my buttons, it is the way some people think.
I decided that I would offer to spay the cats for Uncle Ben at no charge. Thus, the population of feral cats would not grow unchecked. At least, it would be a good excuse for coming along with the family recommendation.
From the looks of it, this house was probably once the ranch hands house. A wealthy ranch owner would normally live in a large main house. However, some of the hired help would live closer to the herd. This house looked just sort of structure for this purpose. Nonetheless, it was a fine place for a retired widower.
I walked onto the porch and knocked. I waited for several seconds, and knocked again. Their was no answer. I walked around the house to see if I could spot anyone inside. I did not see anyone, and I thought that was strange.
The family had told me that he rarely left the house anymore. Perhaps their fears were unfounded after all. However, I saw his car in the garage, so he did not drive anywhere. Maybe he simply went for a walk.
I looked around for a little while longer, but I did not spot him anywhere. I decided to knock once again. There was still no answer, so I decided to try the door. It was not locked.
"Hello?" I called as I cautiously walked inside the house.
I did not hear a response to my words, but I did hear some mumbling in one of the rooms towards the back of the house.
"Ben?" I asked as I slowly ventured farther into the house.
There still was no response. However, I was getting closer to sounds inside. It sounded as if Uncle Ben was having a conversation on the phone. I thought that he was on an important call, and he did not want to be interrupted. That is why he did not reply to my knocks and calls.
I continued towards the voice I heard. I found a door. Clearly, Uncle Ben was on the other side. I opened the door, and Uncle Ben was sitting their with a tinfoil pyramid hat on his head, and the walls of the room were covered in kitchen plates. Furthermore, he was alone and not on the phone.