An entertaining memoir recalls the beginning of a veterinarian’s career in the early 1960s in Montana.
In June 1960, immediately after graduation, newly minted veterinarian Gross (Travels with Charlize, 2015) left his native Arizona with his wife of two months, Rosalie, and headed north to the sprawling hinterlands of Sidney, Montana. Eager to gain practical experience, the young associate county veterinarian jumped enthusiastically into 10- and 12-hour days, plus alternate weekends, dividing his time between the Sidney Animal Hospital and “house” calls to horse and cattle ranches within a 40- or 50-mile radius. Charm, wit, and an obvious affection for his patients permeate the pages of this volume, originally released in 2011. A healthy dose of humor, self-deprecating and otherwise, adds welcome levity to some graphic, detailed descriptions of the medical procedures Gross performed. Today, many of us associate veterinarians with doctors who tend to our furry or feathered companions, but the bulk of Gross’ stint in Montana was spent treating large animals: horses, cattle, and pigs. This required physical strength as well as medical competence. Veterinary medicine has progressed in the 50-plus years since Gross ventured out of Phoenix, but in 1960, vets performed much of the care for large animals without anesthesia. Imagine the job of drawing blood from a not-too-willing, wide-awake bull or castrating 16 recently captured wild horses. Gross recounts his particular fondness for the small animals he treated, especially dogs—Skipper the border collie, who got caught by a lawn mower, and Frick and Frack, two bluetick hounds with faces full of porcupine quills. Bringing everything into sharper focus are the vivid depictions of the countryside and the ranchers of Richland County, Montana, and the Badlands of North Dakota. The author peppers his account with a bit too much technical jargon, but he is an articulate observer, and he knows how to tell a compelling story.
Delightful vignettes about caring for animals large and small in the West make this book an enjoyable and satisfying read.