Have you ever had one of those days when you had a plan, hoped it would play out, then actually have it turn out far better than expected? I haven’t had many, but I did have one a couple of Thursdays ago.
I had asked my neighbor, Tom Hiett, if he would go with me to visit my old boss, Dr. Ed Laman. Tom was one of Dr. Laman’s clients for many years, but they hadn’t seen each other for quite some time. With Ed’s 90th birthday approaching on June 1, I thought this would be a nice event for both of them.
“You’re G.D. right I will!” exclaimed Tom. One of the most colorful characters I have encountered in my life, Tom farmed my great- uncle Osborne’s land for decades and my own a few years more, until he retired last year.
A big, burly man, somewhat gruff, and at times outspoken, imagine him the son John Wayne and Walter Matthau never had. Based on a first meeting, some might get the impression that he’s not a sensitive man, but I happen to know he is. And I also know that a good chunk of his big heart belongs to his former veterinarian and good friend, Ed.
Tom was a master beef cattle feeder for most of his farming career. Together, he and Ed battled many of the ailments common to that vocation, from dreaded “shipping fever” to a nasty bout of enterotoxemia. Never have I heard anyone speak more highly of, or have more respect for another, than Tom has for Ed.
We sat in the family room of the Laman’s home, Ed in his favorite chair, his wife, Anne, seated next to him, and Tom and I on a small couch across from them.
Although I don’t remember exactly how Tom started the conversation, it wasn’t long before another “G.D.” bomb was delivered. The expression on Anne’s face was priceless. A deeply religious lady, I’ve always considered her practically a saint. So when her eyes got real big, I settled back in my seat. This had the makings to be a great show, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Tom and Ed talked about people I didn’t know, some that I did, and of places around here I didn’t even know existed.
Then the conversation quickly turned to “moonshine.” I knew Tom had dabbled in this particular beverage for a few years, but I had no idea Ed was such an expert. Apparently, neither did Anne. I could tell she was impressed.
Eventually, they talked of dads — Tom’s, Ed’s and even my own. Ed knew my dad from their college days and Tom from his visits to our uncle’s farm. They both wondered if I was as ornery as he was. No. Not as, anyway.
It was about this time that Tom suddenly raised his index finger, looked at me, pointed at Ed, and said back to me, “There’s my number one vet. You might be number two, but he’ll always be number one.”
“That’s okay,” I chuckled in return. “He’s number one in my book, too.”
And he is. Even though I only worked with Ed for two years, he taught me so much, a lot of it the kind of stuff they don’t teach anymore, and I’m not just referring to veterinary medicine. He gave me my first job, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
A veterinarian for more than 40 years, Ed’s memory bank of stories is endless. Among the classics recalled were the four cases of schistosomus reflexus he encountered in calves. This congenital condition of twisted spine and crooked limbs, with the viscera found outside the abdominal cavity, often requires a caesarean section to resolve, and two of Ed’s cases did. He also told of a chilly night dystocia where, shirtless, he delivered a large calf, and then had to replace the subsequent uterine prolapse, all while the temperature was 17 degrees below zero. My stories pale. Dr. Laman should be the one who writes a book!
After about an hour, Tom and I began our good-byes, and about an hour after that, I took him home.
Before he got out of my Jeep, Tom shook my hand and quietly said, “Thank you.” With both of us on the verge of emotional overflow, there was little doubt of the feelings we shared for the man spent time with that morning.
As I drove out the driveway, I left with the satisfaction that I had done a really good thing, and I would count this day as one of my best ever. I think Tom and Ed will, too. I hope they have many more.
Dr. John Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital.