Authors: Ben K. Green
Also by Ben K. Green
Wild Cow Tales
Some More Horse Tradin’
These are Borzoi Books
Published in New York by
Alfred A. Knopf
This is a Borzoi Book
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Copyright © 1971 by Ben K. Green
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 79-118716
The Village Horse Doctor is an accurate account of my true experiences during my years of practice in the Far Southwest as the first veterinary doctor at Fort Stockton, Texas
I offer no apologies for having written the true facts about the conditions in this desert country, and I have the highest regard for a rugged breed of people who were ever grateful for my efforts and so charitable of my many mistakes
My life has been rough but it has never been dull and the time covered by these chapters is probably the roughest and the furtherest from being dull as any years that I have so far spent on this earth
You will find no bibliographies or other list of references in this book since all the material is that of the Village Horse Doctor himself
Ben K. Green
SMART? HORSE DOCTOR
January 4, 1944, I crossed the Pecos River between McCamey and Girvin headed for Old Mexico to practice veterinary medicine. It was midafternoon and a “blue norther” was blowin’ down from the Rockies, and I could see heavy black clouds come rollin’ down the Pecos River draw that were comin’ off the Panhandle of Texas.
A few months earlier I had loaned a good two-door Dodge to some friends of mine. They got drunk and drove it under a truckload of wheat. My car was demolished and one of the boys was killed in the wreck. The Second World War was in full swing and buying a new car was next to impossible, so I got a used-car dealer to let me have the best he had.
It was a 1937 two-door Chevrolet with the usual story about havin’ belonged to an old-maid schoolteacher who had never driven it over 20 mph and had never been off the pavement with it. A whole lot of this might have been so because the old car was in an excellent state of preservation, but I had it loaded with a year’s supply of veterinary drugs and instruments and it wasn’t eatin’ up that desert road towards Mexico very fast.
It was dark when I pulled into Fort Stockton, Texas. The blizzard had struck and the temperature was falling fast. A day or two before, I had slammed the door on the right side of the car a little hard tryin’ to push the overload back into it and had broken out about a fourth of the top of the glass in the door. This little opening was makin’ me very much aware of the change in the weather, and I decided to check in at Fort Stockton for the night.
I registered at the Springhurst Hotel. It was too cold to loaf around and get acquainted with the town, so I ate a big supper in the dining room and sat around awhile in the lobby, which was quiet and peaceful. I visited with Benny Walker, who was the porter and after ten p.m. the porter and night clerk combined. We had a little light conversation. Benny was very well mannered and didn’t pry into my business, and I didn’t volunteer any information. After a while I walked upstairs and went to bed.
Early next morning I discovered that the Springhurst Hotel was the early-morning coffee shop for all the ranchers
who lived in town and went to their ranches in the morning. They had begun to gather in the dining room, and, of course, the weather was the main topic of conversation. The temperature was down to 16 degrees above, and I gathered that this was an unusual spell for the dry Trans-Pecos Region of Texas.
Since I had been a cowboy all my life, nobody would have suspicioned from my appearance that I was a veterinary doctor, and nothing in their lingo seemed strange or unusual to me since I spoke their language too. During this early-morning session that I was stretchin’ an ear out for, I heard the argument that the wind was puttin’ up as it blew down the main street, which ran north and south, so I decided I would hole up here for a few days until the weather broke.
The next morning I was sittin’ in the lobby watchin’ the natives for pastime when a man walked over and introduced himself as Russell Payne. He was tall, light complexioned, and had a cigar that grew between his fingers and, when he stuck it in his mouth, gave off lots of smoke signals. He was a cowboy who had graduated to the livestock commission business and evidently was doing better at it than cowboy’n’.
After he learned that I was a veterinary doctor, he called to Alf TenyCke, Pat Cooper, Doug Adams, and several others who belonged in the coffee crowd as they came from the dining room into the lobby. As he introduced me to them, it seemed that it was the sudden thought of everybody that I should settle in the community.
The weather was bad and nobody was in a hurry, so we sat around the lobby stove, and they all put up a good talk about how much stock there was in the country and that it was a hundred and fifty miles or more in any direction to a vet. Of course, they all thought I would do real well
there. I didn’t discourage them too much and didn’t make any sudden remarks about stayin’, as I pretty well had my head set for Chihuahua City, Mexico.
The weather didn’t break and ice stayed on the ground for sixteen days, which according to the natives was supposed to be some kind of record for freezing weather. During this time I had visited around the two drugstores. One, owned by Roger Gallemore, was on the west side of the main street on the north end of the block close to the bank. He and his wife, Ida, who everybody commonly referred to as Mrs. G, had been exceptionally nice to me and insisted that I settle in Fort Stockton.