Volume 5, Number 12, Summer 1976
Nothing strikes cold fear into the hearts of a family more than serious injury or illness of a loved one.
Our early pioneer people relied on the country doctor. He traveled horseback or in horsedrawn buggy. The night was never too dark or stormy. The roads were terrible. No bridges spanned the wild streams. The ferry boat provided a means of crossing the large streams, but the smaller ones had to be forded.
The country doctor carried his instruments and medicines with him. He would sit all night at the bedside of his patient. He battled sickness and disease as his fierce enemy, and he did it on raw courage. He did not have the vaccines, the antibiotics, the clinics, hospitals and nurses of modern times.
Smallpox, diptheria, typhoid, scarlet fever and countless other ailments were the common enemies of the hill people.
Serious injuries from accidents in timber cutting and other rough work had to be treated at the scene or in the home. The hill men were quick to fight with deadly weapons. The country doctor had his share of sewing up knife wounds and probing for bullets.
These men of mercy did not expect much pay. They knew the hill people did not have ready cash, in most instances, to pay bills. That made no difference for these men were devoted to their profession. Sometimes the pay would be a rick of wood, a ham of meat, a bushel of potatoes, or even wild game, which would be left at the home of the doctor.
We had our share of fine country doctors. Some of the names I can recall -- Taney county had Doctor Baldwin with his neat white chin whiskers. Doctor Callen who wound up his days in practice at Protem; Drs. Burdett, Horned, Stacey, Gonce, Johnson, Jesse Storms, Hummel and many others. Just before the advent of the automobile, Dr. Guy B. Mitchell came to Branson and drove a team of black mares to his buggy, over the hills.
Dr. Harry T. Evans and Dr. J. M. Threadgill were two of the last of what I call the "Country Doctors." Dr. Evans and our beloved Dr. Threadgill have made the last call. Neither of these drove a team of horses or rode horseback (except on rare occasions when getting across streams) but each of them ruined many a good automobile on the rough roads as they went far and wide, carrying the healing art to our people.
Stone County had Drs. Dethrage, Kerr, Miller, and Dr. Schumate. Others in the area were Dr. Wade of Ozark, Dr. Gentry of Ava, and Dr. Bushong of Gainesville. There were scores of others unknown to me.
Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey penned the poem, "Dr. Storms." It seems a fitting tribute to our late Dr. Threadgill and Dr. Evans and all those whose gentle hands touched the fevered brow and bound the gapping wound.
One of the sounds we hear no more
and never shall hear again,
Is the rhythmic ring and rattle,
of a swinging bridle chain.
And the screaking saddle leather,
and a gruff old scolding voice,
As Doc. Storms rode down the mountain,
sounds that made our hearts rejoice.
For we knew that help was coming,
in our hour of desperate fear.
How we strained our ears to listen,
as those hoof beats sounded near.
Entering in so bluff and cheery.
scolding Coalie at the door.
But we were glad to see his old dog,
lying by our hearth once more.
Leather saddle bags he cast down,
warmed his hands before the fire.
Asked that some one take old Slocum,
as the wind was getting higher.
And tie him somewhere in the stable,
maybe near a little hay.
Then he donned his steel - rimmed glasses,
and his eyes would never stray,
From the white face on the pillow,
gently touching wrist and brow.
And we felt our fears all vanish,
Doc Storms was with us now...
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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