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Horse Doctor Adventures - Small Town Secrets
Horse Doctor Adventures - Small Town Secrets

Horse Doctor Adventures Small Town Secrets

American-born veterinarian, Carly Langley, lives in rural South Australia with her husband and two small girls. Their neighbor and babysitter, Mrs. Miller, is found dead. She is a treasured member of the family, so it is inconceivable that Carly would want to kill her. The police think otherwise.

Who killed Mrs. Miller and why? How does Carly prove her innocence? Who in this town is on her side and who is determined to frame Carly in this unusual death.

Several townsfolk come to her rescue, including a hotshot lawyer from Sydney and an Aboriginal high school student.

Many others offer her help. Their objectives are questionable. Who can she trust? Even her veterinary clinic bosses have doubts about her innocence.

Her prospects for a guilty finding and significant jail time, not to mention the loss of access to her beloved carrot cake, send Carly in a downward spiral.

Who, if anyone, will come to her rescue. This town has secrets. It's up to Carly to solve this mystery and demonstrate her innocence.

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Horse Doctor Adventures - Small Town Secrets

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All the signs were there. It was the end of a long, punishing drought. The rain signaled a change for many of us who relied on the land. It also coincided with an event that would change my life forever. It was the beginning of the end.

As I drove my vet truck in torrential rain toward the last call of the day, I phoned my friend to request an extension of her babysitting duties. “Hey, Jules, is this crazy or what? I’ve got one call to go. Can you stay any longer?”

“Two inches and counting, Carly.” I heard Julie walking down the hall in our house. “I can stay, but it’ll cost you.”

“Inches and not millimeters. That’s old school, isn’t it? I’m sorry to do this to you. I called the hospital, and Dan’s on a home visit. The receptionist didn’t know when he’d be back.”

“When’s the last time you talked to your neighbor? An ambulance pulled up a few minutes ago.”

“Oh, no. She has a cold. I hope she didn’t fall.”

“They don’t call ambulances for colds.”

“Dan saw her this morning. He never said anything.”

Dan and I are living the dream. I’m a veterinarian, and Dan’s an emergency-room physician. I come from a farming community and migrated from the United States to a small, rural town north of Adelaide. At the same time, Dan’s a city boy from Sydney. I followed the accent. We met at the university’s emergency room, where Dan was doing his residency in the States.

I heard Julie walking down the hall in our house.

I was finishing my internship in equine medicine at the university veterinary school. I sprained my ankle. It would be spectacular to say I’d been injured while wrestling a stallion. Sadly, in fact, I twisted my ankle while sliding in my socks on the freshly waxed linoleum in the corridor of the veterinary hospital. It was a regular competition between the large and small animal interns. Who could slide the farthest? The customary, late-night match followed the semiannual floor waxing on the old linoleum hallway.

I was transported over to the university hospital, where a young, redheaded doctor with an Australian accent was attending emergencies. “Hi, I'm Dr. Langley,” was all I needed to hear. Forget his kind manner, above-average looks, and warm hands on my ankle. I was smitten by the accent.

Several days after the encounter, I saw him running in the local park. He acknowledged me with a wave as he and a few other men ran by me while I sat on a bench, throwing a ball for my dog, Buster. My heart didn’t skip a beat. That’s a ridiculous idea. My heart did increase in rate, and I’m reasonably sure there was a ventricular ectopic beat, which made me catch my breath. I waved, but soon he was gone. Buster replaced the ball in my lap, reminding me that my sole reason for living was throwing the ball for him.

I saw the accent again in the grocery store a week after that. We were both wearing green scrub tops, and I smiled as we passed in the aisle. I instinctively examined my right shoulder to check for any residual manure left from a recent rectal palpation I’d performed earlier on a colicky pony. I couldn’t see any, but I smelled my scrub top and checked for the “Eau de Manure.” It passed the smell test. Phew.

I simply caught the accent.

“How’s the ankle? Any other sliding competitions this week?”

I didn’t hear the question at first. I simply caught the accent. “Pardon? Oh, no, all good, and the floor’s too worn for sliding now. We have one or two nights after it’s waxed before it becomes too abrasive. Thanks for asking.”

“I try to follow up on all my patients.”

“Really?” I was confident that it was a lie. I wasn’t a total beauty, but I wasn’t bad, either. I was above average on the social scale of the contemporary ideal looks for the times. The long blonde hair and slim build didn’t hurt, but what woman thought she was anything more than average, considering the one flaw that obsessed her? In my case, it was a small scar on my chin that was a gift from my brother. When we were fighting, he knocked me into the kitchen table, which resulted in a hospital trip and a poor stitch job by the local doctor.

“Oh, yes, all my patients.” His face reddened, and he turned away and appeared to intently study the selection of baked beans. He glanced back and smiled. I suggested and handed him the cheapest brand.

“They all taste the same. If money’s the criteria, four out of five interns will choose this one.” I handed him the generic brand and pushed my cart on down the aisle with no further interaction. He was way out of my league—no sense in torturing myself. Rip the bandage off quickly. Short and sharp. Two months to go, I'm gone and moving back home to work with Dr. Tuttle, my mentor, and family veterinarian.

At the checkout counter, I encountered the “accent” again. He was in line ahead of me. He turned and smiled. I tried to appear blasé as I returned the smile and pretended to be busy with a magazine I’d picked up at the counter. As I emerged from the store, he was standing by the door and appeared to be waiting for someone.

“So, do you have children, or just want them?”

“Huh?” Why did he ask that?

“You were reading Parent’s Magazine.

Now it was my turn to blush, and I did. I hadn’t even noticed the magazine or contents which I had pretended to read. “Oh, a friend’s having a baby, and I want ideas for a present.” A ridiculous reply, and I guessed he realized I was lying too.

“Your name’s Carly, right? I don’t remember your last name. I know it’s probably unprofessional of me, but would you like to meet for coffee or something?”

Replace that bandage and queue the wedding bells. Yes, sir, the game was on. “Well, I suppose I could. Now or another time?” Appear calm, relaxed, and casual. Don’t let him feel your pulse because the tachycardia is a dead giveaway.

That was then, and now is now—several years and two redheaded children since those first giddy days of infatuation. I currently work as a vet and negotiate child care in rural South Australia.

“Carly? You there?” Julie sensed I’d lost my train of thought.

This jolted me back to reality. “Of course. Could you stay? I won’t be any longer than six o’clock. If it’s a problem, I can pick up the kiddos and take them with me?”

Dan and I hadn’t wasted any time starting a family. The girls were three and five, and both total gingers. I was reasonably sure another one was in the oven, but I was merely a few days late. I hadn’t told Dan yet. Of course, he would want a boy, but he would never say it out loud. I didn’t care. I knew I’d reproduced myself with Casey, the firstborn. Unlike her younger sister, Faythe, Casey was a total tomboy. She loved all animals and accompanying Mum on veterinary calls.

The word “mum” made me cringe. I wanted to be called mom, but that went out the window when Casey heard the other children at playgroup call their mothers by the colloquial term. Casey was a switched-on little girl. When she wanted something, she called me, mom. This ploy came from coaching by her father, who frequently suggested the children call me “Mom,” but secretly was pleased they addressed me as “mum.”

The plan was for Dan and me to raise the children in rural Australia. When the girls were old enough to go to high school, we intend to move to a bigger town where their education would not suffer. We might even relocate back to the States. I didn’t care as long as the “accent” was by my side.

“Earth to Carly, earth to Carly.” Julie was trying to attract my attention, and recognized she was failing. “Stay out all night. My rates double after five, you know.”

Julie was my bestie. She was a nurse, who worked in the local community hospital with Dan, and was also an ovarian cancer survivor. The regular babysitter was Mildred Miller, an older neighbor, who was at home sick with a respiratory infection. Julie was only filling in. I met Julie when Dan started attending at the hospital and asked her and her husband, Mick, to join us for dinner. Julie had fifteen or more years on me, but we bonded quickly. Julie’s children were finishing school, and it was only in a pinch that I'd called her to ask if one of her daughters could babysit the girls for me today. Julie volunteered herself as her kids were sick, too.

“One hour, pinkie promise.” I kicked up the windshield wipers. “Be glad you aren’t out in this. It’s really coming down. To hell with the drought. The rain gods must be feeling generous.”

“Hey, Carly. That ambulance is still parked up across the road. Looks as though your babysitter might be headed to the hospital. Let me go suss it out, and I’ll tell you what’s going on when you get back.”

“Oh, no. I hope she’s going to be okay. I’ll hurry. I hate for her to deal with this on her own.” I felt responsible for Mrs. Miller’s safety. I knew she depended on Dan and me both for physical as well as financial support. This was returned in spades with her care of our daughters. I worried that she was alone and ill. If something happened, I would never forgive myself.

Julie made sure I heard her addressing the girls. “Hey, girls. Want some sweets before dinner? We can watch some reality television while we eat ice cream and lollies.” Julie laughed. She knew I was strict about snacks before dinner. They didn’t watch television, except on special occasions. Our house had poor reception, anyway. However, I was going to hurry home before they were utterly corrupted. I would learn about Mrs. Miller when I returned.

I drove to the property, where three ranch horses were standing in the mud. One horse was holding his leg off the ground while pivoting on the sound limb. The owner was standing under the shelter, waiting for me. Jimmy Medika was a local Aboriginal station hand who lived in the town with his family. He worked on a remote station and was gone for weeks at a time. His wife worked at the bank, and the children were grown and in the process of moving out. Their youngest daughter was in her last year of high school.

“Hello, miss. Thank you for coming.” Mr. Medika was particularly formal. “I think it’s a hoof abscess. However, since I need to get back up to the station next week, I thought it was best to have you out.”

The “station bred,” bay gelding is a mixture of quarter horse and brumby. He was a kind horse, but his leg hurt. The pressure of an expanding, infected fluid pocket under the hoof is like a blood blister under a fingernail. Froggy’s digital pulse throbbed, and he jumped when hoof testers were applied to the inside quarter of his foot. When he jumped, he knocked me sideways. “Seems like we found it. I’ll get a poultice and a sharper hoof knife, and we’ll see if we can’t get it open and draining. If we can release the pressure, you should be good to go in a day or two. How’s his tetanus status?”

“All good, miss. Remember, he cut himself a few months ago. I still have leftover antibiotics.”

“Don’t use any yet, Mr. Medika. Wait until the abscess bursts. You might not require antibiotics, anyway.”

“You can call me Jimmy.”

“You say that every time, but you call me “miss” or “doctor.” It goes both ways, you know.” I smiled at him, and he grinned back.

“Maybe someday, miss.” Most people called me by my first name, but he and a few others were still formal. I loved my clients, and they could address me as they chose.

I located the tract from the sole of the hoof to the probable abscess. However, because I didn’t hit “pay dirt” or frank pus, I finished applying a poultice to Froggy’s foot and left for home. I was soaked from the rain and cold. Feeling cold was entirely foreign. I was in heaven. I turned off the car air conditioner and opened the window. The steam was fogging up the windshield, so I had to turn on the defroster.

As I turned into the driveway, I noticed an ambulance and several emergency vehicles still parked at Mrs. Miller’s house. I was alarmed. I raced up to my front door to avoid a new rain shower. Julie was inside, watching from the window.

“Dinner’s finished. As a bonus, the girls are bathed and dressed in their nightgowns.”

“Oh, consider yourself kissed. But, more to the point, what’s going on across the street?”

The girls, who emerged from their rooms, ran over to me, which put a crimp in our conversation. Julie shrugged. “I’ve been waiting for you. Don’t know. I didn’t want to leave the kids. The ambulance has been there for an hour. It doesn’t look good.”

“Is that Kendall’s car?” Kendall was our friend too. Kendall Bidwell was one of the four local cops. She was a legend in the area and was responsible for initiating several programs for our town's children. Her after-school programs appeared to be working to decrease crime. Rural towns had their share of crime partially due to a lack of kids' activities as they grew up. Alcohol and even drugs were a problem for young and old. Domestic violence was sadly prevalent in our town, as well. Dan often witnessed the resulting injuries with his work as an emergency doctor at the hospital.

Dan and I loved the rural life and the friends we’d met, but challenges still existed. The lack of support for our professional endeavors was one of many. Finding friends with similar interests was another. Dan played footy, and he made numerous friends through sports, but we craved intellectual stimulation. The positives outnumbered the negatives. My friends met my social needs. Both Julie and Kendall read books and were up to speed with respect to the current affairs of the world. Both had a wicked sense of humor, and neither was below taking on challenges. We formed a bond when the town mayor wanted to prohibit horses inside the city limits. As if….

The torrential rain continued. While I started to get the girls ready for bed and prepare dinner for Dan and me, Julie walked over to the cars parked out in front of Mrs. Miller’s residence. Everyone was inside the house, and I watched Julie enter Mrs. Miller’s home and retreat outside with Kendall. They talked briefly, and then Julie ran back to the house. She returned to our residence soaked.

“Kendall’s not saying, but I know enough to say Millie’s not babysitting anymore. The ambos and police are waiting for detectives to come from Adelaide before they move the body.”

“You’re joking.” I almost said the F word, but I remembered the little ears listening and eyes watching every move. “Where the heck is Dan?” I picked up my phone to call him, but the battery had died. “What is going on over there?”

Julie was shaking from the wet and cold. “Don’t know. Kendall isn’t talking. She asked me how long I’d been at your house and if I’d observed anyone entering the house.”

“Had you?”

“Nope. The girls and I sat at the window, watching the rain all afternoon, and didn’t see anything. Hey, I need to get back home. Just got a text from the sick bay, and supplies are required. Heading to the chemist. You want anything?”

“No. Thanks, though, and thank you for today, too. I guess I’ll suck it up and start the kids in day care. I’m dreading the tidal wave of colds and viruses from the cesspool of immunologically naïve small children.”

Julie laughed. “Welcome to motherhood. Better now than when school starts.” She shrugged. “You can’t protect them forever. It’s a big dark world out there, and acquired immunity is the only way to survive.”

“I guess. It’s not the kids. It’s me. I’ll get whatever they bring home, you know.”

“Ever the concerned, caring mother….”

“Yeah, I’m a bit of a fraud.” I stared out the window and saw Dan’s SUV roll into the driveway. “Here, he is.”

As Julie walked down the steps and toward her car, Dan ran past and waved to her. I saw Julie point to the Miller house, enter her little red Kia, and pull away. Dan paused, stood in the rain, and gazed toward the Miller home, turned, and ran up the steps to our house.

As he entered, Dan was already soaked, yet he had a smile and tried to playfully hug me. I backed up and stuck my hands up. “Touch me with those wet clothes, and you’re dead meat, mister.”

Dan held up his hands in the arrested mode and smiled. I knew he was aware of what happened next door. “Terrible news. They’re coming over to talk to me. Was I the last person who saw her? Carly, she was sick, but not that sick, and she was only seventy-two. I assume they’ll do an autopsy. I know her husband died several years ago, and they didn’t have any kids, but are there any other relatives?”

“I think she has a sister in Melbourne or Sydney.” I could hear the girls calling their dad. I pointed to the bedroom where they both slept. “You’re being summoned.”

He stripped off his shirt and pants. I tossed him a towel and went to the laundry to get him a T-shirt and some sweats. “Can you read to them for a minute while I finish cooking our dinner?”

He grinned and went to the girls’ bedroom. Our house was small and old. It boasted just two bedrooms and a small office. This was convenient when Dan’s overbearing mother, Mira, visited. A night or two was all she could stand. It was exceptionally inconvenient when my mother wanted to come. Mom had traveled from Idaho twice. Our hide-a-bed accommodation didn’t make her want to return anytime soon. We’d bought the house from my bosses when we moved to town. We decided it was more important to live near the hospital than in the country.

I wanted to raise the girls with animals. To date, however, we didn’t even have a dog. Because bringing Buster to Australia was simply too complicated, he’d remained with my mother until he died last year. Well, if my twitchy uterus and timing were correct, we were going to finally make a move. I figured it was as good a time as any to inform Dan we might need to expand.

Julie’s cooking was not as good as a Miller dinner. I purposely explained to Julie that I would cook for Dan and me. Mrs. Miller did it all. She regularly washed our laundry, kid wrangled, prepared our meals, and even grew a beautiful vegetable garden for us. I was sick, thinking of her dying alone in her house without someone holding her hand. It must have been quick. I was hopeful that her death was painless. Maybe she died in her sleep.

I poured a glass of wine for Dan and some juice for me. He noticed immediately and gave me “the look.” He cocked his head to the side and raised his eyebrows. I smiled and nodded. Dan wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me. “Are you sure?”

“Eighty percent. I haven’t done a pee test, but I’m pretty confident. You have a lot to answer for, Danny Boy. You know what this means.”

“A netball team.”

“A new house.” I was ready for this conversation.

“A second car.” He grinned like a fool.

“Diapers and late nights.”

“Nappy’s darling, when are you going to start speaking like the natives?”

“A new wardrobe.”

“Bigger breasts.”

“A vasectomy.”

“Tubal ligation. That way, you can meet with the milkman, and I’ll never know.”

“As long as he looks like Hugh Jackman.”

“You win. I’ll have the vasectomy.” Dan took his glass, and we clinked them together.

“Well, early days, it can wait until he’s born.” I wanted to throw Dan a bone. I knew he would love a son.

“Or she. A softball team.” Dan sipped his wine and grinned like a kid in a candy store.

“Have I told you that I love you lately?” God, I loved that man.

“Show, not tell. Isn’t that what you learned in your creative writing class?” Dan smiled as he sipped his wine.

“I like your thinking, Danny Boy.” While we both were happy about the possible pregnancy, we kept watching through the window at Mrs. Miller’s house.

“What was she like when you were there last night?”

“Sick, but not dying sick. I can’t believe she’s deceased.”

“Did she have any heart problems?”

“None. I was convinced it was merely a bad cold. I prescribed paracetamol, a decongestant, and rest. I thought she’d be fine in a day or two. Do you have anyone to care for Casey and Faythe tomorrow?”

“Not yet.”

Someone knocked at the door as we were finishing dinner. Dan was clearing the table, and I answered it. A plainclothes detective showed me his picture and placard that hung on a lanyard from his neck. “Mrs. Langley?”

I never bothered correcting the “Mrs.” for the doctor. He probably didn’t know I was a vet, anyway. “Yes, how may I help you?”

“I must speak to your husband. Is he home?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll get him.”

“Before you do, may I ask you some quick questions?”

“Certainly.”

“I understand you employ Mrs. Miller, and she didn’t come today due to her illness? And did you go to work or stay home today?”

“She’s been sick for a few days. My friend Julie Chambers stepped in for me and was here all day. I was at work until six o’clock.”

“I understand. Do you have a number for Ms. Chamber’s?”

I picked up my phone, which was still charging on the table next to the door.

“What’s going on? Mrs. Miller simply died, didn’t she? Is there something else? Is there something I need to worry about?”

“Probably nothing.” He was scribbling Julie’s name and number.

“What did you say your name was?”

“Detective Ronald Billings, ma’am. I need to see your husband.”

Dan came around the corner from the kitchen, put his hand around my waist, and smiled at the detective.

“Dr. Langley?” The detective took a long, hard look at Dan, but then he smiled and laughed. “Danno, it is you. How are you? Still playing footy?” He reached out his hand and shook it warmly.

“Ronald McDonald, you dirtball. How the heck are you? How’s Marci? How many kids? I see you met my better half. Carly, this is my classmate, Ronny, the guy I told you about when we stole my dad's car. I guess you’ve given up your life of crime and joined the other team.”

The detective was laughing. “Yep, I play with the bad boys now. Hey, Danno, I need to take you down to the cop shop for a statement. It shouldn’t take long.”

“Just a sec. Let me get on some other clothes. Carly, if I’m not back in an hour, call our solicitor and try to raise some bail.” We kissed. He patted my tummy, and he left with his old friend.

Now it was my turn to blush, and I did. I hadn’t even noticed the magazine or contents which I had pretended to read. “Oh, a friend’s having a baby, and I want ideas for a present.” A ridiculous reply, and I guessed he realized I was lying too.

“Your name’s Carly, right? I don’t remember your last name. I know it’s probably unprofessional of me, but would you like to meet for coffee or something?”

Replace that bandage and queue the wedding bells. Yes, sir, the game was on. “Well, I suppose I could. Now or another time?” Appear calm, relaxed, and casual. Don’t let him feel your pulse because the tachycardia is a dead giveaway.

That was then, and now is now—several years and two redheaded children since those first giddy days of infatuation. I currently work as a vet and negotiate child care in rural South Australia.

“Carly? You there?” Julie sensed I’d lost my train of thought.

This jolted me back to reality. “Of course. Could you stay? I won’t be any longer than six o’clock. If it’s a problem, I can pick up the kiddos and take them with me?”

Dan and I hadn’t wasted any time starting a family. The girls were three and five, and both total gingers. I was reasonably sure another one was in the oven, but I was merely a few days late. I hadn’t told Dan yet. Of course, he would want a boy, but he would never say it out loud. I didn’t care. I knew I’d reproduced myself with Casey, the firstborn. Unlike her younger sister, Faythe, Casey was a total tomboy. She loved all animals and accompanying Mum on veterinary calls.

The word “mum” made me cringe. I wanted to be called mom, but that went out the window when Casey heard the other children at playgroup call their mothers by the colloquial term. Casey was a switched-on little girl. When she wanted something, she called me, mom. This ploy came from coaching by her father, who frequently suggested the children call me “Mom,” but secretly was pleased they addressed me as “mum.”

The plan was for Dan and me to raise the children in rural Australia. When the girls were old enough to go to high school, we intend to move to a bigger town where their education would not suffer. We might even relocate back to the States. I didn’t care as long as the “accent” was by my side.

“Earth to Carly, earth to Carly.” Julie was trying to attract my attention, and recognized she was failing. “Stay out all night. My rates double after five, you know.”

Julie was my bestie. She was a nurse, who worked in the local community hospital with Dan, and was also an ovarian cancer survivor. The regular babysitter was Mildred Miller, an older neighbor, who was at home sick with a respiratory infection. Julie was only filling in. I met Julie when Dan started attending at the hospital and asked her and her husband, Mick, to join us for dinner. Julie had fifteen or more years on me, but we bonded quickly. Julie’s children were finishing school, and it was only in a pinch that I'd called her to ask if one of her daughters could babysit the girls for me today. Julie volunteered herself as her kids were sick, too.

“One hour, pinkie promise.” I kicked up the windshield wipers. “Be glad you aren’t out in this. It’s really coming down. To hell with the drought. The rain gods must be feeling generous.”

“Hey, Carly. That ambulance is still parked up across the road. Looks as though your babysitter might be headed to the hospital. Let me go suss it out, and I’ll tell you what’s going on when you get back.”

“Oh, no. I hope she’s going to be okay. I’ll hurry. I hate for her to deal with this on her own.” I felt responsible for Mrs. Miller’s safety. I knew she depended on Dan and me both for physical as well as financial support. This was returned in spades with her care of our daughters. I worried that she was alone and ill. If something happened, I would never forgive myself.

Julie made sure I heard her addressing the girls. “Hey, girls. Want some sweets before dinner? We can watch some reality television while we eat ice cream and lollies.” Julie laughed. She knew I was strict about snacks before dinner. They didn’t watch television, except on special occasions. Our house had poor reception, anyway. However, I was going to hurry home before they were utterly corrupted. I would learn about Mrs. Miller when I returned.

I drove to the property, where three ranch horses were standing in the mud. One horse was holding his leg off the ground while pivoting on the sound limb. The owner was standing under the shelter, waiting for me. Jimmy Medika was a local Aboriginal station hand who lived in the town with his family. He worked on a remote station and was gone for weeks at a time. His wife worked at the bank, and the children were grown and in the process of moving out. Their youngest daughter was in her last year of high school.

“Hello, miss. Thank you for coming.” Mr. Medika was particularly formal. “I think it’s a hoof abscess. However, since I need to get back up to the station next week, I thought it was best to have you out.”

The “station bred,” bay gelding is a mixture of quarter horse and brumby. He was a kind horse, but his leg hurt. The pressure of an expanding, infected fluid pocket under the hoof is like a blood blister under a fingernail. Froggy’s digital pulse throbbed, and he jumped when hoof testers were applied to the inside quarter of his foot. When he jumped, he knocked me sideways. “Seems like we found it. I’ll get a poultice and a sharper hoof knife, and we’ll see if we can’t get it open and draining. If we can release the pressure, you should be good to go in a day or two. How’s his tetanus status?”

“All good, miss. Remember, he cut himself a few months ago. I still have leftover antibiotics.”

“Don’t use any yet, Mr. Medika. Wait until the abscess bursts. You might not require antibiotics, anyway.”

“You can call me Jimmy.”

“You say that every time, but you call me “miss” or “doctor.” It goes both ways, you know.” I smiled at him, and he grinned back.

“Maybe someday, miss.” Most people called me by my first name, but he and a few others were still formal. I loved my clients, and they could address me as they chose.

I located the tract from the sole of the hoof to the probable abscess. However, because I didn’t hit “pay dirt” or frank pus, I finished applying a poultice to Froggy’s foot and left for home. I was soaked from the rain and cold. Feeling cold was entirely foreign. I was in heaven. I turned off the car air conditioner and opened the window. The steam was fogging up the windshield, so I had to turn on the defroster.

As I turned into the driveway, I noticed an ambulance and several emergency vehicles still parked at Mrs. Miller’s house. I was alarmed. I raced up to my front door to avoid a new rain shower. Julie was inside, watching from the window.

“Dinner’s finished. As a bonus, the girls are bathed and dressed in their nightgowns.”

“Oh, consider yourself kissed. But, more to the point, what’s going on across the street?”

The girls, who emerged from their rooms, ran over to me, which put a crimp in our conversation. Julie shrugged. “I’ve been waiting for you. Don’t know. I didn’t want to leave the kids. The ambulance has been there for an hour. It doesn’t look good.”

“Is that Kendall’s car?” Kendall was our friend too. Kendall Bidwell was one of the four local cops. She was a legend in the area and was responsible for initiating several programs for our town's children. Her after-school programs appeared to be working to decrease crime. Rural towns had their share of crime partially due to a lack of kids' activities as they grew up. Alcohol and even drugs were a problem for young and old. Domestic violence was sadly prevalent in our town, as well. Dan often witnessed the resulting injuries with his work as an emergency doctor at the hospital.

Dan and I loved the rural life and the friends we’d met, but challenges still existed. The lack of support for our professional endeavors was one of many. Finding friends with similar interests was another. Dan played footy, and he made numerous friends through sports, but we craved intellectual stimulation. The positives outnumbered the negatives. My friends met my social needs. Both Julie and Kendall read books and were up to speed with respect to the current affairs of the world. Both had a wicked sense of humor, and neither was below taking on challenges. We formed a bond when the town mayor wanted to prohibit horses inside the city limits. As if….

The torrential rain continued. While I started to get the girls ready for bed and prepare dinner for Dan and me, Julie walked over to the cars parked out in front of Mrs. Miller’s residence. Everyone was inside the house, and I watched Julie enter Mrs. Miller’s home and retreat outside with Kendall. They talked briefly, and then Julie ran back to the house. She returned to our residence soaked.

“Kendall’s not saying, but I know enough to say Millie’s not babysitting anymore. The ambos and police are waiting for detectives to come from Adelaide before they move the body.”

“You’re joking.” I almost said the F word, but I remembered the little ears listening and eyes watching every move. “Where the heck is Dan?” I picked up my phone to call him, but the battery had died. “What is going on over there?”

Julie was shaking from the wet and cold. “Don’t know. Kendall isn’t talking. She asked me how long I’d been at your house and if I’d observed anyone entering the house.”

“Had you?”

“Nope. The girls and I sat at the window, watching the rain all afternoon, and didn’t see anything. Hey, I need to get back home. Just got a text from the sick bay, and supplies are required. Heading to the chemist. You want anything?”

“No. Thanks, though, and thank you for today, too. I guess I’ll suck it up and start the kids in day care. I’m dreading the tidal wave of colds and viruses from the cesspool of immunologically naïve small children.”

Julie laughed. “Welcome to motherhood. Better now than when school starts.” She shrugged. “You can’t protect them forever. It’s a big dark world out there, and acquired immunity is the only way to survive.”

“I guess. It’s not the kids. It’s me. I’ll get whatever they bring home, you know.”

“Ever the concerned, caring mother….”

“Yeah, I’m a bit of a fraud.” I stared out the window and saw Dan’s SUV roll into the driveway. “Here, he is.”

As Julie walked down the steps and toward her car, Dan ran past and waved to her. I saw Julie point to the Miller house, enter her little red Kia, and pull away. Dan paused, stood in the rain, and gazed toward the Miller home, turned, and ran up the steps to our house.

As he entered, Dan was already soaked, yet he had a smile and tried to playfully hug me. I backed up and stuck my hands up. “Touch me with those wet clothes, and you’re dead meat, mister.”

Dan held up his hands in the arrested mode and smiled. I knew he was aware of what happened next door. “Terrible news. They’re coming over to talk to me. Was I the last person who saw her? Carly, she was sick, but not that sick, and she was only seventy-two. I assume they’ll do an autopsy. I know her husband died several years ago, and they didn’t have any kids, but are there any other relatives?”

“I think she has a sister in Melbourne or Sydney.” I could hear the girls calling their dad. I pointed to the bedroom where they both slept. “You’re being summoned.”

He stripped off his shirt and pants. I tossed him a towel and went to the laundry to get him a T-shirt and some sweats. “Can you read to them for a minute while I finish cooking our dinner?”

He grinned and went to the girls’ bedroom. Our house was small and old. It boasted just two bedrooms and a small office. This was convenient when Dan’s overbearing mother, Mira, visited. A night or two was all she could stand. It was exceptionally inconvenient when my mother wanted to come. Mom had traveled from Idaho twice. Our hide-a-bed accommodation didn’t make her want to return anytime soon. We’d bought the house from my bosses when we moved to town. We decided it was more important to live near the hospital than in the country.

I wanted to raise the girls with animals. To date, however, we didn’t even have a dog. Because bringing Buster to Australia was simply too complicated, he’d remained with my mother until he died last year. Well, if my twitchy uterus and timing were correct, we were going to finally make a move. I figured it was as good a time as any to inform Dan we might need to expand.

Julie’s cooking was not as good as a Miller dinner. I purposely explained to Julie that I would cook for Dan and me. Mrs. Miller did it all. She regularly washed our laundry, kid wrangled, prepared our meals, and even grew a beautiful vegetable garden for us. I was sick, thinking of her dying alone in her house without someone holding her hand. It must have been quick. I was hopeful that her death was painless. Maybe she died in her sleep.

I poured a glass of wine for Dan and some juice for me. He noticed immediately and gave me “the look.” He cocked his head to the side and raised his eyebrows. I smiled and nodded. Dan wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me. “Are you sure?”

“Eighty percent. I haven’t done a pee test, but I’m pretty confident. You have a lot to answer for, Danny Boy. You know what this means.”

“A netball team.”

“A new house.” I was ready for this conversation.

“A second car.” He grinned like a fool.

“Diapers and late nights.”

“Nappy’s darling, when are you going to start speaking like the natives?”

“A new wardrobe.”

“Bigger breasts.”

“A vasectomy.”

“Tubal ligation. That way, you can meet with the milkman, and I’ll never know.”

“As long as he looks like Hugh Jackman.”

“You win. I’ll have the vasectomy.” Dan took his glass, and we clinked them together.

“Well, early days, it can wait until he’s born.” I wanted to throw Dan a bone. I knew he would love a son.

“Or she. A softball team.” Dan sipped his wine and grinned like a kid in a candy store.

“Have I told you that I love you lately?” God, I loved that man.

“Show, not tell. Isn’t that what you learned in your creative writing class?” Dan smiled as he sipped his wine.

“I like your thinking, Danny Boy.” While we both were happy about the possible pregnancy, we kept watching through the window at Mrs. Miller’s house.

“What was she like when you were there last night?”

“Sick, but not dying sick. I can’t believe she’s deceased.”

“Did she have any heart problems?”

“None. I was convinced it was merely a bad cold. I prescribed paracetamol, a decongestant, and rest. I thought she’d be fine in a day or two. Do you have anyone to care for Casey and Faythe tomorrow?”

“Not yet.”

Someone knocked at the door as we were finishing dinner. Dan was clearing the table, and I answered it. A plainclothes detective showed me his picture and placard that hung on a lanyard from his neck. “Mrs. Langley?”

I never bothered correcting the “Mrs.” for the doctor. He probably didn’t know I was a vet, anyway. “Yes, how may I help you?”

“I must speak to your husband. Is he home?”

“Yes, of course. I’ll get him.”

“Before you do, may I ask you some quick questions?”

“Certainly.”

“I understand you employ Mrs. Miller, and she didn’t come today due to her illness? And did you go to work or stay home today?”

“She’s been sick for a few days. My friend Julie Chambers stepped in for me and was here all day. I was at work until six o’clock.”

“I understand. Do you have a number for Ms. Chamber’s?”

I picked up my phone, which was still charging on the table next to the door.

“What’s going on? Mrs. Miller simply died, didn’t she? Is there something else? Is there something I need to worry about?”

“Probably nothing.” He was scribbling Julie’s name and number.

“What did you say your name was?”

“Detective Ronald Billings, ma’am. I need to see your husband.”

Dan came around the corner from the kitchen, put his hand around my waist, and smiled at the detective.

“Dr. Langley?” The detective took a long, hard look at Dan, but then he smiled and laughed. “Danno, it is you. How are you? Still playing footy?” He reached out his hand and shook it warmly.

“Ronald McDonald, you dirtball. How the heck are you? How’s Marci? How many kids? I see you met my better half. Carly, this is my classmate, Ronny, the guy I told you about when we stole my dad's car. I guess you’ve given up your life of crime and joined the other team.”

The detective was laughing. “Yep, I play with the bad boys now. Hey, Danno, I need to take you down to the cop shop for a statement. It shouldn’t take long.”

“Just a sec. Let me get on some other clothes. Carly, if I’m not back in an hour, call our solicitor and try to raise some bail.” We kissed. He patted my tummy, and he left with his old friend.

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Elizabet Woolsey Author - Horse Doctor Adventures - Catch and Release

Horse Doctor Adventures - Catch and Release

Catch and Release is the first book in a series about Dr. Maggie Kincaid. Maggie recently returned from Australia, where she lived, raised a family, and practiced as a horse vet for over two decades. Following retirement, she travels to a small rural town where she purchases a log cabin in the woods.

Her immediate neighbors are the National Forest and a reclusive, aging, former film and television star.

There was one small detail. Maggie's cabin was the scene of a murder-suicide. Many of the locals think otherwise.

Despite her children's warnings of the 'gun toting' Americans, she settles into a rural life where she plans to ride, fly fish, and write books about veterinarians who solve mysteries.

A young, hearing-impaired boy shows up at her cabin seeking work. Their relationship unfolds as Maggie attempts to help the boy.

Maggie meets many local townsfolk, ranging from ranchers to multi-millionaires who jet in and out of the area.

Through all of this, she becomes entangled in their lives and is courted by two men. Then the cracks unfold in her idyllic life. All is not what it seems, and neither are her friends.

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Horse Doctor Adventures - Catch and Release

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"Mum, they're crazy over there. They all have guns, and they have murders every day." There was an endless list of reasons my children didn't support my return to America. They didn't want me to leave them. My three children all lived in different states, and I was only flavor of the month in December.

Not one of the kids came home for Christmas last year. They had their own families and had moved on. I left them in Australia to return to my native country—God bless America, I hoped. I was starting over.

Old age is not for the faint-hearted, but what's old? Starting my new life in a rural community far from friends and family was scary. My sister and brother thought I was crazy, which I think we'd already established when I upped and moved to Australia to follow my future and now ex-husband.

My kids were furious, and they had every reason to be. Admittedly, I was abandoning them. It was alright and preferential that they moved out and started their own families. Still, parents are expected to stay and be the nuclear family's anchor. I failed my kids and bailed on them. Sorry—not.

I was restarting my life back in the States after twenty-seven years of living in Australia. I pulled into the long driveway to make my way up to my new home. I'd purchased a log cabin on forty-eight acres last year. I told my family I lived in a gated community.

An old Powder River gate with a lock protected me from the gun-toting heathens who my children had envisioned. The gate had seen better days and had a large indentation from a vehicle or a bison.

I don't think there are any buffalo here, but I could dream. The gate was well off the road, allowing someone with a truck and trailer to pull into the driveway and be safe when the gate with its chain and ancient lock needed to be opened.

The property looked like a desert with rocks and sage as the only prominent features visible from the road. It fooled me when I came last year looking for retirement properties. I could not imagine wanting to buy this place as I looked up the hill from the road.

My realtor, Carol Carter, and I drove over the hill and descended into a small, lush valley with a log home, barn, and fenced paddocks next to a year-round creek abutting a dense forest.

Carol turned to me. "Proceed?"

"Maybe. So, what are the issues? There must be a catch. This place has been on the market for six years. How come?"

"Let's just look before I say any more." Carol pointed to a white speck in a tree. "See her?"

"Is that a bald eagle?"

"Maggie, we can leave, but I think it's worth a look." I observed Carol smiling to herself.

"No, let's at least look around. Any fish in the creek?"

"Some. There's a story, but I think you may just be the one person who can get over a few details." Carol lied. The word detail implied a small obstacle; it was not.

Despite knowing the true story, which was far more than a tiny issue, I purchased the property, and now, nine months later, here I was, ready to move in and start the next ten years of my life. I planned to live like this for at least ten years before I went to live in 'the home,' as my children called it.

A bottle of Barossa Valley wine, flowers, and house keys sat on a table on the deck, which faced a cliff and the surrounding forest. My spectacular view was worth every penny. I sat down on the chair next to the table and pulled out my small book of contacts and reminders.

Most of my essential details were on my phone. My to-do list was usually written out so I could get the pleasure of ticking the items off. I added a reminder to send a thank you note to Carol.

The rocky gravel road would need to be graded and smoothed out. I would add that to a long list of things that would need to be done to make this place livable year-round.

There was an envelope with a list of tradesmen and contact numbers for the utilities and a state fishing license—go Carol! There was a second smaller envelope that contained an invitation to an annual picnic for the locals.

Carol mentioned her brother-in-law had an event every year. Attendance was mandatory if I wanted to meet the who's who of the area. I was told not to bring anything but my appetite. The theme was western casual, and it was in two weeks.

Here was my haven from my past life—no more work. No more being on call and no more worries about sick or dying horses. Veterinary medicine had been good to me. I was lucky that I loved what I did, but that life was over.

I left my country of residence, my children, and my profession for a rural life of solitude and recreational fly-fishing. My clients, family, and friends said I would fail at retirement. No one, including me, could imagine I could find joy outside of my professional life.

My coworkers were incredibly doubtful. I'd devoted the last fifty years of my existence to veterinary medicine, and to the exclusion of anything else. It was inconceivable that I could find joy in other activities.

They didn't know. I had a secret plan. I was approaching my late sixties when three years ago, I noticed that the joy in my work had finally waned. I no longer looked forward to saving the lives of horses.

Most of my contemporaries had retired long before me and found joy in cruises, grandchildren, and hobbies. They encouraged me to do the same. "You can't be a horse vet forever. It's dangerous, and you're vulnerable. Your reaction time is not what it used to be. Remember Larry Childers? You don't want to end up like him."

I never met Larry, but he was a legend in equine veterinary medicine. Larry had been killed when a stallion struck him in the head. He was a good horseman, but Larry took risks. He didn't have my staff. Their number one job was to keep me safe. I'd given up the dangerous stuff years ago.

I no longer collected semen from stallions or stuck the first needle into an unbroken colt to be castrated. Still, it was often the most unexpected occurrence that did many vets in.

The reason for my decision to retire was not fear of injury. It was not the midnight calls for help or even the continuous being on call for emergencies. I just had lost interest. I simply found no joy in veterinary medicine. I was at the top of my game, and I didn't want to play anymore. I wanted a new life, and while I was leaving many friends, I wanted new ones.

Living in another country was the best decision I'd ever made. The reason for the original relocation overseas, my ex, did not turn out like I had planned. Still, thankfully it gave me children and a great professional life. I used to say, "Pinch me. They're paying me to do this." Now I have changed the verb to "paid." Sadly, my Australian friends had either died, moved away, or had families and responsibilities that superseded me.

We had different interests and, more importantly, different values. I wanted to get back to my people. I had no problems making friends. I thought I might find like-minded people here in rural America. So, I sold up and moved back home to my people and heritage.

Before entering the house, I decided to walk down to the creek. There was an old fence on the other side of the stream. The barricade was damaged in many places. A bear could walk onto the property, and a horse could escape—more for the to-do list. I was aware that bears and mountain lions were known in the area.

I saw scat down on the bank and considered adding gun procurement on my to-do list. I left my dogs with my children until I was ready to have them sent over. This might have been a mistake. I was told the dogs were being held for ransom until I came to my senses.

I checked my phone. Only one bar, would that be enough? "Help, I've fallen, and I can't get up." I wasn't that old, and one month ago, I was still wrangling horses. My last call before retirement was a horse with a grass awn in its eye.

She was not impressed with me and vice versa. She thought the prick of a needle was a cue to rear. Better living through chemistry, a good vet nurse, and she was on her way home drunk and medicated—good luck on the follow-up. That was my past, and this is my future.

I returned to the cabin and picked up the keys. The door was solid with a heavy-duty lock. I unlocked and opened the door. Phew. The smell of death permeated the great room. I immediately remembered the ‘detail’ that Carol had explained, which stopped sales for several years. Oh my God, what had I done?

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Elizabet Woolsey Author - The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - Lauren's Story

The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - Lauren's Story

Dr. Lauren Harper recently graduated from veterinary school—no surprises here. Her father is a vet, as was her long-deceased mother, Dr. Rebecca Harper. Lauren's mom was killed in a landslide when Lauren was only three years old.

On Lauren's first day home from college, she discovers a story written by her grandfather about his life, including his attempts to find Lauren's mother after the accident. Lauren learned to ride while accompanying her grandfather in his fruitless search for his daughter.

Lauren's on her way to join her fiancé in Texas, but all is not as it seems. Revelations cause her to reevaluate her plans—recalculating route! Lauren's life takes a turn that will find her in Nevada and close to the area where her mother disappeared over twenty years ago.

She hopes to practice equine veterinary medicine and do a bit of sleuthing about her mother's mysterious disappearance. What could go wrong?

Lauren's modern-day adventures rival her mother's. Will she stay in her current position, or will she seek a life that gives her security that any recent graduate would relish?

This is once again a mixture of veterinary stories, adventure, and love. But does it end Happily ever after? You be the judge.

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Lauren's Story - The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper

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I’m a vet. Graduation was last week, and I am outta here. I can hardly wait to join my fiancé in Texas. I haven’t seen Dwight for three months. Let me tell you, I am ready to get it on. We’re going to be married soon and buy the veterinary practice at which he’s currently working.

My mom and dad are so proud that I’m carrying on the family tradition. My dad’s a vet, and my real mom, or-as I like to say-my bio-mom, was a vet, as well. She died when I was a baby. She was killed in a rockslide in Nevada, but her body was never found. My Grandpa Jack searched for her for years, but no one ever located her.

I used to spend the summer with my grandfather when I was about seven years old. He drove to Kentucky to pick me up. My mom, who had my younger brother and sister, was happy to shed one kid, even if it was only for a month or two. Grandpa and I flew to Reno to borrow horses and ride all over the area where she was considered to be buried.

My dad searched for several months after my mom went missing, but he had to return to school and work. We were lucky because my aunt stayed with me while my dad studied and worked.

My Dad married my aunt two years after my bio-mother went missing. I call her Mom. She’s my “bio-mom’s” older sister, yet I don’t ever remember her as anyone but my mom. I think about my biological mom occasionally. To be honest, however, my interest in her has faded.

I have a sister and a brother who are still in school. I believe my brother will also become a vet, but my little sister wants nothing to do with horses. She takes after my mom and isn’t into riding. My mom and dad love fishing and hiking. That’s a family tradition, too.

My brother used to go out to see my grandpa occasionally. Because Andrew played Little League in the summer, he wasn’t around Grandpa Jack as much as I was. He’s still a good horseman, but baseball rules in the summer. We could play catch for hours. He’s hoping for a scholarship.

I met my betrothed in vet school at Auburn. Dwight, who was three years ahead of me in school, is hunk-a-licious. Dwight completed an internship and residency in food animal medicine. He then moved to Texas, where he started to buy an old vet with a mixed practice.

A nice Texas A&M woman worked for him and was doing the small animal work, and he did the large. I am heading out to join them. Dwight and I are getting married in a few months. Signed, sealed, delivered-I’m his.

I went home to Kentucky after graduation and packed all my belongings. I packed my essentials: vet books, photo albums, fishing gear, and clothes. Dad planned to haul my horse and saddle to Texas later. Since Dwight told me to take my time, I caught up with my high school friends and family for some last visits.

My dad took me to his work. He works at a private research facility, which tests products for a genetic engineering firm. I love my dad, and I love to see him at work. He’s been my rock all my life.

It was rough when my real mom died. Dad kind of went off the deep end, and if it had not been for my mom, I mean my aunt-oh heck, she is my mom-we would have been living in a mobile home, and Dad would have died from alcoholism. Anyway, all’s well that graduates well. Pfft. I know I made my dad proud.

As we entered Dad’s office, we passed his secretary. Mrs. Mason has been at this facility for as long as my dad has been there. She’s ancient but refuses to retire. Mrs. Mason watched me and my family grow up, and Masey was aware of all the skeletons in our closet.

She knew everything that happened in our family. If I broke curfew, Masey knew. When my brother, Andy, got a DUI, she took him to court. She had no family and lived her maternal needs through us kids. Dad was quiet about the early years. Mrs. Mason didn’t realize that Mom was not my real mother until someone called about the anniversary of her death when I started vet school.

Of course, she’s been sliding around that topic ever since. When I came into the office with Dad, her first words were, “Oh, Lauren, wouldn’t your real mother have been so proud?” She handed me a perfectly wrapped present, which was a diary.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Lauren, I read those books about the vet in England. You know, All Creatures. Honey, write a few sentences each night, and you can write your own book in a few years.”

“Oh, Mrs. Mason. What a great idea. Thank you again.” As if I were a writer.

“Did you ever read the article about your real mom in that newspaper? You know, that man who was asking about her several years ago?”

“No, ma’am. I never did. I sent him some pictures, and I forgot about them. I guess vet school, Dwight, and the engagement kind of took over.”

“Yes, that would, wouldn’t it? Jeff, some mail is in your box, and the boss wants to discuss the latest test results with you.”

“Masey, what would I do without you? Lauren leaves for Texas soon, and we’re having a celebration dinner tonight at home. Sherry wanted to know whether you would come.”

“What time, Jeff?”

“I don’t know. If you come after work, though, I’m certain it won’t be too early.”

Dad and I went into his office. He had pictures of us kids and one that I had not noticed previously. Two young girls were on horseback.

“Dad, who are these girls?”

“That’s your mom and your,” he hesitated, “Becky, your real mom when they were children.”

I didn’t remember any photographs of them when they were young. “When did you get that?”

“When your grandfather died. There are more at home. Your mom received them while you were at school. Ask her about them.”

Dad showed me around the facility, which had been recently upgraded. I saw some of the horse handlers who had worked for Dad since I was a baby. After I finished the graduation tour and got all the graduation kudos for my dad, I went home.

My old horse, Moosey, was still in the paddock. I headed straight out behind the house to brush and inspect her. She was still sound and rideable at twenty-two. Grandpa gave her to me when I was twelve when he and I rode all over Nevada. She would join us in Texas after the wedding.

Dwight and I plan on doing the deed in February of next year. That gives us eight months to prepare for the wedding. Most likely, we’ll hold the wedding up here near Mom and Dad. Dwight’s parents aren’t too fussed. He is one of seven kids, and three are already married.

My mom, on the other hand, wants the whole nine yards. She and my dad were married in a very low-key ceremony. I was up at my grandfather’s when they married. They conducted the civil service and went on a fishing honeymoon while I stayed with my grandfather and learned to ride.

I cleaned Moosey’s feet, checked for anything that my dad might have missed, and returned to the house. Mom was preparing lunch for my brother and sister, Jane, who were home. School vacation had started. Andrew was a freshman at the University of Kentucky, and Jane was still in high school.

“Hi, Mom. What’s for lunch?”

“Lauren, get what you want. I’m headed to the grocery store. We have a few people coming by tonight.”

“Before you go, Dad has a photo of you and Becky on horses in his office. According to him, you have a box of stuff from Grandpa. May I see it?”

“Of course. It’s in the guest room closet. There are a lot of pictures of us both growing up. Have a look.”

“Can you please buy some Oreos?”

“Anything else?”

“Corn chips?”

“Jane,” Mom yelled. “are you coming?”

“No, I am gonna pass, Mom.”

“Mrs. Mason’s coming, in case you didn’t know. I heard Dad ask her to come after work.”

“Oh, good. We’ll have lemon meringue pie.”

Mom left. Jane and I stared at each other and ran to the stairs to reach the bathroom first. Since she won, I went to the closet in the guest room to locate the box of photographs. There were two cardboard boxes, but it was easy to tell which one she meant.

The battered box contained two shoeboxes. One was designated as photos, and one was marked “Becky.” I opened the photo box, where a hundred or more photographs of Mom’s family were piled. There were baby pictures, others up through high school, and some of Grandpa and Grandma.

My grandmother had died before I was born. Grandpa had a framed photo of her, which currently hung in the hallway with additional family pictures. I could recognize both my bio-mom and mom easily. My bio-mom had curly hair, while my aunt-mom had straight hair. I loved looking at these. I selected a few of them to take with me to Texas.

I opened the other box with news clippings about the rockslide and my real mom’s death. An envelope, labeled ‘2002,’ was filled with several articles concerning a possible sighting of my mother approximately twenty years after she had gone missing. I had not heard about this. I read a clipping about an inquiry into her death.

My mom had been killed in a rockslide, along with a woman vet from Lake Tahoe. They had ridden up to a place called Miner’s Meadow. Both had been presumed killed when a massive rockfall occurred along the ridge where they were riding. The remains of both horses and the older vet were found, but my mother never was located.

I was only three years old at the time. I don’t remember anything about it. My grandpa spent years trying to find her. When I was old enough to ride, I joined him. I didn’t really know why we searched, but I loved being with him in the summer.

Finally, when he was too old to make the trip from his home in Montana, I went up there to spend some time with him for a few weeks each summer. He taught me how to ride and took me up to his cabin in the mountains. Grandpa died a few years earlier while I was still in vet school.

The possible sighting of my real mother was news to me. I’d received a strange phone call from a reporter around that time. I sent him some pictures for an article he was writing about my mother for the local paper. I didn’t know how the reporter found me.

Since Mom and Dad were away at the time, I believe Dad’s office provided the reporter with my name. It was strange because someone from the FBI called me afterward to inquire about the conversation. I gave him the reporter’s email address, but I never heard any more regarding it.

This was all new to me. I never thought about the chances of my real mom surviving. Grandpa and I attempted to find her body to return her to Montana for burial with my grandmother.

Another envelope held a police report about Grandpa’s disappearance from the old-folks home. It was peculiar. I didn’t know anything about that at all. It happened at about the same time the reporter called me. Some lady took Grandpa out of the home for the day, and no one ever saw him again.

At the bottom of the box was an envelope with about fifty pages of a typed story. I started to read it. A locket fell out of the jacket that held Grandpa’s story. The pendant was a horse head.

“Hey, Jane,” I shouted. “Come in here.”

Jane came around the corner. “What?”

“Have you seen this?”

“Nope. You can have the bathroom now.”

“No, seriously, look at this. You haven’t seen this?”

“What is it?” Jane thumbed through the pages and looked at the locket. “Nice. Cheap, but nice.”

“It seems like a story about Grandpa’s life.” I read a part in the middle when he talked about moving to Mountain Laurel with Grandma and having Mom.”

“Let me see it.” Jane snatched the bundle. The pages fell and were mixed up in the process. I pushed Jane away as she grabbed more papers and let them fall. She picked one up, read it, and handed it to me. “This is about your mom.” She offered me a page. “It reads she was born in 1949.”

I gathered the pages and began to put them back in order. I read on the last page that grandpa was to be buried with our grandmother up on the mountain. I kind of remembered that Grandpa used to take me to a spot near the cabin, where he sat by some rocks to tell me stories about my real mom and my grandmother.

I didn’t recognize the locket. I took the papers to my room, where I sat on my bed to read about my grandfather and my real mother. They were a great find. I wondered why my mom hadn’t shown all this to me earlier. Where did the locket come from? I fell asleep and woke up only when I heard my dad yell at Jane to feed the horses.

“Dad, Lauren’s home. She can do it for once.”

I jumped up from the bed and went downstairs after putting on the locket. I didn’t say anything and wanted to see if anyone noticed. I fed both the horses and the dogs. Mrs. Mason was in the house when I returned.

“I need to shower. Who’s coming tonight?”

“The Childers, the Bakers, and the new minister from the church. You’ll like him. I hope he can perform your wedding.” Mom looked me over. “Run upstairs, and hurry back. This party is for you.”

“How about Sara and Jodie?” I asked.

“Nope. Not back from California yet.” They were my best friends from high school. They both attended colleges in California and started grad school a couple of years previously.

“You need to pack tonight. We’re leaving for the Smokies tomorrow.” Our entire family was going camping in North Carolina before I headed out to Texas. We’d all been hiking the Appalachian Trail for years. Mom and Dad said we should hike one more part before the family broke up for good.

“I’m packed,” I yelled.

“Sherry, I’ve got some bad news.” I could hear Dad talking to Mom in their bedroom.

“Jeff, if you are going to tell me we can’t go now.” I heard the bedroom door slam. I could hear loud voices but didn’t catch the rest of the threat.

When I was clean and came downstairs, Mrs. Mason was finishing the meringue. Andrew pointed upstairs and announced, “World war three.”

“Dad can’t go?”

Mrs. Mason looked up and rolled her eyes. “The big boss has grounded us all. I think we will be bought out, and anyone wanting a job needs to be here all next week.”

“Oh, wow. That sounds serious.”

“Well, maybe it’s time I retired.”

“Oh, no. What will our dad do without you?” Andrew licked the extra meringue.

“Andrew, get out of that.” Mrs. Mason swatted him.

Dad came down first. At least he wasn’t bleeding, but it appeared he had taken a beating. “Bad news, guys. I won’t be able to go tomorrow. We have to postpone it for a week until I sort out what’s happening with the company.”

“How’s Mom accepting it?”

“Lauren, she’s fine. We’re going to postpone it for a week.”

“Oh, no. I can’t go. My new job starts next week. Dwight will be apoplectic if I don’t get down there.”

Dad looked at me and cocked his head. “I can’t risk not being here. It seems a much larger company is taking us over, which may eliminate several positions, including mine.” Dad pulled a beer from the fridge.

The doorbell rang, signaling the arrival of our guests. Mom, who was not a happy camper, joined us, but she was ready for the evening after a gin and tonic. Both families brought me small graduation gifts.

The barbecue was delicious. The minister, with wavy light-brown hair and dimples that you could bury the constitution in, was young and eager. Thankfully, I was engaged. He agreed to officiate at the wedding—another box ticked in the plans.

“I swear your accent is very different since y’all have been in Alabama for the last few years. I know we all have accents, but you practically have added another vowel onto your words, Lauren.”

“‘War Eagle,’ Mrs. Baker, and proud of it.” I laughed as I added more twang to my voice. Dad observed me all evening. It was only when we were eating our dessert that I remembered the locket.

“What?” I looked at Dad when he was helping clean the dishes. Mom had gone to bed early. She was prone to migraines.

“Where did you get that necklace?”

“I found it with some papers Mom had in a box. It was in Grandpa’s stuff. I thought it might be Grandma’s. Do you remember it?”

“It looks like your mother’s, I mean your real mother’s. We looked for it when she went missing. I can’t believe he had it.”

“Gee, Dad. Do you mind if I keep it?”

“I can’t believe your grandfather had it all this time. Let me look at it.” I took it off and handed it to him.

He held it and turned it over. “It’s definitely hers. Becky was wearing it when she got on the plane for Nevada.”

“It was with his papers. I think he had someone write up his story. Have you seen the papers?”

“No, what papers?”

“They were in an envelope mailed to Mom.”

“I don’t know anything about them.”

“Mom told me they were in the guest bedroom, you know, with the pictures, like the one in your office.”

Dad glanced away. He handed me the locket. “Well, I’m glad it’s yours. I know she’d want you to have it. Maybe save it until you leave for Texas. Your mom is a wee bit upset about our trip now. No need to rattle the cage any further.”

“Yep, got it.” I thought for a minute. “Dad, I believe I’ll take off for Texas tomorrow. I’d like to surprise Dwight.”

“What do you need?” Dad gazed at me, and I could tell he was hurt. “I’m really sorry, sweetie.” He had aged a great deal since I had left for vet school. His hair had gone white, and he had a bald spot now.

His arms were thinner, with the age spots characteristic of older men. My real mom’s death had taken its toll. He was much older than Mom was, anyway. He always acted young, but he was aging. If he didn’t have us kids, I’ll bet he would have loved to retire.

“Dad, I’ll be fine.” I hugged him and went back upstairs to read more of Grandpa’s story.

We said, “Sweet dreams,” simultaneously. Dad added he would see me in the morning before I left.

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Elizabet Woolsey Author - The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - Troubled Waters

The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - Troubled Waters

Dr. Rebecca Harper is now married to a prominent rancher and future subject of the television series, Comstock. She is currently a qualified doctor and veterinarian who balances her duties as the Virginia City town doctor and her home duties on the Cattle Creek Ranch. Her adventures take her from the safe haven of the ranch to faraway places.

As a doctor and veterinarian, Rebecca must deal with human and animal health issues without antibiotics and pain medication.

Through this, her salvation is her beloved mountain valley, Hank Heaven, where she retreats from the demands of her professional and family's needs. There she reads, fly fishes, and skinnydips, despite her husband's strong disapproval.

She yearns for the daughter she left when she arrived in the 1800s. She laments that she doesn't have children, despite several opportunities to adopt orphans.

Will Rebecca return to her former time in the future? She knows there is a portal. Will she use it and abandon the family and town that need her?

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Troubled Waters The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - 1st Edition

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First things first. I am officially Dr. Rebecca Buchanan. Marriage is often a dance with giving and taking. We are both older, and because we have been waiting so long between dances, so to speak, we have had to adjust our habits.

Three guesses who gives and who takes… There still are no dogs allowed in the house. Despite my best efforts, Sam still smokes a pipe, and Gee Ling still smokes in his room.

It took a while, but both Gee Ling and Danny, or Dan as I now call him have forgiven me. I don’t know what Sam gave them as an explanation. However, we are now all a happy, loving family that gets along like a house on fire. I lie. You can imagine having someone move into your space and disrupting your boys’ club.

Despite all that, I’m one happy girl. I’m around fifty, and I still think of myself as a girl. I’m relatively healthy and active. I now travel to Virginia City and work in my medical or veterinary clinic for two days on and two days off.

My associate, Dr. Alfonzo Webber, is becoming a highly competent rural doctor. You must know a bit about everything, from birthing through to dying. He and I work well together. He sees the men for their personal ailments, and I primarily treat the women. We both see the inbetweeners.

Winter is approaching, and travel can be difficult, so poor Alf will bear the brunt of the work when I’m unable to get to town. Ah, youth, but welcome to my world. When I’m in town, I stay in a boardinghouse next to the clinic as Alf and his wife, Darcy, have moved into Dr. Sullivan’s living quarters adjoining the clinic.

The Sullivans, who ran the practice for eons, had encouraged me to seek further training to become a doctor. Both have passed, and I miss them a great deal.

I regularly dine with Ray Thompson, the retired Virginia City sheriff. Ray’s finally opening up to me about his life and his wife, who’d passed years ago. He has grandchildren from their only daughter, who lives in Carson City.

Despite being retired, he still keeps an eye on the town and has stepped in many times when Sheriff Glenn Frasier needed extra help and guidance in managing crime.

Mrs. Sullivan, or Flo, was my closest female companion. I’ve had several women friends over the years since arriving in the 1800s, but they have tended to marry and leave. Finding kindred spirits of the female variety is not easy.

My first close friend, Martha Tyler, was the schoolteacher when I first stayed in Virginia City. She taught Dan and Hank when they were young. She ended up marrying Burt Lancaster—I mean the Reverend Tyler—but then he was sent to another parish where they remain.

Because married women with children are generally not allowed to teach, she started her own tutoring business on the side once their children were all in school. At first, she took no money, but then a few parents banded together, and she began an after-school program and was paid a small amount.

This helped, as the pay of a preacher is not that terrific. After one year, the school board relented, and when the last teacher left, they gave her the job. She’s now the teacher, principal, and janitor of her school. We write regularly, and I read about the children, the trials of being the preacher’s wife and the town teacher.

My greatest joy, husband-wrangling aside, is my new avocation. I’m breaking in a few horses on the Cattle Creek Ranch, which mostly are Penny’s offspring. Penny was my trusted mount when I first arrived in the 1800s. S

he died last year of old age. I implemented the tactics that my father taught me. My dad was a tough father, but he was kind and gentle with horses. My sister would say if dad had a bad day with a horse, watch out. He never took it out on the horse. Dad came into the house, and you could tell that you should tread carefully to avoid his wrath or belt.

We both got it regularly, but the horses had no fear of my father. He changed his methods to adjust to the individual horse. I learned a lot from him, and I have to say, so far, it’s paying off. Eyes turned to the sky. Thanks, Dad.

Domestic life, when you have cooks who also clean, is easy. Out of necessity, I’m learning to sew. I require pants for riding. My traditional riding apparel, which is the norm for women in the 1800s, is beautiful but not very practical. When I’m working on the breakers, I need to move and swing onto the saddle without my culottes or pantaloons catching.

Sam is not impressed. He thinks they show too much. I purposely make them loose, so no one is aroused by my fifty-year-old body—as if. I humor him and try to be as modest as I can. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to show cleavage in my proper dresses, but dare I show a bare leg? Men!

I have a puppy now. Skeeter, who is only four months old, sleeps in the barn. I think I’ll get another dog to keep her company. I was raised with kelpies. They’re Australian sheep herding dogs. My dad started to buy them from a veterinarian in California in the 1960s.

They’re intelligent and quite good-looking. My mom used to say they were six years of hell, followed by six years of pure bliss. The California vet saw our dogs when he and his daughter were fly-fishing in our district. He told us the history of the kelpie. To date, they haven’t been invented, and still, who is getting a dog from Australia? He inspired me to become a veterinarian in the 1970s or the future. But that’s another story.

I’m a fortunate woman. I’m married to a supersmart man who is respected near and far. The average man at this time would never let his wife go out and work, let alone spend nights in town. Sam often reminds me that he is proud of my work. He knows he’s married to a modern woman, which is how he gives, and I take. I can’t imagine not working or contributing to our community. A day or two apart doesn’t hurt this marriage.

We have established a small infirmary on the Cattle Creek Ranch, our ranch, where we treat the men who work for Sam and Dan and their families. Free healthcare benefits—how progressive is this? I take care of a few neighbors and even local Native Americans. Traditionally they are still called Indians at this time.

Being older, we are both light sleepers. We require less sleep than we did in our youth. Sam often gets up extra early in the morning and reads his books down in the great room. I’m a middle-of-the-night kind of insomniac. The one time you don’t want to disturb me is during my first hour of sleep.

Ask Sam. If someone has an emergency, first, I don’t hear the knocking on the door. Second, I’m told I might take a swing at the person silly enough to try to wake me. I’m reasonably sure this isn’t true. After one all-nighter, I returned home to find Sam sporting a bruise on his cheek.

“Wow, what got you?”

“You don’t remember?” Scowling at me and feigning pain, Sam rubbed his cheek.

I shrugged.

“You really don’t remember?”

“Did you run into a door or something?” I inquired, trying to remember.

“Let’s just say, the next time there’s an emergency, I’m going to wake you with the end of a long broom.”

“Oh bull…” whoa, near miss. Even that was not exactly polite.

Sam raised his eyebrows at me.

“I’m really sorry if I did that to you, darling.” A quick retreat was in order.

“I’m sure you can think of a way to make amends.”

Now, I raised my eyebrows.

Our private sanctuary from the outside world is Hank Heaven. As winter came, we wanted to make one last trip to the cabin before the snow would keep us away. As Sam and I made our way, climbing the trail along the cliff face, I looked down into the swirling water of the pool that would take me to my other time—the future. I had no need for the portal to another time.

I’d stopped by the portal pool shortly after the wedding to retrieve the antibiotics I’d brought with me when I once went back to the future. They were securely stored in Sam’s safe behind his desk.

He was still the only person I ever told about where and when I came from. I was home. Yes, I missed my daughter, Lauren, terribly, but I was dead to her, and at least I had a picture and had heard her southern accent. Does this make me a bad mother? I wrestled with this frequently.

Sam and I were free from the daily dramas of running an empire and a medical and veterinary practice when at the cabin. Sam often sat at Hank’s grave and read, and I fished and collected plants used in indigenous and more modern human medicine.

I became a bit of a naturalist out of necessity. It was difficult for two people like us to sit back and relax, but we were learning. We stayed in the valley only for a night or two, but it brought us both inner peace.

That about sums up my life during the last few months. Yes, we had ‘disagreements,’ and yes, we were both strong-willed, but we were finding our way in our time together. We weren’t going to have the benefit of a long relationship or raising children. We hoped for grandchildren and growing old together. We had a deep abiding love that didn’t waver. Well, so far…

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Elizabet Woolsey Author - The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - Lauren's Story

The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper: Past and Present 

Dr. Lauren Harper joins her mother, Dr. Rebecca Harper Buchanan, after more than twenty years of separation. It can only be a short visit. Lauren has her modern family and fiancé to consider.

Well, that didn't happen —the portal which brought Lauren to Rebecca and the 1800s is damaged by the storm and torrential rain that nearly killed Lauren when she arrived. Both women must depend on Sam Buchanan to hopefully reconstruct the portal pool.

While the passage is hopefully reopened, Lauren experiences life in the 1800s.
As a modern trained equine veterinarian, Lauren becomes aware of the limitations of practicing veterinary medicine in the 1800s.

Lauren realizes she may not be able to return to her time before winter makes the trip unsurvivable. She also knows she faces the possible murder of Frank Lash and the threat of retribution by the former deputy sheriffs. Their convictions are assured with Lauren's testimony.

Rebecca knows how important it is to facilitate her daughter's safe passage back to the future. She wants what is best for Lauren and yet grieves at the loss of her daughter after a brief visit.

If Lauren can return to the twenty-first century, Rebecca knows she will never see Lauren again, but her love for her husband and his love for her sustains her through this painful parting.

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The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper: Past and Present

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Elizabet Woolsey Author - The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - A Matter of Time

The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper - A Matter of Time

Dr. Rebecca Harper travels to Nevada following graduation from veterinary school. She leaves her husband and small daughter to interview at a veterinary clinic near Lake Tahoe.

Rebecca is introduced to an area where the mythical television series, Comstock, was filmed.

She is involved in an accident while riding in the Eastern Sierras. Injured and disoriented, Rebecca must fight to survive. She eventually walks out of the mountains and into the set where the television series was filmed.

There she meets actors who resemble the beloved 1950s characters of the canceled television series. It must be a revival. Or is it? Is she trapped in a time warp?

Are these real people? How can she return to her husband and daughter? Can she survive in the 1850s without the modern conveniences she is now accustomed to, such as radiographs, Oreos, and Tampons?

A Matter of Time is the first book about a young woman's life in the 1800s as she searches to find a way back to her time.

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A Matter of Time - The Travels of Dr. Rebecca Harper

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Graduation 1981—Oh my God, I’m a vet. A real vet. No more practicing writing my name as Rebecca Ann Harper, DVM—or better yet, Dr. Rebecca Harper—in the margins of my class notes. No more calculating my GPA daily in my spiral notebook while Dr. Fitzgerald drones on about accreditation exams. Considering the last three years, this is a miracle. I have it all.

With my diploma in hand and Pomp and Circumstance droning from the loudspeaker, I rushed off the graduation stage. I walked past my beaming husband, Jeff. He had Lauren, our three-year-old daughter, in tow and intended to keep her from screaming as I walked past without a hug.

Jeff and I met when he started his residency in equine reproduction four years ago. A kinder man you will never meet. “He’s tall, muscular, sandy-haired, and the best husband and father you could ever ask for. The cliché is gag-worthy, but it’s true.” He opted out of his theriogenology residency program for one year with only a few months to go, so I could continue my schooling.

He’d been in practice at a small, rural veterinary clinic when it dawned on him that his passion for all things repro needed to be satisfied. We met when he came to the vet school to complete his doctorate and residency in equine reproduction. Now, Jeff has only six months left to complete his studies, and then we are out of here. Well, I’m out of here next week.

Don’t get me wrong. Vet school has been the best part of my life so far. I’m a bit slow, so it took me longer than most to be accepted into vet school but, once that happened, I became a student with a passion. I graduated with honors and received plenty of job offers.

Like Jeff, horses are my passion.

I grew up on a horse ranch with my older sister, Sherry, and my parents. Well, up until I was fifteen, when my mom died. Septicemia from a ruptured appendix was the cause of her death, but she’d had problems for years. I just pray I haven’t inherited her gastric intolerances. Sherry went off the deep end after that, and we don’t even know where she is. In the end, it was Dad and me, and now just Dad.

Our ranch is in the high country of Montana, so I’m accustomed to rough winters and the hardships of rural life. We had cattle, but Dad’s primary income was from horses. We bred ranch stock. Most were quarter horses, but we had a bit of everything.

Dad had three stallions and about twenty mares. He had around fifteen foals every year. My father also accepted outside horses for breaking. Well-known for having a way with horses, he even did training for a few movies and one long-running T.V. show. It may have been Gunsmoke.

Dad was in the graduation audience, and I looked around to find him in the crowd. I waved at him, and he beamed back at me. I was the first college graduate in the family. When I married and became pregnant, I think he thought the gig was up.

I knew he loved me, but I could hear the yelling four states away when I hung up after telling him, “Dad, I’ll go back and finish. I promise.” He was not persuaded. I think he considered coming down to castrate Jeff. He performed all the colt castrations on our ranch where we lived. Thankfully for all concerned, we were going to come and assume that job.

Jeff loved the ranch and the streams. We both loved to fish. Up in that remote area of Montana, the fishing was easy. Jeff was a fly fisherman, and he was showing me how to cast a line the summer before I got pregnant.

Well, I did graduate on time, and because Jeff sacrificed his studies so I could finish mine, my dad put away the emasculators when he came to see our beautiful daughter. When he heard that we might be moving to Nevada, the fight was on again for one and all.

“I didn’t raise you and put you through college so you could run off and live a thousand miles away. I have a right to see my granddaughter at least once a month, and I’m not getting any younger. I’m gonna need help this spring, and I don’t mean a few days of vaccinating, castrating, and floating teeth.” If you don’t know about horses, floating teeth means filing down the sharp points on the molars.

“Dad, there isn’t enough work in Mountain Laurel to support a vet, and you know it. I’m going to pay you and the bank back. I have six months until the student loan payments start. Jeff is still receiving a pitiful salary as a resident. I’m trying. Please believe me. If we could find jobs closer to you, we would. Besides, we are even farther from Jeff’s family. Like it or not, I have two families now.”

A truce was declared. The plan was for me to visit a mixed practice with a significant horse component near Lake Tahoe. I would go the week after graduation and check out the Nevada veterinary practice. The owners were Mac and Julie Smyth.

They were both vets, but Julie had not worked as a vet in twenty years. She gave up practice when their kids were born. She ran the office and raised the kids while Mac did the rest.

An up-and-coming vet had planned to take over the veterinary practice in three years, but one kick to the shoulder and the young vet checked out of the clinic and never returned. Mac had a progressive neurological condition and was not going to be around much longer.

The practice was put on the market for a song. Mac and Julie had done well and had properties and investments all over the area. Selling the veterinary practice was not a retirement deal. They loved their staff and clients, and they wanted to make sure all their staff and clients were looked after.

Mac figured he had a year or two to do the things he’d never done. He was going to take Julie and the kids to ride the John Muir Trail. If that went well, he and Julie were doing the Pacific Crest Trail the following year.

The Smyths knew we couldn’t afford to buy anything. They just wanted out. They asked us to take over the practice this summer, so they could get the John Muir done. They would hire me and provide a nanny, and Jeff would join us in January. We would buy the practice, and they would finance it.

Mac was a well-respected vet. He was up-to-date and even knew the correct dosage for penicillin. Lots of vets were still using ten milliliters once a day. Try three times that dose twice daily.

It seemed like a dream come true. We would be close to big cities and yet still be in the mountains. Jeff loved to ski and hike and fish, and I just wanted to be a vet. A second child was in the short plan as Jeff was twelve years older than me. Yep, I go for the old geezers.

Jeff’s uncle was a famous horse vet in Vermont. His uncle advised him to find a practice where he could get away for a few hours and then get back to work. Jeff spent his summers and vacations with his uncle working long hours, and to Jeff, the Tahoe practice seemed ideal.

He could leave work and play with our kids and be just as happy. He was always putting a long stick in Lauren’s hand and pretending to cast a fly. I had no hope. She was Daddy’s girl. I was just the milk bar, and even that was long over.

Jeff still loved the reproduction side of things, but that was seasonal, and so he wanted to plan the next child for mid-to-late summer. He could be the stay-at-home dad, at least a few days a week. All systems go for launch. The only glitch in the system was a somewhat unplanned celebratory activity the night of the graduation.

Worst-case scenario, by the time I was six months preggers, Jeff would be with me to take over the dangerous stuff. The day I left for Nevada, my fears were allayed, and I was once again a free agent. Phew, close call.

After graduation, I prepared for the trip to Reno and then out to see the vet clinic. I was surprised at how dry the area was, but I saw several ranches on the way to the clinic. I drove up to the office, and a woman in a blue scrub top greeted me. She didn’t say much as she took me into the main office.

She barely acknowledged me. I thought I heard her mutter something about my being a girl. I knew I was breaking the stereotype for a rural veterinary practice. The vet they wanted was Jeff. I guessed the woman was expressing what she had heard from her bosses.

A plump woman with very unnatural blonde hair was barking orders on a two-way radio. “No, you idiot, it’s Box 218, not 128. Mac, it’s a good thing you’re retiring. You’re going to take us to rack and ruin with these sidetrack adventures. Hazel’s waiting at the gate if she hasn’t died of old age.”

“I’m going to leave you up on Mount Whitney if you don’t stop squawking, woman. I see her. Has the lass arrived?” Mac yelled back on the two-way.

“I think so. She looks green and eager. Doubt she’ll look this good next year,” Julie Smyth announced, looking over her shoulder at me and smiling.

So, this was ‘Mrs.’ Dr. Smyth, and obviously, ‘Mr.’ Dr. Smyth was on the other end of this conversation.

“Dr. Green, reporting for duty,” I joked. “Well, some folks call me Becky.” I extended my hand and introduced myself. The woman stood up and reached over the counter to shake my hand.

“Well, well. Aren’t you tiny? I hope you’ve got some muscles under that shirt.”

“Yes, ma’am, dozens of them.” I still hadn’t shed the baby fat after my daughter Lauren’s birth, so I was slightly bigger than usual. Even so, I was accustomed to people judging me for my short stature. In her day, to be a woman vet, she had to be tough and twice as bright as the guys in her class.

These days, it was not that difficult. I was in a class of seventy-eight, and thirty-five were women. It wasn’t easy, and, for sure, there was a two-tiered system. I’d worked at the school as a vet technician, so the faculty accepted me more than they did the other female students.

The scrub-topped greeter waited at the door. It was then I could see that she might be intellectually disabled. I suspected Down syndrome. She made no attempt to talk to me or even offer a small friendly gesture.

“Rosa, this is the new young vet, Becky.” Turning to me, Julie asked if I minded being called by my first name.

“No, of course not.” Well, the ‘Dr. Harper’ name didn’t last long.

“Don’t take any mind of Rosa. She’s the backbone of this practice, but she is the strong, silent type.” Rosa smiled at Julie while she emptied the wastebaskets. “Rosa is our firstborn.”

“Oh, got it.” I could see she was definitely challenged. Jeff and I were so lucky to have a healthy and bright child. I could not imagine the life of having a son or daughter with a disability. Julie could read my thoughts.

“Rosa is independent. She lives at the clinic, and she pays her way. You’ll be lucky if Rosa stays and helps you when we retire. She cleans the barn and the clinic and cares for our personal horses. She has a way with animals that I don’t understand.”

“That’s great. We’ll keep Rosa if we can afford her rates.”

“She’s also awesome with small children, and she practically raised our younger two.”

“Hired! A job for life.” I wasn’t going to let that go. Julie smiled, and I thought I’d just passed a test.

Mac arrived back at the clinic an hour later. He walked in, slapped Julie on the backside, and shouted for Rosa to restock his truck. Only a few things were missing, and she went to the storeroom to get more vaccines, Banamine, which is used for pain relief in horses, and syringes.

I observed her with her dad and could see they were devoted. Mac’s hand shook slightly. He had early Parkinson’s disease. He shook my hand with a firm grip and crushed it in the process.

“How’s the dean? You know, we used to call him Stinky.” I gave Mac a quizzical look.

“Oh, he fell in a hog pen in his second year of vet school, and he never lived it down. He’s a good guy, though. I hear he has big dollars coming into the school. Well, the football team’s record might have a hand in the donations too, but he is one smart man. Did he tell you we were in the same class? It was his recommendation that made us look at you and your husband as potential successors to our clinic.”

“Yes, sir. He mentioned that you even beat him in awards.”

“Oh, bullshit. Stinky was the top dog. I just got the one award he wanted for the best equine vet student. He won four others and was at the top of the class. Oh, and don’t call me sir. That was my grandfather, and he’s long gone. I’m Mac to everyone but my kids.”

I could see he was a man who was easy in his clothes. He and Julie had no pretensions. They were just folks, and I had a lot to learn from them in a short time. They planned to go in two weeks if we could come to terms, and Jeff and I agreed to start work for them. I would have to talk to Jeff about this plan. The feel of the practice was good, but six months on my own, just out of school, was daunting. Actually, it was frightening—Hershey swirls in the pants kind of scary.

While I was applying to vet schools nationwide, I worked at the college in the large animal clinic. I knew a bit more than the average new graduate, but that was a damned sight less than Julie and Mac. I was good at horse wrangling, and difficult horses were not intimidating. Thanks, Dad, I thought.

Happily, I spent a week riding in the vet truck with Mac. It was real vet work. We performed castrations, floated teeth, and fixed a hernia on a Belgium filly. He had me pick the anesthesia protocol and most of the fine work that was becoming difficult for him. I sutured a large shoulder laceration, and we saw two colics. Horses are prone to abdominal pain for various reasons which is commonly called colic.

At the end of the week, Julie told Mac she was stealing me for the afternoon. She wanted to take me on a ride up in the mountains and show me the backcountry. The horses needed to get fit for the first ride on the John Muir Trail.

It was a beautiful summer day. We took the horses a few miles in the trailer to the trailhead and saddled up. The pines and other conifers were tall and fresh and made the blue sky look even bluer. The smell of pines permeated the air. Julie could have stopped there. I loved the mountains.

“No smog or pollution up here, Becky,” she commented as she observed me inhaling the smell of pine. It was hot in the valley, but as we climbed out and up the well-worn trail lined with conifers, the temperature began to drop. I could feel how pleasant it was in the cool of the mountains.

After an hour’s climb, I could look back and see the valley and the small ranches and roads below. Julie pointed out some of their clients’ properties.

Pointing to an old house in what appeared to be a ghost town, she said, “They used to film a few of the Comstock episodes over there, but mostly it was a tourist attraction.”

“Really, were you around? Did you meet any of the actors? Did you take care of the horses?” I was fascinated. I watched Comstock every Sunday night. I remember visiting my grandmother when we came out of the mountains, and we saw it in color once.

My father was not impressed. He would say, “You know the saddles are all plastic, so they show up better on the screen, and the horses are all lame. I don’t know what you girls see in that program, anyway. You’ve got the real deal right out your back door.” Whether the rumor of the plastic gear was true, I don’t know. I have to say, Sherry and I looked hard to see if we could confirm the story.

Julie replied, “I met Colin Chandler in the pharmacy once. He seemed nice enough. We saw the paint horse that Danny rode for a foot abscess. Mostly, they had the studio people doing what they needed. When they closed down, it was a death sentence to our town, though. Who was your favorite, Bec?”

“Oh, that’s a hard one…Gee Ling.” We both laughed. “I know where my bread is buttered.”

“That Clint was a dreamboat. I was sure sad when he left the series,” answered Julie.

We climbed some steep embankments. We snaked along a granite ledge that had a long drop to the bottom and was just as far from the top. Below was a river or a creek. I could see the rock-lined pools, and I looked for signs of trout. We stopped for a minute so Julie could take a nature break.

I held her horse as she went around the bend for some privacy. Some rocks came down from above. I looked up and thought it looked rather precarious. I shouted to her that the side of the mountain looked dangerous.

She laughed and said that was what she had told Mac the first time they came up here. “This trail is more than one hundred years old, Becky.” She returned from around the corner. “A few small slides occur almost every year, but nothing really to worry about. I’ve been coming up here for thirty years, and the trail is rock solid.”

I was dubious, but the allure of the trout down below attracted my attention. Julie stood up on a large boulder and remounted. “Come on, slowpoke. I want to show you my favorite spot in the whole world.”

Since I had the baby, I was not used to riding, and my legs were getting a bit weak and sore. I gritted my teeth and rode on, following her buckskin gelding. My gelding was a smaller, gray Arabian.

I chose him as they said he was the best-footed horse they had. He was solid and never put a hoof out of place. The granite shelf was glaring, and I was glad to have a hat and dark glasses. The forest below was thick, and I could see bushes that might have blackberries. I was hungry.

We had almost reached the end of the trail along the rocky cliff when I heard a tremendous roar. My gelding swung his head and looked up above the track. I was grabbing for anything I could. Julie was ahead of me, and she yelled but was drowned out by the noise of a massive rockslide coming down between us.

I saw her horse bolt, and Julie fell to the ground. Large boulders started falling all around me, and the trail gave way. The whole mountainside was crumbling. The noise was deafening. My gelding buckled, went down on his knees, and came out from under me. I was thrown back, which was the last thing I remember.

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. You can find the full book on Amazon.
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Elizabet Woolsey Author - Horse Doctor: An American Vet's Life Down Under

Horse Doctor: An American Vet's Life Down Under

Author Elizabeth Woolsey-Herbert offers a unique and touching story ofher life as an equine veterinarian in semirural Australia. As an Americanliving in a foreign country for fourteen years, she observes thedifferences in Australia compared to her native California.

The singlemother of an eleven-year-old daughter, she also combines work andfamily commitments.With wit and wisdom, Dr. Woolsey-Herbert faces an assortment ofdaily dilemmas:? Charlie needs to place well in an upcoming race, but he can't put hisfoot to the ground.

Will he be able to race in three days in order toqualify for the most important race of his life?? Herbie has a severe toxicity. He can't see, and he can't walk straight.His owner has big plans for him, but will he survive the night?? Cooper needs costly, life-saving surgery.

His owner, Amanda, can't afford it. What will become of Cooper? Dr. Woolsey-Herbert deftly intermingles descriptions of Australian life and the people she meets in her daily travels with her touching true stories. With humor and in-depth descriptions, Horse Doctor will captivate the horse lover in you.

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Horse Doctor: An American Vet's Life Down Under

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How I got here is a book unto itself. It would make a good read. But that is another story and will have to wait for another time. I am an American transplant living in South Australia, and I am also a horse vet. As a not-so-minor aside, I am also a single mother of an eleven-(going on twenty-one) year-old girl. I have lived in Australia since 1991.

I love my work and my life here. I thought this was a temporary move and a bit of an adventure. Thirteen years later, it is looking less temporary, but—no kidding—it is an adventure! I never planned to stay, but 2 Horse Doctor now I will probably finish out my professional career right here in Gawler, South Australia.

One can never tell the future path one may go down. The lure of flyfishing (my third love) in the streams of California or the thought of tormenting my American-based sisters might sway me back to the United States when I retire, but for now this is home.

Every day as I head out on my horse calls, I think, Pinch me; they are paying me to do this? One afternoon, instead of torturing my staff with “old people’s” music, I was complaining bitterly about the emergency I was driving to late in the afternoon. I was probably tired from a prior late night.

My nurse, who had to accompany me, said something like, “Well, it might be something to write in the book one day.” I wondered aloud if many people would be interested in what we did. My nurse assured me that people would be interested and that someday I should write a book. That someday came, and it was time to start writing down some of the things that were happening in my daily life here in Australia.

I’ll start with a day that occurred in our Australian springtime of October 2004. As an equine veterinarian (let’s just shorten that to “horse vet”), I am required to attend emergencies, because there are no emergency clinics for horses like there are for people or small animals.

It is often overwhelming in the foaling season. In Australia, the foaling season is between August and December. In recent years, with the proliferation of some of the breeds that aren’t under pressure for early foals (warm bloods and minis), the season has been extended to March.

During the birth process, if a mare doesn’t deliver a foal in about twenty minutes from the time she starts in active labor, there may be problems. The technical term is dystocia, which means difficult birth. I have been a veterinarian both in the United States and here in Australia.

Over my twenty-year veterinary career, I’ve averaged two dystocias per year, which require me to attempt to extract a live foal before it dies, or a dead foal before the mother dies. In mid-November 2004, I was up to my twelfth or thirteenth (I’ve lost count). With dystocias, it is important to get to the mare as quickly as possible and try to correct the position of the foal’s head or legs so the foal can be delivered.

Often, positional correction requires the use of stainless-steel chains that are passed in behind a bent leg or over the head of the foal. The chain is then looped through itself, and the leg or head is pulled into the pelvic canal. The normal foaling position is with the two front legs preceding the head in a nose-dive position through the pelvic canal.

If the leg is flexed or the elbow is hung up at the bottom of the pelvic brim, then the foal becomes stuck. The A Day in the Life 3 forces generated by the mare to expel the foal are incredible. Mares can push their intestines out the rectum or vagina in the attempt to push out a foal. This is a death sentence. So, when a foal becomes lodged, it is usually a very tight area that I work in.

Often, even with the chain around the leg, it is still hard to get the leg unbent and out. I have handles that attach to the chains, and I and whoever is helping me usually get down on the ground, with our legs planted in the mare’s thighs, and brace ourselves to pull out the body.

During one foaling this year, it took two hours to get the chain around the foal’s leg, and it still took me and two big men to straighten out the leg. Surprisingly, that foal lived. Oh, did I mention that I am approaching fifty-four years of age and that I am five feet, two inches and weigh 112 pounds? It’s just a minor detail. I may be getting on, but I am definitely not giving in to nature.

When I started my veterinary career, my first few dystocias were scary. I thought I was too little and not strong enough. However, I found that my size was usually an advantage and that my skinny arms were rarely too short. I can get in where big guys can’t. I have also developed my small brain (a matter of density) and have found ways to get around my longitudinal and strength challenges.

After a foaling, I am fairly disgusting. There are usually fetal fluids and dirt from my neck to my socks. Often there is no part of my body that isn’t either bruised or sore. My hands and arms are particularly sore and bruised from having the mare push the foal against the razor-sharp brim of her pelvis, with me in the middle.

After a dystocia, I usually take all my clothes off just inside the laundry door and head for the shower, where my hair feels like Brillo from having my hands wet and soaked in fluids for so long and having been in contact with fetal membranes for so long.

Yet I love doing dystocias, and so far this year I have been fairly successful with them. I even did a cesarean section on a miniature horse when I couldn’t get the foal out. If the foal can’t be put into position to come out, then another option is to cut it out (limb by limb) using obstetrical wire through the vagina and cervix. This is an ugly job, and not for the fainthearted.

Okay, let’s get started on the day at hand. Cue the morning music (“Morning” from the first movement of the Peer Gynt Suite), even though it is a bit early. For those of you, like me, who would not know what that tune is, it’s the music they play in Looney Toons cartoons when they depict a morning scene.

Cue the rooster crowing—no, magpie warbling—even if it is a bit early. Cue the phone ringing, even if it is a bit early. No, it’s way too early. Don’t cue the phone. Turn off the phone. Darn, it’s too late. 4 Horse Doctor The phone is ringing, and it is a friend of a client asking if I can attend her mare that is foaling.

I had examined the mare at my regular client’s stud farm for pregnancy but was not the regular veterinarian for this lady, as she lived too far away. Things sounded grim. They had found the mare an hour ago with a foot and some fetal membranes hanging out of her vulva. It was then five thirty in the morning.

They couldn’t contact their regular veterinarian, and they were forty-five minutes away. It was still dark but starting to get lighter. It had rained all night, but the sky looked like it was clearing. It was nippy out, and my eleven year-old was asleep and needed to get to school in a few hours. I really wanted to tell the woman to keep trying to contact the other vet, but seconds count.

This is the agony of my life. My daughter, Shelley, could use the sleep, so I decided for the first time ever to let her stay home alone in the early morning. (Although she had stayed there alone many times during the day.) I knew one of my staff would be there in time to drive her to school, so I told her, “Sandy will be here in a few minutes.” Yeah right, more like about an hour or two, I thought to myself and left the room.

Shelley never heard her door close, as she had fallen back to sleep. As I dressed, I realized I needed no more than a heavy jumper (Australian for “sweater”). Despite the early spring, frosts are rare, and a cold winter morning requires “rugging up” as they would say. As I walked outside, the family of magpies sitting in the trees next to the house were talking away.

The sound was very melodic and might be compared to a group of kindergartners playing recorders. They are my normal alarm clock. I am an early riser. I have no problems getting up any time of the night for emergencies, other than in my first hour of sleep. Get me up in that first hour after falling asleep, and I am liable to be very rude and to charge more.

I loaded the car with my cold packs and warm water. I checked to make sure the chains were in the car, and I was off. I couldn’t understand the directions the horse owner had given to me. The mare was agisted (Australian for “boarded”) in the hills. Most rural South Australian roads are unmarked. The woman didn’t know the road names, but she knew the landmarks. However, I hadn’t ever been there, so the landmarks were foreign to me.

My favorite expression for these types of places is, “You can’t get there from here.” That truly applied to this place. So I agreed to meet the owner at the servo (Australian for “service station,” which is not really a service station, but a petrol station. Over here, gas means “a gas”).

I live on the plains thirty miles north of the capital city, Adelaide, which has a population of around one million. I am on the fringe of civilization, and all A Day in the Life 5 around me are dirt roads. At least one-third of the roads I travel over are dirt. So, after about twenty minutes of driving, I was on a dirt road in the hills seeing kangaroos.

Kangaroos are not as common in Australia as you might think. Where I am, down in the plains, I might see a roo once every two years. The last one down here had a broken leg and was hiding in the wheat field of the airfield next door. The roo jumped out when my neighbor Bill Millowick, who is approaching eighty, was passing in a sulky, driving his young pacer to the racetrack down the road.

The pacer bolted, and Bill got tipped out. Two people saw the roo, but no one ever caught it. Up in the hills, they are common in the early morning and evening. Seeing them is like seeing deer in the States. After meeting up at the petrol station, I now followed the lady in my car. She had already resigned herself to the idea that the foal was dead, but she wanted to save the mare, which can be just as tricky.

She was traveling along at a good pace, and I was wondering if my bonnet (Australian for “hood”) was going to be sporting a new hood ornament with fur. (Kangaroos are the cause of many road accidents in the hills.) As I drove into the hills, the sun was coming up, and the foliage went from the California-summer dry look to the green of Alabama (minus the kudzu).

It was densely forested with pine plantations and native eucalyptus. The Australians call them gum trees. There are over seven hundred species of eucalyptus, and the different varieties make the forest look diversified. The reflection of light off the foliage, caused by rain from the night before, was dazzling.

The verdant hills sharply contrast with the arid plains where I live, and I love going up into the hills just to see the green vegetation. After several road changes, we arrived at a little country cottage. There were small grassy fenced-in quarter-acre paddocks that were surrounded by dense trees and foliage. I worked my way through a maze of fences and gates so I could park as close as possible to the mare.

The caretaker was unprepared for me, so I had to explain my need to be close with my equipment. The mare was an average-size, pretty chestnut Thoroughbred, probably weighing a little over one thousand pounds, or just under five hundred kilograms. She was lying down until we approached her, and then she stood, never to voluntarily go down again.

As she grazed, she would occasionally push, and out would come one hoof. The ground was wet and slippery, but there was good cover, so it wasn’t as dusty as the conditions with which I usually had to contend. The owner was a very sophisticated woman who could pass as an executive businesswoman. She probably was.

She was medium in height and thin, with neat, straight blonde hair. Neither she nor the caretaker had a halter or any means of restraint, and it was then that I looked at the lady attending the foaling mare. 6 Horse Doctor The caretaker was heavily pregnant herself and had a three-year-old who was glued to her hand. She was in her pregnancy dress and sandals. She had long, curly red hair braided behind her back.

She was the perfect Madonna, or earth mother, of the sixties. The owner was probably not going to be much help either. I was concerned for the safety of the pregnant lady (i.e., lawsuit material). It never fails to amaze me that even though they know I am coming, there is no head collar (halter) or rope in sight. So, after more time was lost, the head collar was finally produced.

I had the pregnant lady stand back. I wondered what the owner thought she was doing leaving the horse with this lady in both of their present conditions. I couldn’t imagine what help she would be, even with a minor problem. The resident caretaker and her daughter had slept out with the pregnant horse two nights ago, but they had opted for the warmth and dryness of the house the next night, as it was cold and raining.

Horses can be fitted with foaling alarms that alert the attendants that the mare is lying down and possibly foaling. But nope—this horse had gotten only wishful thinking and had not been observed. That would be fine for my horses, as I don’t love mine that much, but this owner really loved her horse. These people would never know what I thought, and it was a waste of time to cry over spilled milk.

I had the owner hold the head, and I proceeded to wrap the tail and clean the vulva for my initial evaluation. I reached in with long obstetrical gloves and felt two hooves, but as I went further, I didn’t feel a head (this was majorly bad news). Then, as I went up the legs, I realized they were actually hind legs. A breech! I have had three or four breeches over the years. I was relieved, because the foal would most likely be extractable without too much problem.

I put chains around the foal’s legs, and I was thinking I hardly had to even enter her vagina, because the foal’s legs were so close to the outside. This helped keep future uterine infections at a minimum. Mares that are real kickers will tolerate these procedures in times of distress, such as foaling, and I have never been kicked doing it.

Most mares will lie down as I pull on the chains or the foal’s legs. This mare started to swing her back from side to side, and as I reached back to get handles on the chains, she started kicking. Not a good sign. Hoping there was a sleeping husband, I asked whether there was someone around to help. The pregnant woman left to call a neighbor.

By then I was convinced the mare was not going to tolerate me pulling, and she was not lying down. I was starting to wonder why I chose this profession. As I waited for someone to either get help or actually help, I looked around and thought, This is about as A Day in the Life 7 bad as it gets, though at least the view is good. I was looking at a grassy green meadow.

It wasn’t freezing, and the trees around the property were stunning and newly green, like spring trees can be. The forest was alive with the sounds of birds waking up—continuous warbling and chattering. Help didn’t appear to be on the way. The owner and I would have to pull the foal ourselves. There is a very safe way to anesthetize horses, and I have done it many times to facilitate getting a foal out of a mare.

There was no question the foal was dead, but on my own, with the only other able-bodied person holding the mare’s head, it was hopeless. So I decided to do my usual trick of knocking the mare out using a short-acting anesthetic, and about then a neighbor showed up. The mare went down perfectly in a slow swaying motion. She was lying on her side, and the chains were still intact. The owner was freed of trying to control the mare and she was then able to help as well.

So, the neighbor, the owner, and I braced ourselves down against the mare and pulled. It took about fifteen minutes to get the foal out. It was hard work, and I felt like a washrag and was getting stiff as a board, but these people didn’t know me, and I was pleased as punch about getting the foal out and glad the mare was not too damaged (at least not by me). I could see the neighbor now was studying me. Because of my shrimp size, I know that when I show up, people who don’t know me misjudge my ability. I rarely fail.

So I was thinking how impressed they all must have been. I waited until the mare woke up and explained that she needed to pass the placenta in a few hours, and that if she didn’t, they needed to contact their regular veterinarian. I also reminded the owner of what I had explained earlier on the phone: that I couldn’t follow up on the mare, as my schedule wouldn’t allow me to go that far away from my planned routine.

I dispensed oxytocin to be given to the mare later to help her pass the placenta. I was also thinking that the veterinarian who hadn’t answered the phone earlier that morning owed me a favor since I had covered for him or her. I called Shelley on my way home and said I would be back in a few minutes. She had slept through it all and was quite happy waking up on her own. “Did you save the horse and foal, Mum?” I hate “Mum,” but it is ingrained.

If she really wants something, she affects her American accent and calls me “Mom.” “Just the mare,” I said. “The foal was already dead.” Shelley was happy because she equates my absences for work with the source of money that finance trips to Disneyland. I have had problems with her resenting the time I spend working and away from home, but as she has matured, she has seemed to accept this trade-off of my quantity time for quality time.

Besides, 8 Horse Doctor if she starts to really complain, I suggest that she and I spend some motherdaughter time together, which usually corresponds to a time she would rather be with a friend. That usually cures any feelings of neglect. I was home by eight to see Shelley off to school (thanks to Sandy, my earlymorning veterinary nurse). I showered, washed my fetal-fluid-filled boots, and sterilized the chains. I also had a client waiting for me with her Appy (Appaloosa) mare who arrived early for an ultrasonic examination.

A mare is tested using a rectal probe that shows an image of a fetus or follicle that will, by size and shape, predict gestational age or optimal time for breeding. In this case, it was a pregnancy scan, and the mare wasn’t in foal, so that was the second bad news of the day. A good morning, and it was just starting.

I was writing up the accounts and getting ready for the normal day’s events when the phone rang again at about nine thirty with another mare foaling! This time it was close by and a miniature mare, so I took no help with me. That was dumb—really dumb. I drove ten minutes away to Lewiston, a small development on the plain, which is flat and dry. The contrast from my previous destination was dramatic.

This development contained two-acre plots where the lots were created for owners of one or two horses and a dog. I lived there when I first arrived in Australia. My husband and I bought property there, as it appeared to be in good horse country, and it was inexpensive.

There are mostly houses there now, but when we arrived, there was a mix of brick houses, mobile homes, and sheds that people secretly lived in until they could afford to build. We called the latter “shed people.” The properties had young trees, and they were sparsely spaced. The water to keep lawns was expensive, so many didn’t, and the landscaping was of the arid variety. While a few people could make that kind of landscaping beautiful, most didn’t.

I drove around the house through a tangle of wire and corrugated iron fencing. I parked next to the pen with my car, and a swarm of little horses and one donkey surrounded me. The donkey was braying nonstop, and again there was no head collar for the foaling mare, and the only person there was the owner’s partner, with his sandals, shorts, and asthma puffer in tow, who didn’t “know nothin’ ’bout no birthin’.”

He retrieved a head collar but didn’t have a clue how to put it on. I put it on with great difficulty, as the gorgeous chestnut mare was afraid of (i.e., hated) humans. The partner stood as far away as he could and explained that the mare had been in labor for an hour or two.

The real owner (the horse person) was busy at work and had told his partner not to call the vet and just to see if the mare had the foal. He thought that since the mare hated people, it was better to let her try to have it on her own (a deci- A Day in the Life 9 sion that he said he highly regretted when I saw him at the servo a few days later).

A stunning head and leg were out, but the other front leg was way back inside the pelvic brim. This was a bone cruncher. Every time I tried to reach in to get the leg that was folded back at the knee, the mare pushed my arm up against the pelvis, and I couldn’t move.

I tried for several minutes, with the attendee holding the rope and mare at arm’s and rope’s length, offering little support to steady her. She was rolling in pain, as I lay on the ground dodging her hind legs. So, again, I anesthetized the mare and started trying to get into that very small area with a chain while attempting to keep it all clean. It was very dusty, and I was getting no help.

I was again lying flat out on the ground, trying to loop a chain around the foal’s cocked leg. The braying donkey was still at it forty minutes later, and my cool, calm, humorous side was quickly being replaced by a seething, furious, ranting vet. Of course, other than to occasionally yell at the donkey, I said nothing. I knew it was going to make a funny story, but at the moment it was anything but.

A neighbor came over who had a mini horse himself. The man was clearly someone I could use to help, if I could get the chain around the leg. He was a client of mine as well, and he was cluey (savvy). I do have a few normal clients. I turned the mare every way I could to position her so I could get my hand in the right place, and I finally got the chain around the bent leg.

The neighbor had come over to get an ownership-transfer paper so he could show a stallion he had recently purchased from the owner of the foaling mare. He was ranting on about the paper he needed, and that alone. The guys were oblivious to the mare’s predicament. I got the chain on and tried to pull the leg out myself for several minutes.

During that time, all I was hearing was that the transfer needed to be done that day, and so on. It didn’t occur to either of them that I might need help. I just couldn’t pull the leg out myself. It was a three-hundred-pound mare, so you can imagine how hard it can be with a larger mare.

I finally asked them to help. The three of us were just pulling the whole mare backward, so I sat on the ground and braced myself, and they pulled behind me, using me as a fulcrum. It worked, and we released the leg from entrapment. In one more pull, a stunning, long-dead filly was pulled from the mare.

I left them the antibiotics, tetanus, painkillers, and so on, and as soon as the mare was up, I went back to the house to shower again. It was then noon, and I had to pick Shelley up from school to attend a doctor’s appointment on the far side of Adelaide, which was an hour from home.

We got back about four in the afternoon. I was thinking how good it would be to just sit, but I had to see the mini-mare again because she hadn’t passed her placenta. 10 Horse Doctor I had received reports that the other mare hadn’t passed her placenta either, but I had Odette, my day nurse and office manager, explain that I had so many other emergencies from my regular clients that I just couldn’t get back over there and that they would do best to go back to their own vet who was not far from them.

I now also had a case of colic (abdominal pain) in another mini owned by my all-time best client, Jenny Cocks, so I went there as well. I had one more call at six that evening. I was to meet a client at a stud where I was going to collect a stallion. This is a procedure in which semen is collected from a stallion to inseminate a mare when the au naturel method doesn’t work, or to ship semen, or for use in multiple mares from a single collection.

In this case, we had a willing stallion and a slightly willing mare with a to-die-for follicle but a closed cervix. After several attempted matings, she had not become pregnant, or “fallen” pregnant as they say in Australia, and we discovered the problem cervix. The only remedy was to get the sperm past the unwilling cervix and into the uterus, where it could do its thing, swimming up the fallopian tube and seeking nirvana.

The problem was that to collect the stallion, he has to jump on the mare, and I have to come in between them and grab the stallion’s penis and stick it into an artificial vagina (AV), which is a water-filled tubular rubber pipe that “feels most like mother herself.” The artificial vagina is very heavy and awkward. Usually the stallion is experienced, and it is no big deal, but this was this stallion’s first time for a collection.

This can take a while, as the AV is not the stallion’s preference. The stallion owners didn’t have hobbles for the mare, and she wasn’t as keen as she might have been. The artificial vagina was not filling properly, and the critical temperature just didn’t feel right. The critical temperature has a very small range. While the stallion might like it hotter, this could cause thermal injury to the sperm. In my youth, my father, now a retired horse vet, taught me how to set the temperature without a thermometer.

It is just as hot as I could stand to comfortably leave on the back of my hand as water flowed over it. I was pessimistic about getting it on the first go. The area we worked in was very small, and there was an audience (a recipe for disaster). The mare was restrained, and the stallion was brought up to her. She offered no resistance.

He climbed on board, and I quickly intervened with the AV, and after several hearty thrusts, to my amazement, he ejaculated! I collected the semen, and while it didn’t look crash hot (Australian for “great”), it was okay. I filled two syringes with the warm fluid, and the now-prepped mare was ready. I inserted a long pipette through the unwilling cervix and deposited the semen.

I left them some oxytocin to be given later to try and clear any excess fluid from the A Day in the Life 11 uterus, and the job was done. I didn’t get killed, and by seven it was dark and I was on my way home. I had Sandy with me for the afternoon calls, and I was so happy the day was over and I was going home. Again, Shelley was home alone, and I was thinking “fast food salvation”.

I got a call on my mobile phone from a long-forgotten client who had a horse with a “cut ball sack” (whatever that meant). I was sure it was an Australian slang term for something, but my true-blue Aussie assistant said she didn’t know what it meant either.

The client described her stallion with his testicle hanging out of the sack after failing to negotiate a fence between him and his paramours. It sounded interesting, but I was tired, the lady had a checkered past with me, and I had an eleven-year-old at home alone. I figured I needed to share the wealth and suggested she try someone else, as I could only see the horse if it came to the clinic.

I explained that I needed to be home with my daughter. After all, how much excitement can a girl stand in one day? Naturally, she agreed to bring the horse to me, so after we arrived home, I sent Sandy out for takeaway (takeout) while I cleaned up a bit. The stallion arrived at eight thirty with (no kidding) his testicle hanging six inches or so down out of his scrotum, which appeared torn.

It was very dark outside, and I was using the floodlights and a torch (flashlight) to view the devastation the fence post had caused. I thought about removing the testicle with the stallion standing with a local anesthetic, but I just couldn’t see very well and decided to knock him out and really look around. I thought his wound was near the abdomen, and I was worried there might be intestine in the mess as well.

His gums were pink, and I couldn’t see any suggestion of shock or significant blood loss. So we laid him down on the lawn under the floodlight by the house. It was a shocker even for me. He had lacerated his inner thigh and had shoved the testicle out the thigh laceration, which was about sixteen to seventeen inches long. No guts were visible, so I removed the single testicle and sutured up the laceration.

He was treated for pain and given antibiotics and was sent to a clinic stall for the night. I sent Sandy home at nine thirty and wrote up a few accounts. Shelley had gone to bed thirty minutes earlier. I found myself nodding in front of the computer. I then dragged myself to bed. If someone had asked me, “How was your day?” my reply would probably have been, “Good, no unauthorized deaths.”

Authorized deaths are a part of my daily life. I hate the “unauthorized” (unexpected) ones. Nobody died who shouldn’t have on my watch. That was not a typical day. I have days like that a couple times a month. The long and the short is that both mares survived. The colic got better. The “half-a- 12 Horse Doctor stallion” survived, and the mare we inseminated didn’t get in foal, but I have since begun waiting on another test in a natural mating during the next cycle, when the cervix opened up slightly.

I thought I could do no wrong that day, and I imagined how happy everyone was with me, but I later received a letter from the owner of the first mare complaining that I had failed to treat her horse properly and hadn’t followed up. Also, because she and the neighbor had provided two-thirds of the pulling, she was going to only pay one-third of the extraction portion of the bill.

I was stunned. In the end, she did pay the entire bill. I have to remember that in a time of crisis, clients often don’t hear all that is being said, and I am reminded that communication is the key to satisfaction. She was mad that I hadn’t provided follow-up.

I think her anger may have been fueled by the attendant, who probably felt hurt that she wasn’t included, and mad because she probably didn’t know I had explained my limitations to the owner when she had originally called. Go figure; you can’t please them all. The expectations of the two mare owners could never be met. I’m good, not God, and I haven’t brought one back from the dead yet. However, I remain vigilant.

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Elizabet Woolsey Author - Jack's War

Jack's War

Jack Woolsey enlisted at the age of 19 in the Army Air Corps and flew 35 missions over Germany as a Liberator navigator. He survived and became  a member of the Lucky Bastards Club.

He wrote weekly letters to his family from the time he left California through his basic and  navigational training in Texas and Idaho, and continued the letters from his base near Norwich in the UK while he flew his mission.

His father saved all the original letters  and actual mission maps and mission statements in albums that became known to Jack’s family shortly before his death. The transposed letters reflect a young man’s real experiences and transition though the war.

There is no enhancement or editing of this collection of letters and photographs. This makes this collection historically significant. True WWII enthusiasts will appreciate the significance.Jack’s letters during basic and navigational training are rare.

Before he died, he read The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 by Stephen Ambrose. He said that book truly reflected his experience of military life. The letters support this sentiment. This is a must read for historians and descendants of WWII Liberator crewmen. This is how some of the “greatest generation” became a powerful fighting force.

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Jack's War

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John Homer Woolsey (Jack) was born on July 14, 1923 in San Francisco. He moved to Woodland California when he was ten and he attended Woodland High School.

Jack’s college studies at U.C. Berkeley were interrupted when America was brought into the war following Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and on April 2, 1943, at the age of nineteen Jack left his family, his devoted dog, Toots, and his horses Koli and Lady.

He flew 35 missions over Germany as a Liberator navigator and then returned stateside to begin pilot training when the war ended. He was discharged in October 1945.

Jack wrote to his family on most Sundays. Each letter was preserved in an album by his father. These letters describe his initiation into army life, his basic and navigational training at various camps and reflect his thoughts and personal experiences along the way. Like many men away from home, he loved his packages of food and news from his hometown and family.

Jack did not speak of these events until very late in life when he reminisced with his step-grandson, a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force. That album of 140 weekly letters and another album that contained his original maps and mission notes were retrieved from the closet where they had remained for decades until his death in 2011.

These documents and letters are a valuable historical source for both his family and other families who may have also had fathers, grandfathers and uncles who serve in the Army Air Corps during WWII. They also provide historians with an incredible source of archival information regarding the missions that were flown over Germany during the war.

April 2nd, 1943 Leaving for Basic Training

1 – April 2nd, 1943 (on the train)

Dear Mother and Dad,

Had a marvellous trip so far. The Pine forests on way up to the summit with all the snow around them. Had a wonderful view of Donner Lake and the river coming out from there. Ate dinner (big one despite grievous advice as I am from Missouri) thru the pass into Reno Nevada.

The river looked inviting for trout fishing and the high rocky crags really made it beautiful. The Nevada stockmen are beginning to turn their stock out in the meadows but the feed is way behind California time. I am now sitting in the Reno station waiting to pull out. Will try to get this off. Going to have a big poker game tonight so don’t worry.

Jack

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