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Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
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“I told him I’d never sewed on a horse, but if he could persuade the animal to hold still I was sure I could do it,” Huckleberry recalled. “The wound was a dilly, 18 or 20 inches long and very deep, in the hip. John threw and tied the horse and I sewed up the hole in his muscle and hide. Just as we finished, I got an emergency call to the best hotel on the beach.”
Jumping back into his Hudson, Huckleberry raced to the scene and found one of the top executives of the Southern Pacific Railroad — a real V.I.P. — in great agony, stricken with seafood-induced food poisoning.
“We soon had him reasonably comfortable,” Huckleberry continued, “and only then did I realize I had not taken time to wash, and saw my hands, arms, and clothing were smeared with horse blood. If he had noticed, he didn’t say anything. I think he was too sick to care.”
COUNTRY-DOCTORING SOMETIMES called for some MacGyver-class problem solving. Huckleberry recalls one incident in the mid-1920s when his phone rang.
“Doc, there has been a terrible accident out in front of my house,” shouted the voice on the other end of the line. “Come out as quick as you can!”
Of course, if this happened today, the 911 dispatcher would pull up the caller info, identify the house, and dispatch the ambulance. But this was the old days — before dial telephones.
Huckleberry called the operator. Could she help him? Yes — she remembered how agitated the caller had been, and remembered the party line it had come in from. But, there were 12 stations on it. This didn’t help much, since they were farm homes, spread over a 20-square-mile area. So the operator called each of the 12 farms. Eleven of them didn’t know what she was talking about; the 12th didn’t answer the phone.
Huckleberry raced to the address of the 12th home and found two cars badly wrecked, right in front of it.
THERE WAS ANOTHER incident that, if Huckleberry had written it up for a medical journal, might have brought him some fame — if the journal editors believed him. It started on a day when a local named John Jorgenson came into the office and sat down.
“Doc, I’m sick,” Jorgenson announced.
“How are you sick?” Huckleberry asked.
“I dunno, I’m just sick.”
“Where do you hurt?”
“Don’t hurt nowhere, I’m just sick.”
Huckleberry asked some more specific questions, and got basically the same answer to all of them: Jorgenson didn’t know how or where he was sick or why, but he just knew he was sick. Finally, Huckleberry asked him why he thought he was sick.
“My eatin’ tobakker don’t taste good,” said Jorgenson. “I been a-chawin’ Star for more’n 50 year, ever since I was 12 year old, an’ this is the first time it don’t taste good. I gotta be sick.”
Huckleberry doesn’t say what his response to this was. Chances are, he was probably a little ashamed of whatever it was a day or two later, when Jorgenson went down with pneumonia. It almost killed him, but he pulled through.
“I never saw anywhere in the books that a change in the taste of Star tobacco is one of the points in the differential diagnosis of broncho-pneumonia, but it is,” Huckleberry added. “At least it was.”
DR. HUCKLEBERRY'S MEMOIR, published in 1970 by the Oregon Historical Society, is crammed with anecdotes like this, and is a really fantastic way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. Be warned, though; by the time you reach the last page, you may be feeling a bit wistful. Huckleberry himself sums up the sentiment nicely in the last paragraph of the article he wrote in 1970 for Oregon Historical Quarterly:
“Things are different now. Changes in industrial techniques, changes in agricultural techniques, roads, automobiles, improved communications … all have had their effect, for good or ill. Many of the good things of that period have been lost. The old way of life is gone forever, but I hope this little record will help to preserve its memory.”