I was in the other room but I recognized the voice immediately.
"Where is that young veterinarian? I need to have a word with him! He gave my horse a shot of screw-down medicine and I didn't know it!"
It was Skeet Black, a 78-year-old retired ranch foreman. And the young veterinarian he was looking for? Yeah, that was me.
I'd only been practicing for about three months and it seemed like weeks would go by where everything I did was wrong. I was
in the middle of one of those weeks when Skeet's very distinctive cowboy voice came floating into the small animal surgery
room where I was spaying a dog.
The patient was a 4-year-old Labrador in heat, and I was beginning to think I'd rather deal with jock itch on my own body
than spay fat dogs. Now I had to shift my focus to the angry old cowboy. Why did he have to come in hollering at the very
moment when my horrible surgery skills required my complete attention? And screw-down medicine? What the heck was that? I'd only been out of school a few months, but in my 350 hours of college courses, I'd never
heard that term once. I had to think for a minute about what I'd done to his mare.
Bit by bit the story came back to me. After Skeet had retired he'd decided to take up team roping. He bought a 22-year-old
mare that was a seasoned head horse and brought her to my clinic because she wasn't coming out of the box fast enough and
wasn't turning quick enough to face.
My attention momentarily switched back to the bleeding Labrador. I was so frustrated that I tuned Skeet out for a moment until
his next words penetrated the surgery room: "You say he's doing a surgery? Well, I'm just gonna wait right here until he gets
done. I need to have a word with that fella and I'm not gonna leave until I do."
His voice rang with aggravation. Apparently I'd really ticked off this old rascal. All I'd done was inject his horse's hock
joints with some triamcinolone. She had bone spavin in those hocks, and I just wanted to give her old joints some relief so
she could carry this 78-year-old fart up and down a roping arena without experiencing any pain. I figured this would make
her go faster and feel better and everyone would be happy. I'd done it on horses before and everyone seemed to like it—except
I finally finished up the wretched dog spay and knew I'd have to face Skeet shortly. My stomach was in knots, almost like
when the teacher would send me to the principal's office in the fifth grade.
Before I tell you what happened, let me paint a picture of ol' Skeet. He'd been a ranch foreman for 50 years. He'd ridden
horses for so long that the 40-inch inseam on his Levi's 501s had a permanent bow in them. He wore long-sleeved shirts with
those snap buttons that are completely out of style. His cowboy hat was so ancient and weathered that the brim had taken on
the shape of a taco and the sweat ring extended up to the crown. His boots came to a point and the leather was as thin as
the skin on his giant earlobes. Last time he was in, he stood right in front of me while he rolled his own cigarette and smoked
it. And this was the fella who was furious with me.
When I finally worked up the courage to open the door, I couldn't believe what I saw.
There stood cowboy Skeet in a pair of Nike sweatpants and house shoes. He was leaning over a walker that was 7 inches too
short for his long, lanky frame and he wasn't wearing his false teeth, which made him look 95 years old instead of 78.
"There you are, you young rascal," he said when he finally saw me.
"Let me tell you somethin', young'un. I don't know what you gave my mare, but it made her feel so good that she left me in
the box when she took off."
He said he'd stayed off the roping horse for three days just as I had advised, but when he saddled up again the critter took
off so fast that he flew over the cantle of that saddle, bounced off her butt and landed straddling the fence that goes around
the roping arena. Apparently the doctor had even said he was lucky to have any balls left after that spill.
"Now I got a hip that's aching and have to use this walker thing for a month," Skeet said. "I just come in to tell you that
you better tell people to screw-down after you give one of them there shots. I am tellin' ya, that critter can run fast and
fart loud. Now don't you forget it!"
That was nearly 25 years ago. Now, if you come to my clinic with a horse that needs its hock injected, don't be surprised
if I tell you, "Now when I give this to your horse, you better screw-down, cause this rascal is gonna run fast and fart loud!"
Dr. Bo Brock owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.