The making of a consumer

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Sep 01, 2007

Thursday afternoon, summer of 1972; Castleton Veterinary Clinic Castleton, Ohio:

Gerald Johnson looked over Betty's shoulder and whistled softly. "That's a lot of driving," he murmured.

Gerald was young and single and had been out of school for just a few years. Betty, his receptionist, was a "townie" he hired right after he started his practice.

On his afternoon schedule were three routine events: Hog castrations at the Johansson farm; a dairy cow with a sore foot on the other side of the county and some calf de-worming at Jim Spence's cow/calf operation. All were good clients.

"I should be back to see some dogs and cats by 4 p.m. If I am late, just tell them to hold tight."

Gerald started to race out the door with boots and veterinary paraphernalia in tow.

"Don't forget the balling gun like you did yesterday," chimed Betty.

Gerald sneaked into the equipment room to get the balling guns just out of earshot — or at least he hoped so.

"I hear that," said Betty. "I knew you'd forget 'em." She laughed to herself.

Gerald gunned the old truck to the edge of the property and headed to the Johansson farm.

A little while later, Betty looked at the new radio equipment in front of her. A microphone attached with a curly wire to the newest acquisition of the practice. She knew how to use it and was grateful to be able to stay in contact with Dr. Johnson.

She keyed the microphone and turned down the squelch knob.

"Dr. Johnson, I have two calls: one from Dewey Davis and one from Al Bennett. Both say they have urgent problems. Dewey says one of his prize heifers is breathing heavy and 'lunging' again. He says you need to come right away. Al Bennett has some horses to worm and one seems to have the colic right now. Over."

The radio screeched and words came spilling out that were unintelligible. Betty turned another squelch knob and repeated herself.

"Did you hear my call? Over."

"You came in loud and clear," a weak voice dripped from the speaker. The voice was crackled, but Betty could make do.

"I am still on the other side of the county treating the sore foot. I won't be able to get back on that side of the county for a while."

"What do you want me to tell them?"

"Tell them I'll be out to their farms after supper. Also, go ahead and cancel any pets — I'll never make it."

"Ten-four."

After dinner, Dr. Johnson arrived at the Bennett farm and was whisked to the arena. Joby, a large Quarterhorse gelding, was lying on his side breathing heavily.

"He's been rolling since noon, Doc."

"Let's get him up so I can oil him and see what happens. I'll have to come back next week to worm the rest of them."

At 9 p.m., Dr. Johnson arrived at the Deweys' old and run-down farm property. In the fading twilight, he could see several cattle of mixed ages moving around in the fenced area behind the barn.

Dr. Johnson wondered how they managed to stay there, with most of the fence in very bad shape.

In the corner stood a young heifer with her head down and breathing very heavily. A short exam revealed pneumonia. Dr. Johnson pulled 45 ccs of oxytetracycline from his truck dispensary, gave it intravenously to the drooping heifer, then headed home exhausted.