Mind Over Miller: Good humor man
The need to support myself during my pre-veterinary years at the University of Arizona led me to accept a wide array of odd jobs. I spent summers working with animals—wrangling dudes, working as a ranch hand and packing for the U.S. Forest Service. When school was in session I washed dishes between classes in the school cafeteria. On weekends I picked cotton and fruit, cut brush for a surveyor, served as a kennel boy for a veterinarian, gardened for a suburban developer, unloaded bricks and performed other less glamorous work.
But my tastiest job? That award goes to my position as an ice cream truck driver. After I received my DVM degree, I thought my ice cream truck driving days were over. I was wrong … sort of.
My first few years in practice, I used a station wagon to make house, farm and ranch calls. Then I started seeing ads in veterinary journals for customized mobile units (now used by most large animal practitioners). Equipped with a refrigerator-freezer, a sink with running water and lots of room for equipment, I was sold—literally. I bought the first one west of the Mississippi River, mounted it on the back of a pickup truck and got to work.
One of my best clients was Greenfield Ranch, a polled Hereford operation. The first time I drove into the ranch with my new ice cream truck-like mobile unit, owner Allen Carling-Smith met me with a serious expression on his face and deadpanned his order: “I’ll have three strawberry popsicles, please.”
For the next two years, every call I made to the ranch began with a request for popsicles of various flavors. Finally, I purchased a few popsicles and stuck them in the unit’s freezer. The next time I pulled up to Greenfield Ranch, Allen greeted me with his usual order. But on this occasion, I promptly got out of the cab, opened the freezer and handed him three popsicles.
Allen cracked up and, I was told, did so again when he received his monthly bill—which included a line item for popsicles: 15 cents.
My appearance wasn’t always popular, however. Once when visiting a horse at a suburban home, I parked next to a real ice cream truck. When the driver turned and saw me, she put her hands on her hips and scowled while muttering furiously under her breath, convinced I was invading her territory. So I calmly walked over to her and said, “Hi, colleague. I’m here to distribute free Good Humor ice cream samples to everybody on this street.”
Mobile units have since become commonplace, so no one makes popsicle jokes (or accuses me of encroaching on their ice cream territory) anymore. Sadly, you can’t get a popsicle for a nickel any longer either.
Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at robertmiller.com.