May 1980, Logan, Utah
…“Blackie and Clyde were our best pulling team, and you know, Clyde died of the colic a few months back.” Lamar talked faster than his normal Utah drawl.
“We got this here young fella, Gus, last week, and we thought Blackie was getting used to him.”
I could imagine what happened; the two horses had been housed next to each other before becoming friends, and Blackie had beat up Gus—badly. Gus had a huge hoof-shaped tear in the muscle of his massive butt, with a flap the size of a dinner plate hanging down, exposing the underlying muscles, ragged, bleeding scratches on his shoulder and more on his front leg. Lee bustled around, fetching some hot water, clean towels, and my suturing kit.
“Where’s your Dad?” I asked again. I was going to need Sherman’s horse skills to help me with this giant. Gus was tall enough I could walk under his belly without having to duck too far. Like his potential pulling partner, Blackie, Gus wore the horseshoes of a pulling team horse—heavy iron made to gouge into the earth for traction, matching the large size of the wound in his butt. Blackie had cornered Gus and kicked him mercilessly…
After graduation from Sarah Lawrence in 1970, I joined the exodus of suburban, liberal arts educated, tree hugging soon to be hippies and went to California, where I milked goats on a commune in exchange for room and board. After a couple of years of communal back to the land adventures, I had the wild idea I wanted to be a large animal vet. Since I had never taken a biology course, except in high school, I had to back to school. I moved into a commune located in Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania with my college sweetheart, Harry, his brothers, my sister and her daughter and various other folks, including a St. Bernard named Inga. The guys played in a band, I waitressed and worked at a ski rental store at Elk Mountain Ski resort, and all lived together in the rent-free house in exchange for upkeep. This is the story of my first foray into getting the credits I needed to apply to vet school.
The college closest to Hop Bottom offering biology courses was The State University of New York at Binghamton, about an hour north. I chose to start with a course in organic chemistry, a notoriously difficult course known to weed out the weak from pre-med and pre-vet programs. For my re-entry into the world of academia, it was perfect. If I could manage organic chemistry, I reasoned, I would be able to manage the rigors of veterinary school. And even better, the course started in early June, just enough time for me to save some money, find a cheap apartment, and get settled. I kept my plan to myself. Instead of putting all my earnings into the communal bank account, I started a small savings account of my own. Money was a worry. My parents had made it clear that after my bachelor’s degree, I was on my own. Financial support from Harry was out of the question. He could barely pay for food and replacement guitar strings. He borrowed weed from his brothers. I would need money for my pre-vet classes and piles more money for veterinary school if I ever got that far.