Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 in review

Was pleased to see the roughly 1100 hits the blog received this last year.

I resolve to post more regularly in 2015. My book, Carrying the Black Bag, will be in press, allowing me additional writing time. My mother who has been with us for the majority of the last two years  looks to require more care than we are able to provide going forward. This will require an alternative living situation. Bummer. Should however provide more time to write, ranch, and travel.

Hope everyone has a wonderful 2015. Thanks for visiting my blog site, Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Book Will Be Published

Good News: I’ve had a book accepted! The title likely will be Carrying the Black Bag: A Doctor’s Story. My editor currently has me rewriting four of the eighteen parts of the book, a task that has lately consumed much time. Nevertheless, my editor was spot on and the book will be better for the effort.

My book will come out next fall. It will tell of my life as a doctor and of especially memorable patients who demonstrated unusual courage, humor, and bravery in the face of sometimes life threatening illnesses. The stories are inspirational and useful for anyone who knows someone with a serious illness or who will someday develop a serious illness. Well, that is just about everyone, I suppose. I also hope it will speak to health care professionals about our very special roles in caring for others.

The patient stories I tell were so important to me that I spent years writing, rewriting, editing, and reediting them. In most instances I am the last person standing who can relate these often poignant stories about special people who trusted me not only with their medical care, but also with their private thoughts.

In all likelihood I will divide this blog into two parts: book related and ranch (retirement) related. I am thinking about adding a second category of Views From the Black Bag to parallel Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch. What do you think? Please let me know.

I plan to share in upcoming posts my long process of unlearning scientific writing skills and learning popular writing skills. This has been tougher to do than I ever imagined. It’s as tough as trying to get rid of belly fat. And it’s not just all about losing the jargon either.

I will keep you posted as to the process and progress of this exciting writing venture.

A Backward Glance–Part 2 by Paul Hayes, Guest Blogger

This is Part 2 of the piece written by Paul Hayes. Paul, like me, always had a hankering to be a cowboy but first had to have a paying job to afford to do so. For Paul it was a successful career as a land man for Marathon Oil and for me, a career in Neurology. It was worth waiting for!– Tom Hutton

Two Longhorn cows and calf

Two Longhorn cows and calf

Paul Hayes wrote the following:


While we didn’t have any horses or cows ourselves, we lived on a dirt road at the edge of a very small town. So farm animals were all around me. In fact, the family of one of my best buddies, Bobby White (I think he was named after a quail), had a farm just down the road, and they had lots of animals. One day, while playin’ at Bobby’s place, he came up with an idea for the ages. He thought it would be a really great idea if we went and roped a cow. “heck, yes” I exclaimed with enthusiasm. Did I mention that I was the brainy one in my group of friends?

We dashed out to their barn. Remember, if it weren’t worth runnin’ to, then it weren’t worth doin’. Bobby climbed up on a horse stall and pulled a rather stiff rope down from a rusty ol’ nail on the barn wall. He jumped down into a cloud of dust and we proceeded to the pasture.

Now, bein’ the smart boys that we were, we picked a young cow are our first target. Bobby had growed up on the family farm and actually knew how to rope. Not livin’ on a farm myself, the only rope that I had knowed was fer jumpin’. We walked as close as we could get to our victim, and Bobby took his stance. He swung that rope around a few times and throwed it in the direction of that cow. Much to my amazement, and Bobby’s too I suspect, the lasso went over that cows head. As the cow jumped, the rope tightened. Bobby screamed for me to help and I grabbed aholt of that rope. We dug our heels in as far as we could and pulled with all the might that two boys of six years of age could muster. After a few harrowin’ seconds, the cow calmed herself and all seemed quiet.

But, the really fun part started with my next question. “Well, that was excitin’. Now what do we do?” After a few brief seconds of thought, which, as luck would have it, was not sufficient time to come up with a reasonable plan, Bobby said that, while one of us holds the rope, the other will crawl under the cow. Yep, you heard me right. Again, what six-year-old boy wouldn’t want to have that on his resume. Since there were only two of us, and since Bobby was already holdin’ on to the rope, he said I could go first. With not nearly the hesitancy of my first horse ride, I willfully got down on the ground next to the small cow. As I approached, I saw the rope tighten and I saw Bobby dig in for whatever might come. Wantin’ a good view of the excitement, I got on my back and began scootin’ along the ground under the cow. I am directly under the cow when I discovered that a six-year-old boy does not possess the strength to hold even a small cow in place. The cow jumped, kicked like a mule and then ran out into the pasture – rope draggin’ behind. I, on the other hand, laid breathless on the ground with hoof prints on the portion of my white Sears tee shirt that covered the center of my chest.

I had followed up my horse lesson with an equally successful lesson about cows. I am not certain, but I may have been rethinkin’ this cowboy thang at this juncture.


Paul Dennis Harris was a boy who lived across the pasture from my house. He was a year older’n me so I, quite naturally, believed that everythang he said was as gospel as Sunday preachin’. I would come to learn that there are two voices that we hear in our lives, one is the voice of God, the other is the voice of Paul Dennis Harris. On this particular day, as I peered out the kitchen winder, I could see Paul Dennis over in the pasture playin’ with somethin’. I just couldn’t see what it was. That situation required a prompt investigation. As I approached, Paul Dennis displayed a pistol that he told me his grandpa said he could play with. I later doubted that the ol’ man, not havin’ been afflicted with brain damage to the best of my knowledge, knew anythang about the pistol caper. At six years of age, I knew nuthin’ ‘bout guns, includin’ the fact that they could lift a boy’s skull from his head if pointed in the wrong direction.

I have no idea what the caliber of the gun was. But it was heavy, and it was real. Paul Dennis suggested that we shoot a target, so he proceeded to set a coke bottle on top of a fence post. While I knew that that coke bottle was worth three cents down at the local grocery store, I was willin’ to forego that income for a new experience. Bein’ the nice guy that he was, he even said that I could shoot first.

Are you hearin’ a repeatin’ theme in these stories?

Well, by this time, bravery was my middle name, and I happily accepted the offer. He loaded the revolver with six bullets – five more, as it would turn out, than I would need to complete the experience. He then handed me the gun, stood back and covered his ears.

I’m six years old. I have no idea how to use a gun. Ne’ertheless, I took the pistol in my hand and held it up to my cheek just below my right eye. Takin’ good aim at that bottle, I slowly pulled the trigger. I am not certain what hurt worse, the powder burn on my cheek, the damage to my eardrums or the butt beatin’ I got from my dad when he found out. I immediately dropped the gun to the ground and ran home cryin’ like a cat in a rockin’ chair factory.

I learnt a hard lesson that day from the likes of Paul Dennis Harris. Age, as it turns out, does not necessarily equate to wisdom.


Though I survived the age of six, my parents decided to move to Dallas before I could learn any more lessons about life in a small country town. I became a city boy whose only exposure to cowboys from that point on were the ones who played football on Sundays. Now, at the age of 56, I find myself living back in the country. However, it is safe to say that I will live my life as a cowboy vicariously through you.

Thanks for your contribution to my longevity.


A Backward Glance–Guest Blog by Paul Hayes

What a pleasure it is to receive a response to an item I posted on my blog. Paul Hayes recently sent a lengthy and thoughtful piece. A second part of his piece will follow. The satisfaction of impacting others is the most fulfilling aspect of having a blog. I hope reading my posts will prompt others to glance backward at their lives and recall similar fun episodes. If so, let me know. Thank you Paul for sending this piece.

Paul Hayes wrote the following:


It is always a joy to read about life at Medicine Spirit Ranch. Undoubtedly, during all those years working in the medical community, you secretly harbored the desire to be a real-life cowboy. Now, after retirement from the city life, you get your chance to experience the cowboy life first hand.

Like you, I knew early on that I, too, wanted to be a cowboy someday. After all, what’s to know about horses, cows and guns? What follows are true accounts from my youth about my training to be a cowboy.


Take my first experience ridin’ a horse. When I was near about six years old, my friends and I gathered at Ricky Robinson’s house for an afternoon of whatever we could find to do on a Summer’s day in our tiny little town. Randy Brewer, who lived a rock’s throw down the ol’ dirt road from Ricky, was the imaginative one in our gang. When he would enlighten us with one of his stories of famous relatives and such, we would tell him that he was just imaginin’ thangs.   However, on this occasion, he was the one who imagined that we ought to go saddle up their old mare and go horseback ridin’ around their backyard – much of which also served as Mrs. Brewer’s veg’table garden. Now tell me, what group of young boys wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity like that. Each of us, decked out in out white Sears tee shirts and blue jeans, high tailed it over to Randy’s house to begin our cowboy experience.

Anytime we went from one place to another, it was always a race. We never walked a single place. If it weren’t worth runnin’ to, then it weren’t worth doin’.

The Brewer’s mare was quite old and very docile around us kids (we can thank the Lord for that little favor). Randy, we would come to learn, knew as much about horses as I knew about girls of the opposite sex at the age of six. Ne’ertheless, he managed to get one of those metal chompin’ thingies into the horse’s mouth so that we would have something to hang on to once we got on top. That, my friend, would prove to be the easiest part of this adventure into the world of cowboys.

Next came the saddle. I distinctly remember askin’ if we REALLY needed a saddle at all. “After all, I’ve seen injuns ride bareback on all the TV westerns”, I would proclaim. Wantin’ the real cowboy experience, by buddies quashed that idea quicker’n Paladin drawin’ his six shooter on a stage coach bandit. Ok, so herein lies the problem. We have five boys, each of which measures about 4 foot nuthin’, and a full grown horse whose back, though swayed, is taller’n all of us. But don’t you think for a New York second that such a small challenge would deter this group of would-be rustlers. No siree, Bob. With Randy holdin’ that leather strap thang and the other four of us standin’ on a rickety ol’ table that we found in the garage, we hoisted that saddle up onto that ol’ horses back – on about the fourth attempt, that is. We actually achieved the feat on the third attempt, only to discover that the saddle was on back’ards.

Now, not havin’ lots of deposits in my vast horse-knowledge bank, my misguided mind thought we was through. Some brilliant mind came up with the sayin’ “hold your horses” just for occasions like this one here. “Oh, no”, explained Randy. At this point, we were all willin’ to learn a thang or two from our friend, Randy. He instructed Tommy Wilson to grab aholt of the rope that was attached to the saddle and walk under the horse to the other side. Without hesitation, Tommy grasped that rope in his hand, ducked his head only slightly (he was shorter‘n the rest of us) and proceeded to traverse that horse’s belly. Well, as dumb luck would have it, just at that time, that ol’ horse decided to buck an’ come down on Tommy’s head like a big ol’ hay bale. We rushed to see the damage, but it was nuthin’ more than a couple of tears. Although Tommy recovered quickly and wiped the tears as if they weren’t never there, I feel certain that he had screws in his neck by the age of 30. He jumped up, grabbed the rope and handed it to Randy. Randy, again bein’ the horseman of our gang, ran the rope through a silver ring and pulled it about as tight as a six-year-old could pull. It was only a few minutes later that we would come to realize that the strength of a six-year-old may not have been sufficient for the job.

Well, the only thang left to decide was who would be the first of us to ride that day.   Country boys are just born with the innate wisdom of the democratic process, and we understood that the only fair way to decide that question was to draw straws. Randy grabbed his maw’s broom that was leanin’ ag’inst the garage door and he picked off five straws. He then pulled a pocket knife from his pocket (where else would one keep a pocket knife?) and he commenced to cuttin’ those straws so that one would be shorter than the others.

Now, we hadn’t yet got to the point in our cowboy development where bravery was fully developed. While nobody dared say, none of us was hopin’ to draw the short straw that day. As I recollect, Joey Andrews was the first to draw. His was a long one. Next was Tommy, and he too smiled as he slide a long straw from Randy’s now sweaty hand. As if written for a big screen suspense thriller, Rickey likewise tugged on a straw, revealin’ a third long one. Only Randy and I remained. As I reached for the straw on the left, Randy jerked his hand as if to say “not that one”. But, bein’ the brainy one in this group, I now knew exactly what I had to do. I reached for the straw on the right and tugged quickly. Randy laughed with delight as he exposed the remainin’ long straw, still in his hand.

Right at that moment, to my mind came another sayin’ that someone had made up just for such an occasion – “Never let ‘em see you sweat”. So as to demonstrate my bravery, the development of which took a small leap forward that day, I jumped up on that table and grabbed aholt of that saddle. “Now what”, I asked Randy. “Th’ow your leg up over the saddle and slide on top” he explained. Sizin’ up the feat, I explained in a semi-calm voice that “I need a boost”. Ricky joined me on that table and, cuppin’ his hands together, I placed my foot, and my life it seemed, in his hands. I then pushed my way up and onto the saddle. That ol’ horse, she barely moved at all. With a whole new level of accomplishment and confidence, I smiled and declared “I’m ready”.

As Ricky and Joey moved the table aside, Randy handed me that leather strap that, as I recalled from watchin’ westerns on TV, worked like a steerin’ wheel for a horse. Problem was, at six years of age, I had no idea how a steerin’ wheel worked. But, that didn’t matter, not one bit. This gentle ol’ mare took one step forward and the saddle and I began what seemed like a slow motion slide. With my eyes closed tighter’n a skeeter’s ass, I held on for dear life. When the motion had stopped, I was still holdin’ on to that handle-like knob on the front of the saddle, my feet now draggin’ the ground. The ol’ horse didn’t take nary another step, which was amazin’ considerin’ the roar of the laughter that had erupted from my gang of buddies.

It was, indeed, an inauspicious beginnin’, but I vowed to remain fearless in my quest for cowboydom.