Aging truckers and doctors

In the land of the poplar and spruce

I saw the eagle, the crow and the goose

I cooled my seat

While they processed the meat

That came from a 30-inch moose


Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I went back to adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. A winter in Nome, Alaska, assignments in rural Iowa, a summer with a bike tour in Michigan, and Urgent Care in suburban Pennsylvania stretched into the fall. Since last winter I’ve worked in Alaska and western Nebraska, and taken time to deal with my wife’s (benign) brain tumor.  I just returned from a moose hunt in Canada.  Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission. 


I went moose hunting in Manitoba, and shot a young bull at about 60 yards. (For the firearms enthusiasts, I used 175 grain bullets in a Weatherby Vanguard 7mm Remington Magnum.)  To paraphrase Jose Ortega y Gassett, eating justifies the kill, the kill justifies the hunt.  I really had no idea of the enormity of the northern Canadian wilderness.

I drove north out of Sioux City through Winnipeg to Thompson, about 16 hours. Past Thompson, one can drive east or west but no further north.  An hour by float plane put me onto a lake where the living moose have seen humans only for two weeks last year.

The camp consisted of a wall tent with a wood floor, big enough to sleep two hunters and a guide comfortably.

We hunted by boat, cruising the shore line. I shot the third moose we saw, three days into the hunt.  After that we took care of the meat, went fishing, and loafed.  With no internet, I didn’t post anything though I continued to write.

After the hunt I stayed in Thompson getting the meat processed and frozen. In the Days Inn that Saturday I struck up a conversation with a married trucking couple.  They drive separate rigs together in Canada, and his engine needed work for a day or two.

They love their work, but, in his early 60’s, he’s looking forward to retiring. Over-regulation has robbed the job of much joy.  He finds it no longer feasible to drive in California because a drop of oil onto a white sheet of paper results in a fine and in turning back at the border.  That state stringently enforces emission rules, mostly in the form of expensive inspection stickers.  Log books, now electronic, can no longer be juggled.  While Canada permits a solo driver 13 driving hours per day, the US only permits 10, and he finds it difficult to make driving in the States profitable.

He could diagnose and fix almost anything wrong with a truck made before 1995, but since then computers have taken over the engines. A mechanic needs certification, with a week update training every 2 months.

I sympathized. Doctors, I said, have seen regulation erode earning potential.  Clinical improvement justifies about 10% of those regulations, and the rest just take more time.  Recertification, a hot button issue, occupies more time and energy than it deserves.

Both fields have changed markedly in the course of our careers. The older generation, voting with their feet, is retiring earlier than they had intended because of the problems.

But autonomous big rig trucks will replace human drivers in the next 20 years. Every society needs doctors.  At least for the foreseeable future.



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