Posts Tagged ‘rifle’

Massage, Kung Pao chicken, and pressure ridges.

February 21, 2011

The hospital’s food’s good, I’ll allow,

But a break we were needing right now

     I didn’t think twice

    To go out to the ice

After my chicken Kung Pao.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  Avoiding burnout, I’m taking a sabbatical while my one-year non-compete clause winds down, having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  Currently I’m on assignment at the hospital in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States.

I had this Sunday off. 

One of the lab techs here has a side business in massage therapy, he specializes in deep fascia techniques or Rolfing.  I had a session at 8:30, Bethany at ten, and we set out for breakfast at 11:30. 

While Bethany ate her hash browns and eggs and I my Kung Pao chicken, we discreetly noted a middle-aged Inuit eating with chopsticks.

Koreans dominate the restaurant business in Barrow.

Most places serve Japanese, Chinese, and Korean foods, along with American dishes.  Two eateries serve pizza, one only does delivery.  The Bingo Hall serves a very good burger and fries, I’m told, at only ten dollars.

I take most of my meals at the hospital cafeteria.  The locum tenens staff and maintenance staff eat for free, a major perk in a town where milk goes for ten dollars a gallon.  Bethany sometimes dines with me at the cost of $10 a meal.  Our chefs cook with love and imagination, really the best hospital food I’ve had, and fare I’d be proud to serve my friends.

After lunch I checked the temperature through the Internet and found 28 below Fahrenheit with a wind chill of 35 below (for you avant-garde Celsius fans, 40 below C equals 40 below F); with such mild breezes I decided to go for a walk.

I’ve accustomed my ears to the high-pitched squeaking of snow under my boots; the colder the snow, the higher the squeak.  Here I have to contend with the unnerving hollow sound my steps make when I’m walking on thick crust, a bit like walking on poorly suspended plywood, with less bounce.  The sound makes me think I’m about to fall through. 

Overdressed for a walk in this weather, while the icicles grew on my beard I had to unzip my parka, later my bib overalls, and eventually I pushed my hood back.

The cold keeps a lot of people in.  Taxis, snow machines, and snow removal equipment comprised a majority of the vehicles.  The few pedestrians I saw looked about a third my age.

In the Top of the World Hotel parking lot, I saw something that I won’t see in Sioux City: a snow machine with its trailer, and in the trailer, unattended, a couple of rifles.  Sleds are toys at home but serious working vehicles here.  Most trailers are homemade. 

Snow machine and trailer with rifles in the Top of the World Hotel parking lot


Recent high winds pushed the sea ice into pressure ridges; most of the blocks thrust twenty feet in the air are bigger than my Toyota.

I was out for an hour and came back with beard full of ice.

The author, after a walk, with ice condensed on beard, hat, and hood.


I’ve had a great time not getting my first choice.

January 4, 2011

As I look back over the years

At my life and my many careers,

     I missed my first choice,

     Which brings a smile to my voice,

And puts away most of my fears.


Today I got a call from a recruiter who had spoken with me last in October.  He’d gotten close to getting me what looked like a really interesting assignment for the month of December, but it fell through at the last minute.  Thirty-six disappointment-filled hours later another recruiter called me and offered me a job in Keosauqua.

That particular recruiter showed me a level of professionalism I hadn’t experienced in the locums industry.

I took that position in southeast Iowa, and I’m glad I did.  I don’t think people get any friendlier than the folks in Van Buren County, and I don’t think the deer hunting could be any better, even in Alaska. 

I’ve had great experiences not getting my first choice.

Leaving high school I applied to Harvard and Yale, and of course I hoped I’d get into Harvard.  But I had a terrific time at Yale, and I learned a lot about human communication that I wouldn’t have learned at Harvard.

When I lost my job as a disc jockey I decided I wanted something with more stability.

As a medical school applicant my overall picture was so unusual that I was accepted at Michigan State, I got on the waiting list at Harvard, and my state medical school, University of Colorado, didn’t even encourage me to reapply.  Michigan State’s humanistic approach suited me far better than Harvard’s research-oriented curriculum.

I had wanted to do my residency in Greely, but I failed to match there.  Instead I went to Casper, Wyoming, where I met my wife, Bethany.

When Bethany and I decided to leave New Mexico, we listed the Indian Health Service facilities in Santa Fe, Taos, and Durango higher on our list of preferences than the one in Winnebago, Nebraska.  But the other places either filled their vacancies without us or decided they didn’t have vacancies, and we came to Sioux City and settled in.  We kept quoting the movie, Field of Dreams, “Is this paradise?  No, it’s Iowa.”

One year I went deer hunting, and early in the season I found myself ten yards from a doe.  I pulled the trigger seven times and the rifle failed to discharge, till the doe got bored and fed off into the bushes.  I pointed the rifle at the ground and pulled the trigger; it went off just fine.  Later that season I shot the biggest (and, coincidentally, the most delicious) whitetail buck of my career.

When I planned this year of career transition, I had originally wanted to do a palindromic reiteration of the steps that brought me here:  Michigan, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Nebraska.  Step by step, each one of those plans evaporated.  Eventually I found myself on the way to Barrow, Alaska, and if you read my posts from June and July, you can see how happy that turned out.

When a plan falls through now, I take it in stride, and figure that whatever happens instead, I’m going to like it more.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning: muzzleloading in Ponca State Park

September 19, 2010

You know, I said with a grunt,

Some just think it’s a stunt,

    With no scope for a sight

    And a load that is light

And a rifle that loads from the front

I went out to Ponca State Park this morning for their annual Outdoor Expo.  Because I’d been so busy in the past I hadn’t attended before, but this year when the Hawkeye Rifle and Pistol Club asked for volunteers, I couldn’t say no.  And I didn’t want to.

Back in February of 1988, my new partner at the time, John, picked up a flyer off his desk and said, “Did you see how long the muzzleloader deer season is in Iowa?  It’s almost three weeks long.”  He put down the flyer and he picked up an identically sized catalogue.  “And did you see how much muzzleloaders are at Comb’s?  They’re $99!” (Comb’s Authorized Liquidators has since changed ownership four times and to the best of my knowledge is out of business.  But they were fun while they lasted.)

For twenty dollars less I bought the kit, mail order.  One of my best stories to tell a live audience is my “take-it-apart-put-it-together” saga of Me and the Ten Failed Muzzleloader Kits.  If you ever meet me and ask for it, I’ll tell the story but it has a lot of visuals that don’t translate to the written page.  In July of that year I bought an actual front-stuffing rifle from Thompson; it served me well for fifteen years until the stock cracked under horrendous weather conditions.  The manufacturer stood behind their product when they didn’t have to, and that’s another very long story.

That summer John and I learned how to shoot and maintain our new rifles.  Over the next five years at least one of us took a crippled deer each year. 

As time passed I acquired a flint-lock, two Civil War era reproductions, modern in-line front loading weapons, and a bunch of spare parts.  I have taken deer and elk for meat. 

I naturally fit in as a volunteer at the Club’s muzzleloader booth.

We kept the loads light, about 40 grains of a black powder substitute propelling round balls with a greased linen patch.  Nobody complained about the recoil.  Several people shot very well.  Lots of folk didn’t know how to aim without a telescopic sight. 

One volunteer gatekeeper, four loaders, and four coaches kept the crowd moving.  It was a good mix of ages, ethnicities, genders and experiences.   A lot of women fired a gun for the first time. 

 At some point I found myself both loading and coaching.  After a few shots my loading went very fast. 

We took a break while three mountain man re-enactors gave a great flintlock demonstration.  One fellow got a shot off every twenty seconds.  Another man dressed correctly for 1760 used a historically accurate “trade musket” loaded with a handful of powder, leaves from the ground for a first wad, a handful of gravel as a charge, and more leaves for a top wad.  He pointed out that with flint and powder he could still have a weapon with whatever he found lying around.