Nov 3, 2020

The Village Horse Doctor

West of the Pecos 
by Ben K. Green

     This one was plenty interesting and got a few chuckles from me as well. Has a lot of similar subject material to The Time It Never Rained, but it's more lighthearted in tone and feels like you're listening to someone sitting telling you tales. Some of the stories are very brief, others draw out over several chapters. It's also about ranching in a dry area of Texas, but in this case the author is relating his own experiences, working as a veterinarian. He travelled vast distances to treat and care for rancher's livestock- namely sheep but also horses, cattle and sometimes pet dogs and cats. He tells of his early years trying to get a foothold in the region and gain the trust of the local people, and of his ongoing efforts to diagnose illnesses caused by animals eating toxic desert plants- especially during times of drought. He ran a small laboratory and describes his methods of inquiry- doing postmortems on dead livestock, taking samples of plants, stomach contents, etc and extracting the toxins, even how in a few cases he developed medicine specific to plant issues in the region- and the great difficulties in getting the medicines made so he could distribute them. In many cases his efforts to find out what had caused animals to sicken or die took a lot of thought and sleuthing, which is engaging to read about. Sometimes when all the adults were at a loss, it would be some keen observations made by children on the ranch that helped him figure it out. He's also pretty good at drawing character studies and pointing out failings of human nature around him, admiring jobs well done and fine animals, watching shady deals happen, being somewhat involved in local horse racing, and so on. At one point he has to deal with a rabies scare, during another time a serious outbreak of sleeping sickness among horses. The strangest case was when he saved a horse's eye by extracting a foreign object that somehow got into the eye socket behind the eyeball- it was a glass marble. I'm still scratching my head over that one. Overall a rather a different slant from the other Ben K. Green books I've read before, and quite enjoyable.

Rating: 4/5                306 pages, 1971

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