Old Time Doctoring

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When Bill Stacey was a boy he lived in a big brick house in Woodruff, Utah, which people in town called “The Brick Ranch.” It was nearly a mile out of town, and one of the only houses in town made of brick. Early houses in Woodruff were made of split logs hauled down from the mountains and daubed with plaster to keep out the drafts. In time fine frame and shingled homes were built, but when Byron Sessions built the brick house in about 1897, it was a novelty in town both for its size and for its fine workmanship.

The brick house was so large when Fred Stacey began to think of buying the house and farm he couldn’t imagine a house that big for just his own little family. Indeed, Byron had built it for his plural families, so it was designed for multiple occupancy. So while Bill was growing up in one side of the house, Lewis Buck and his family lived in the other side. Later Ted South (Fred’s brother-in-law) and his family resided in the other side of the house.

Bill remembered a long, wide hall in the house. Winters were long in Woodruff, and the hall was the only place to play away from the snow and cold. On each side of the hall were big rooms, bigger than most rooms in moderate-sized houses even today. Bill compared the size of even the smallest rooms to the living room of his own home. With furnishings in those rooms, horseplay wasn’t allowed, but in the hall there was no furniture. The children found two old tires and began to roll them up and down the hall.

It was great fun until the tires collided. Bill put his arm through one of them to regain control, and then fell on top of it. His left arm snapped like a twig. There was no question, after looking at the shape of his arm, that it was broken.

Woodruff was an isolated little community before the days of cars. A trip to took hours, and a trip to for such a thing as a broken arm was incomprehensible. When cars became plentiful everyone was forced to go to a city to see a doctor, but in those early days Dr. Reay set out his shingle in . Bill remembered Dr. Reay well. If one was sick Dr. Reay asked questions and thumped on the patient’s chest. Little was known in those days about internal medicine, but a broken bone was not mystery medicine.

Dr. Reay pulled with all his might on Bill’s fingers with one hand, and on his elbow with the other until the broken bone shifted and was re-aligned correctly. He then placed a piece of metal as a splint on one side of Bill’s arm and another one on the other side. Wrapping the arm with cloth, he instructed Bill to be careful with that arm for several weeks while it healed. To this day, the arm is perfectly sound and straight.

Usually, no anesthesia was used except ether or chloroform in major surgery. Little was known about anesthesia then, and doctors and dentists regularly performed minor surgery, tooth extraction and bone setting with no thought of easing the pain. People were accustomed to pain and were prepared for it.

image1Before Bill’s mission he had to have his tonsils out. He drove to the doctor’s office, and was invited in to sit on a chair. Pulling a chair to face Bill’s, the doctor sat down, took his knife, and proceeded to cut out Bill’s tonsils. As long as the little pump which siphoned out the blood was working, the process was moderately clean, but when the pump quit working, both Bill and the doctor became soaked in blood. Whatever pain medication had been administered quickly wore off. The doctor completed the surgery without perfect visual perception of what he was doing, which may account for the fact that Bill’s tonsils had to be removed again years later.

After enduring the surgery and the blood soaking, Bill was informed he was finished and could now drive back home. No one was there to give him any sympathy, and from the perspective of sixty years he couldn’t remember terrible pain during either procedure. No doubt the pain was not forgotten at the moment, but time has a way of erasing vivid memories.

Time erases many things. It’s one of God’s most powerful blessings. Some day if we have kept ourselves from anger and retribution, the pain of our unhappiness, our unfulfilled dreams, and our privations will also go away. Not only will the pain of a broken bone be a distant memory, but the pain of sorrow and sickness will be nothing more than a faint recollection. The toothaches and heartaches will get mixed up with the strawberries and sunsets, and we will remember life on Earth with joy and satisfaction.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ made it possible. Those who reacted with criticism, hate and retribution will carry those with them to the next world, but we who learned to live with faith and forgiveness will forget all sorrow and pain.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Isaiah 61:1-3)