Saturday, May 23, 2009

The plywood snowplane

A plywood vehicle, with an automobile engine and propeller in the rear and on skis was the transport of choice for our country doctor in the dead of winter in Saskatchewan. The snowplane must have been an early forerunner of the Bombardier.They were manufactured in Saskatchewan. Dr CM had a driver, and could treat emergencies over the twenty mile radius required, running on otherwise impassable roads. and on snowdrifts over fences. The "cachet" for the teenage boy I was? Immense! The thought of a medical practice that depended entirely on your own resources, even today, fills me with admiration . As I think of it now, I believe he also tried a Bombadier with treads, which was larger and could transport patients to the little hospital. It wasn't as efficient however, in deep snow as the snowplane. He also had a new bustle back Oldsmobile, probably 1953. The only other new car in town I can ever remember was a new Dodge that the parish priest owned, and that belonged to the church. That Dr CM could afford a new car was a source of awe. Dr C.M. left his general practice while we lived there, to undertake a surgical training programme at the Mayo Clinic.He had a family, as I recall,a wife and two children. Banks and bank transfers were less utilized at that time and he showed me his savings he was taking to look after his family for the four years he needed. I had never, in my wildest imagination, seen fifteen thousand dollars in bills in a roll. I think he was proud of himself ! Those three things were the original stimulus, I believed, for me to study medicine. Years later, in interviewing prospective candidates for the medical school and listening to the " reasons for entering", it strikes me now, that I would have had to sacrifice honesty for expediency at the time! As it happened, there was no interview when I entered medicine, so I didn't have to restrain myself from blurting out my three reasons. As I reflect on the matter now, it wasn't those three things that were important, though I thought so as a young man. We identify the tangible more easily than the intangible. What Dr. CM really represented is the skill and dedication and incredible creative resourcefulness that a good medical training can provide to the right kind of person with the right stuff. That's what I would have wanted to emulate, though I couldn't articulate it at the time!

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