Truck and Trailer

There were a number of characters that lived in El Dorado during my formative years, and they added their own flavor to the spice of life in that small South Arkansas town. Some of the ones who come to mind are Mook, a close friend and high school classmate; Flying Saucer, whose real name I never knew; Donald Dollarhide, a friend who worked at P.I. Lipsey’s, a well-known hamburger joint; Tony, the hot tamale man; Buzzy Sutherland, another friend and class mate known for his fiery temperament, but who had a spiritual change and became a well-known pastor; and Truck and Trailer, whom I never knew but heard stories of some of their exploits around town.

I never heard the first names of the Goodwin brothers, but only knew their nicknames of Truck and Trailer. They walked everywhere, because they did not own an automobile and probably never learned to drive. I don’t believe that they were ever employed for any length of time, so doubtless could not afford such a luxury as a car. They received their nicknames because wherever they were seen walking, Truck was always walking ahead of Trailer. Because of their living conditions, their personal hygiene suffered, and I was told by a local merchant that one could usually smell Truck and Trailer before you saw them. This particular merchant owned a drug store located on the square, and the store had a small soda fountain which served sandwiches and drinks for customers desiring lunch. For a period of time Truck and Trailer came daily to the soda fountain for coffee usually around 11 to 11:30 am. As they would sit at the counter, this owner noted that some of his regular lunch customers would separate themselves as far as they could from the brothers. He said it came to a point that a few of his customers said that if Truck and Trailer did not do something about their body odor, they could no longer continue coming there for lunch. In as gentle and gracious manner as possible, this owner told Truck and Trailer that they needed to bath and use some type of deodorant before coming in for coffee, because their body odor was so offensive it was keeping some from enjoying their meal. The brothers said they understood and consented to improve their personal hygiene.

The brothers did not come in for another week or so, but when they finally returned to the store, the owner said he could smell them from 10 feet away. He intercepted them before they were seated and told them in a firm but polite voice that he was unable to seat them because their odor was still too offensive to everyone at the counter. They left without argument, but were heard saying as they left, “What we thought about this place is true.They only allow big shots in here!”

Another story I heard about the brothers involved a court case in which they were seeking a judgement against an individual who had accidentally struck Trailer with his automobile, causing him to suffer a broken leg. The accident occurred in the western part of town, on a hill known locally as Goodwin Hill. The driver of the vehicle was also named Goodwin, but was not related to the two Goodwin brothers, nor was his family responsible for the naming of the hill on which the accident occurred. The plaintiff, Trailer Goodwin alleged that the driver of the car, Mr. Goodwin swerved off the road and swiped into him, thus causing the injury. The defendant, Mr. Goodwin stated that Trailer Goodwin was not paying attention and stepped out into the road, and he could not avoid striking him. The lawyers for both parties were getting the Goodwin names all confused and especially the fact that the accident occurred on Goodwin Hill. Finally, the judge asked the defendant the following question; ” Mr. Goodwin, it is alleged that you have poor eyesight and thus could not tell that your auto veered into Mr. Goodwin causing him to sustain a broken leg. Tell me Mr. Goodwin, just how far can you see?” Mr. Goodwin thought a moment, scratched his head and slowly said; ” Well Judge, I can see the moon.” The judge said, “I’ve heard enough of this case. Judgement in favor of Mr. Goodwin!” When I heard the story, told by a relative of the judge, I never got it straight which one won.

Dr. John

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Growing Up in El Dorado

 

boom-town

Growing up in a small southern town in the 1940’s and 1950’s was wonderful for me. Life was simple, the environment was safe and except for the odor emitted from the local oil refineries, there was no pollution. I had lots of good buddies with whom I loved playing baseball, basketball, golf and tennis; enjoyed hunting and fishing; swimming and water-skiing in a stump-filled river; and just plain having fun in a relatively stress-free life. If there were any dangers to us regarding serious crime, I was not aware of them, and I don’t remember our making an effort at locking the doors of our home upon retiring at night.

Television was unknown to me until the early 1950’s when I was a teenager, and the idea of each person having a hand-held device to talk to another person miles away, was only seen in Dick Tracy comic books. Going to the movies was a week-end ritual, and my buddies and I couldn’t wait to see the latest installment of the serial cowboy movies shown at the Majestic Theater. Those were the equivalent of our present weekly television series, except that it cost us 10 cents to attend the movies, at least until you were 14 years old when the price jumped to a staggering 25 cents! The more sophisticated theater in town was the Rialto, but the movies shown there tended to be more of what I called “love story movies,” like Gone With The Wind, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Philadelphia Story and Giant, and I wasn’t particularly interested in them. The high price I had to pay out of my 50 cents weekly allowance was also a deterrent to seeing very many of those “love stories.” I was looking for the real excitement of cowboy movies starring such heroes as John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Lash LaRue, Johnny Mack Brown, Red Rider, and the Lone Ranger.

Summers were always exciting because life generally centered at the Boy’s Club playing baseball. As soon as the school year ended, the kids were organized into teams according to age and location of residence, and the entire summer was spent in competition with each other. I generally played on the Gulf Refining Company team because that was the team that included kids on my side of town. Our uniforms were not at all like the matched uniforms the kids have today. We got a white t-shirt with the Gulf Refining logo printed on the front and back, along with a matching ball cap and that was it. The remainder of our attire included blue jeans and baseball cleats, which we had to provide. I only wore my Gulf Refining shirt and cap for scheduled games so they would last the entire season. Our team was always competitive, and for a couple of years we won the city championship in our league.

The real prize for the best players in the league was to make the all-star team for that league. Twice I was chosen for that prestigious team as 3rd baseman, and one of those years we won the state championship held in Hot Springs. Going to the state tournament meant getting a complete uniform for the 3 day event and having all our expenses paid while there. It made us feel like real major league stars! Some of the better players over a 4 year span were; Berlie (Beryl Anthony), John Lee (John Lee Anthony, Berlie’s brother), Moody (Jim Moody), Mook (James Mook), Bussey (Richard Crawford), Buck (Jim Weedman), Norris (James Norris), Jody (Jody Mahoney), Pesnell (Larkus Pesnell), Tom (Tom McRae, Tommy (Tommy Murphree) and Boo Boo (Jeff Murphree, Tommy’s younger brother). These guys were highly motivated to success on the ball field and later in life became prominent citizens such as;  a U.S. Congressman, a Federal Judge, a candidate for governor of Arkansas, who came in 2nd to Bill Clinton, an Arkansas State Senator, a touring PGA professional, a college football coach, an owner and CEO of a major surgical instrument company, and 3 physicians. Not one of us, however, was thinking about future careers when we in the midst of the competition at the Boy’s Club.

During our high school years, many of my friends gave up sports during the summer and opted for summer jobs to earn serious spending money, when the top wages for a student was on the order of $1.25 per hour. Good jobs were at a premium, but were available to those who were persistent. I remember Pop telling me, “You need to have fun and just play while you are young. The time will come when you have to work and won’t have the option to play!” He was right, but I just couldn’t enjoy such a leisure lifestyle while most of my buddies were working.

Some of my most memorable summer jobs included working for Richardson Oil Company in maintenance, working at the Lion Oil Refinery in the chemistry lab, working at Southern Poultry as a “chicken plucker,” and working at Hanna Furniture Company for 4 weeks during their close-out auction. During those job experiences, I learned how to relate to adults other than my parents and the parents of my friends. Some of the conversations and a few of the stories I heard from the adults with whom I worked, were not things I heard at the Boys Club, but I was getting older and needed to learn how to filter that language and those stories through my maturing mind.

Fortunately, I was also receiving some spiritual training through the youth department at the First Baptist Church. Several of my baseball buddies also attended the same church, so more often than not, our conversations tended to revolve around sports instead of the truths from that particular Sunday’s Bible lesson. Our teachers tried their best to keep us focused, but such wonderful men as Mr. J.D. Beazley, Mr. Mac McCollum and Mr. Homer Frisby taught us more by their examples of faithfulness than their specific knowledge of the Bible. I knew they were just ordinary men, but if they had any major faults in their lives, I wasn’t aware of them, nor was I trying to find them out.

If I could script the ideal setting and the right individuals to associate with our  grandchildren in order to offer them the best opportunity to develop character and purpose, it would be similar to the ones I experienced. We did not have cell phones, IPads, IPods, video games, Facebook or Twitter, but we had good friends who enjoyed camping out, talking non-stop, playing sports, eating fast foods and dreaming about owning and driving fast cars. I lived in a safer time at a slower pace, but it is not my desire to go back to the past. The challenges for young people today are greater and the temptations to stray are more numerous, but God’s eternal promise for us is that His grace abound in us. When that happens He is able to make us abound in everything we do. Cathy and I have raised our 3 children to love Jesus with all their hearts, and they are now teaching their children to do the same. We face tomorrow with our confidence steadfast in Him.

Dr. John

The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks Part 5: The Work Continues

Free Clinic

 

The opening of The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks (FMCO) on November 8, 2008 was the fulfillment of a vision God had given me at least 15 years earlier, and He had placed that same vision in the hearts of many others. One of the miraculous stories concerning its’ opening involved the position of Executive Director. In June 2008, the clinic board met and discussed the search for a man qualified to research and go through the legal and administrative hoops needed to establish such an undertaking, making certain the clinic followed all the necessary guidelines. The board then asked me to find that man! I had no idea where to start looking but just committed it to prayer along with Cathy and the board members. A week later on Sunday following the 11 am worship service, our Sunday school class was preparing for the monthly lunch we had at the church in the Fellowship Hall. Standing near the door to the kitchen and waiting for his wife to go home for their lunch was Ed Williams, a fellow choir member and good friend whose roots were in South Arkansas. Ed and Jackie had recently moved to Branson, and by their own admission, were not certain why they had chosen Branson. They had been married for only 17 years since this was the second marriage for both. Jackie’s husband died in an auto accident many years earlier while they were serving in the military in Germany. Ed’s wife Dixie was from El Dorado, and I knew her well since she was in my high school graduating class. Dixie had died from a malignant tumor several years before Ed and Jackie decided to join their lives together.

In the brief conversation with Ed that Sunday morning, Ed said to me, “Did you know that Dixie and I had a foster home in Russellville, Arkansas and had 7 or 8 foster children that we raised?” “I had no idea that you had done that,” I responded. “That had to take a lot of administrative skill to accomplish starting a foster home. Would you sit down for 5 minutes and let me tell you what God is doing regarding a free medical clinic in Branson?” In that short time I explained the clinic concept to Ed and told him that I believed he had the administrative skills, the heart and the wisdom to be the director of our proposed clinic. He thought for a minute and said, “John, you sure know how to ruin a man’s Sunday afternoon.” Ed called the next day and said that God had spoken to him, and that he would accept the position, but was frightened over the huge responsibilities he would have and needed our help and prayers. Within the next 4 months, Ed, the clinic board and many other Godly people were used by God to make the clinic a reality.

There were other amazing stories regarding the clinic’s beginning, but the fact it was organized and became operational in such a short time, testifies to God’s sovereign hand in it. Early in the planning I was hopeful we could have the clinic open at least one evening every other week and build on that to try to have clinic hours at least two nights each week. As I called one physician after another to request that they volunteer, their responses were amazing and soon there were 16 doctors who had agreed to serve. A larger number of nurses volunteered and an equally large number of other volunteers signed up. There were also 16 laymen and preachers who agreed to be trained as chaplains. We were astounded by the response and when the clinic opened we were scheduled to see patients on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 PM. Patients are seen by appointments only so we can manage the number of patients who the physician sees at each clinic. In the beginning all of the physicians were in active family practices and after a long day in their respective work place coming to the Free Clinic for 3 additional hours made a long day even longer.

The servant work of the Free Clinic could not have been accomplished without the undergirding support of Skaggs Regional Medical Center. Not only does the hospital provide free lab tests and free X Rays, but has provided computer hardware and software, and allowed the clinic to use the Skaggs patient information website. In addition the Dietary Department provides box meals for the volunteers of each evening clinic. In July, 2012 Skaggs leased to the Free Clinic a beautiful office suite in the Medical Plaza in Hollister for one dollar per year! Again, we were all overwhelmed by the generosity poured out which has truly come from God’s hand through others.

Within the first year of the clinic operation Ed Williams believed God had used him to complete his administrative work at the clinic, and the job of Executive Director was assumed by Jerry Lilley on a “temporary” basis. Jerry and his wife Carolyn were founding owners of Lilley’s Landing, a lakeside fishing resort on Lake Taneycomo. His background was that he was the CEO of Labette County Medical Center in Parsons, Kansas for 30 years before his retirement and their move to Branson. Jerry’s expertise and wisdom in managing the clinic was profound, and I told him on more than one occasion that he needed to remain the “temporary director” until Jesus returns. In the latter part of 2011, Jerry was diagnosed with liver cancer and underwent multiple therapies throughout 2012, but his condition gradually worsened. Many days he came to the clinic and worked until he was almost too weak to stand. Jerry’s service for the Lord was completed and he departed this life on September 26, 2012. Tragically, one week prior to Jerry’s death, Ed Williams suffered a massive stroke and remained in a coma in Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where he departed this life on the day of Jerry’s burial, September 29, 2012. Two of the men God used to start and maintain the Free Clinic were called home to their Savior within a few days of each other.

In the second year of operation, we received a call from a retired physician from Effingham, Illinois who said he and his wife had a condominium in Branson and lived here for 2 or 3 months each year. He requested volunteering for 2 morning clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We joyfully included Dr. Del Huelskoetter and his wife, Ann into our FMCO family, and within one or two clinics he became one of our most beloved doctors. His name was a bit of a challenge for most of us to pronounce, so he said, “Just call me, “Dr. Hulls!” Not long after he began his service with us, Ann was diagnosed with a head and neck malignancy, and he had to greatly reduce his time of service because of her continuing treatment regimen. When he finally had to stop his volunteer service, God raised up another retired physician, Dr. Bill Lauderdale who was able to maintain the Tuesday and Thursday morning clinics.

God never begins a work that He does not sustain and make succesful according to His sovereign purposes. I never dreamed our move to Branson would result in so many benefits for both Cathy and me. Having the joys of living near our Branson kids for these past 7 years have exceeded our expectations, and this was our primary reason for the move. The 7 years of work at the Wound Care Clinic was a wonderful climax to my surgical career as I retired from that work in November, 2011. The privilege of seeing the birth and growth of the faith-based Free Medical Clinic has been a highlight of my ministry life for the Lord Jesus. As the work is ongoing and the times are changing rapidly, the plans of Cathy and me are to continue our service for Him as long as He leads, and we serve with great joy and peace in our hearts.

Dr. John

The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks- Part 4: The Fulfillment of the Vision

Free Clinic

 

Cathy and I learned over the past 8-10 years to never make the following statement; “We will never make another move!” We are more convinced than ever God desires we keep everything in an open hand, including our place of residence. The Bible clearly teaches we are strangers and sojourners on this earth, and our responsibility to Him is to go where He leads. A pastor friend once told me he always kept his tent pegs loosely driven so they could be pulled-up easily and his tent quickly moved when the Master calls. True discernment is knowing it is the Master who is calling.

The desire to move from Fayetteville grew stronger as we considered the opportunities in Branson. The painful relationship reality was in moving away from Ginny and her family all of whom we dearly loved. In a very tearful exchange one evening, I told Ginny her Mom and I believed God was calling us to make this difficult move, but it would only be for a short while. Our plans were to spend 3 or 4 years in medical practice in Branson and return to Fayetteville following my retirement. I have not forgotten that promise made 7 years ago, nor will Ginny allow me to forget!

The decision was finalized, and we moved in November 2005 to Branson where I assumed the directorship of the Wound Care Clinic at Skaggs Regional Medical Center. We bought a wonderful home which was an easy 5 minutes drive from the hospital. This allowed me to come home for lunch, a luxury we had not previously enjoyed. The house was large enough to accommodate all of our kids and grandkids when they were able to visit. The Wound Clinic was staffed with outstanding nurses, all of whom had a heart for God, and we received permission from the hospital administration we could witness the love of Christ to all of our patients as it was appropriate. The clinic facilities were adequate but cramped for space, particularly the area where we had the large hyperbaric chambers. I advised the administration early on if they were serious about the clinic growing in patient population and revenue the facilities needed to be remodeled and expanded. Initially they were reluctant to invest the necessary capital until they were certain I was willing to work hard enough to bring that about. I was 66 years old at my hiring, but told them I would work for 4 or 5 more years, as long as my health allowed me. Within my third year, the hospital completed a major remodeling project, and the Wound Clinic was then a beautiful, large facility fully capable of continued growth.

Late in my second year at the clinic, I met a man named Don Rhoads who had an uncomplicated but annoying wound problem. He and his wife were planning a relatively long mission trip to Budapest, Hungary, and he didn’t want a continuing wound issue since he didn’t know what quality of medical care he would find there. As we talked about Budapest and the fact Cathy and I had been there several times on mission trips, I also told him a little about our experience in Florida and a faith-based medical clinic that for us was a failure. I saw him as a patient on one more occasion as follow-up, and his problem was quickly resolving. They were planning to go to Budapest in January, 2008 and I received a phone call from him in early December 2007 asking if I would consider meeting with him and a chaplain friend for lunch at Bob Evans Restaurant. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the start-up of a faith-based medical clinic in Branson. To say I was excited about the possibility of such a clinic would be like asking if there are any entertainment shows in Branson.

I met with Don and Richard McCool from Lake Eufala, Oklahoma at Bob Evans for a lunch meeting which was to change my future life ministry in Branson. Richard was a chaplain with an organization called Christian Resort Ministries whose ministry is to place chaplains in R.V. parks across the country, and also to help start faith-based medical clinics specifically for people without medical insurance. The purpose of the clinics was to provide quality medical care and medications free of charge, and to have each patient have a face to face meeting with a trained chaplain who would present the simple gospel and pray with each one. His organization (CRM) had started and was helping manage 2 other medical clinics. God had impressed them Branson was an ideal place for a similar clinic since there was a very large population of uninsured people. The entertainment industry work was seasonal and most of the shows do not provide medical insurance as a benefit. Richard said CRM was looking for a Christian physician with a heart for ministry who would take the lead in starting such a work. The preliminary organizational work in Branson began about 6 months prior to our meeting and had included several area pastors and church leaders from different denominations. The work was not to be tied to a specific denomination. Richard asked if I would consider praying about being the director of such a work to which I replied, “No, I don’t need to pray about it. God had given me the vision of my involvement in such a clinic about 15 years ago, and I believe this may be the fulfillment of that vision!” Within a week of our initial meeting, I met with Chaplain Dennis Maloney, President of CRM and our hearts immediately connected as I experienced the passion he exhibited for such a medical work in Branson.

Without going into the hours of hard work done by many people over the next 10 months The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks opened in Branson on November 8, 2008. The Executive Director of the clinic was Ed Williams, and the story of his involvement with the clinic will be recounted on another post. There was a board consisting of 6 other people beside me; a physician staff of 14; a nursing staff of 20; a trained chaplain staff of 16 and at least 30 other ancillary staff. All of these saints were volunteers as there were to be no paid staff positions. The physician, PA’s and nurses agreed to volunteer for at least one shift per month.

FMCO (Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks) has been a work of God from its inception, and I have been privileged to experience His mighty hand through it. A number of people have referred to the clinic as “my clinic” when discussing the work with me. I have assured them all the clinic is definitely not “mine.” I was simply given the privilege of joining with a very large number of Christians who had heard from God and responded with a “yes” when He invited them to join in His work. — to be continued

Dr. John

The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks Part 3: The Vision For the Clinic Remains Dead

Free Clinic

 

Our move to Fayetteville, Arkansas was exciting because we were moving to a city where our daughter Ginny and her husband John Luther lived. With John’s parents and grandparents living there we already knew more people in Northwest Arkansas than we knew when we moved to Florida. Finding a home was very easy because we knew Ozarks Electric Company was building an energy-efficient home located in the country not far from our kid’s home, and we had first option to purchase it. When we saw the plans and the location we immediately bought the home, and it turned out to be our favorite home of all the ones we owned. I interviewed the first week with a surgical group which was responsible for managing the Wound Care Clinic at Washington Regional Medical Center and was hired that day to begin work as soon as possible. We began attending University Baptist Church where my friend, Dr. H.D. McCarty had been pastor for 37 years, and we joined the church without visiting other churches. It seemed everything was falling in place, and we were confident we had made the right decision to move back to Arkansas.

Adjusting to our new life in Northwest Arkansas was much different and easier than our Florida experience primarily because we had family there and an immediate sense of belonging. We quickly made friends through the church and immersed ourselves into an active role of leadership and teaching. We loved the setting of the University of Arkansas especially the athletics and were able to attend an increasing number of Razorback football and basketball games. My work at the Wound Care Clinic involved a major learning experience on my part, but with the help of the other doctors and an outstanding nursing staff, I was up to speed within 6 months. I was working only 32 hours per week and was earning over twice what I earned as the Clinic Director in Florida, so financially we were more secure.

Apart from some serious problems in our church which were related to the retirement of Pastor McCarty, our life in Fayetteville was very fulfilling, and Cathy and I fully intended to end our life’s journey there. Professionally I had no immediate plans of retirement as I neared age 65. My health was good and despite the fact I was one of 4 medical directors of the clinic I was doing the majority of the work. The other directors had full-time surgical practices and were happy to have me work as often as I desired. At least I was not taking night call nor emergency room call, and Cathy and I were able to enjoy uninterrupted time together in the evenings. Our phone seldom rang at night unless it was one of our kids checking up on us.

Cathy and I also had more time together to travel, and were able to visit our other children more often. Our son John and his wife Gina lived in El Dorado which is a 5 hours drive from Fayetteville, and we loved watching our 3 grandsons; Drew, Brady and Landon as they grew and matured. Our daughter Mary Kay, her husband Dave and granddaughter Rebecca lived in Branson, Missouri a short 2 hours drive away, and we made that drive often. We grew to love Branson and the family atmosphere there, although Cathy and I have never been attracted to entertainment shows which are in abundance there. Ginny became pregnant with her first child not long after we moved to Fayetteville, so we were able to experience those months of anticipation and the excitement of our first Fayetteville grandchild. Claire was born in August, 2001 and the joys of all those events only confirmed our certainty of being where God wanted us.

Early into our 5th year of life in Fayetteville, I received a phone call from Mary Kay in Branson concerning a close friend of hers whom I knew who also lived in Branson. She had a serious wound problem following an operation and needed advice concerning her care. The solution was not complicated but required a wound specialist to manage her problem on a weekly basis. She asked if she could come to Fayetteville and I consented, but told her there was no need to make the long drive since there was a good wound clinic in Branson. She had called the clinic and was told the clinic had closed. I called the Branson wound clinic to determine the reason for closure and spoke with the nurse manager. Their doctor had moved because her husband was transferred to another city, and the clinic was searching for a replacement. The nurse said, “Did you say you were a wound care doctor?” I responded that I was, and she said, “Would you allow our physician recruiter to contact you?” I said I was not looking for a job, but would be glad to visit with him and could help him find a medical director.

Cathy and I were very happy with our life in Northwest Arkansas, and were content to finish our course there. The attraction of a move to Branson was we would have the opportunity to spend quality time with our kids living there so were open to considering another move. The recruiter began calling me weekly and assured me if I came to Branson, I would be the sole medical director of the clinic and could structure the clinic operation to my specifications. Medically this was very appealing since I did not have that luxury in Fayetteville. Our decision for a move was brought to a head by the administration at Washington Regional Medical Center when I was made a preliminary offer to assume the sole directorship role of the Wound Care Clinic. The Vice President in charge of Medical Clinics said he would have to clear the change with administration, and I would know their decision within 2 weeks. I notified the physician recruiter in Branson I would likely decline their offer but would let him know soon. When I met with the official in Fayetteville, he said they had decided “leave things as they are,” to which I responded that “things would not remain the same for me.” That was a clear word to me medically speaking, a move to Branson was the right decision. —-to be continued.

Dr. John