Truck and Trailer

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

I don’t know the first names of the Goodwin brothers, but only knew their nicknames of Truck and Trailer. They walked everywhere they went, because they did not own an automobile and probably did not know how 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 their living conditions were probably sub-optimal their personal hygiene suffered. I was told by a local merchant nicknamed “Perk” 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 to customers desiring lunch. For a period of time Truck and Trailer came daily to the store for coffee usually around 11 to 11:30 am. As they sat at the counter Perk noted a few of his regular lunch customers would separate themselves as far as they could from the brothers. He said a few of his customers finally told him they would no longer come in for lunch if the brothers did not do something about their body odor. In as gentle and gracious  manner as possible he 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 food. 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, Perk said he could smell them from ten feet away. He intercepted them before they were seated and told them in a firm but polite voice he was unable to seat them because their odor was still too offensive. 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 and injured Trailer with his automobile. Trailer sustained a broken leg which required several months to heal. The accident occurred in the west side of town on a hill known locally as Goodwin Hill. The hill was not named for the brothers , but for Dr. Don Goodwin who owned the land and had his veterinarian clinic there. The driver of the vehicle was also named Goodwin, but was not related to the two Goodwin brothers. The plaintiff, Trailer Goodwin alleged the driver of the car swerved off the road and side-swiped him causing the injury. The defendant, Mr. Goodwin told the jurors Trailer Goodwin was not paying attention and stepped out onto the road, and he could not avoid striking him. The lawyers for both parties were getting the Goodwin names all confused and especially that the accident occurred on Goodwin Hill. Finally, the judge asked the defendant the following question; ” Mr. Goodwin, it is alleged  you have poor eyesight and could not tell when 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 which was told by a relative of the judge, I never got it straight which one won.

Dr. John

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 ten cents to attend the movies, at least until you were fourteen years old when the price jumped to a staggering twenty-five 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 fifty 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 which 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. Twice I was chosen for the prestigious team as third 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 three 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 four 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 Tommy Reeves) 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 a U.S. Congressman, a Federal Judge, a candidate for governor of Arkansas, who came in second 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 three 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 one dollar and twenty-five 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 four 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 the language and those stories through my maturing mind.

Fortunately, I was also receiving some spiritual training in the youth department at the First Baptist Church. Several of my baseball buddies also attended the same church so frequently 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 discover.

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 this happens He is able to make us abound in everything we do. Cathy and I have raised our three children to love Jesus with all their hearts, and they are now teaching their children to do the same. We face tomorrow with a steadfast confidence 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 fifteen years earlier, and He had placed the same vision in the hearts of others. One of the miraculous stories concerning the opening involved the position of Executive Director. In June, 2008, the clinic board  discussed the immediate need for an individual experienced in the legal and administrative steps necessary to establish the clinic. The board asked me to find the person! I had no idea where to start looking but began praying with the board members and with Cathy. One week later on Sunday our Sunday school class was preparing for the monthly lunch we held in the Fellowship Hall. Standing near the kitchen door and waiting for his wife was Ed Williams, a fellow choir member and good friend. Ed and Jackie had recently moved to Branson, and had told me they were not certain why they chose this town. They had been married for seventeen years, and this was the second marriage for both. Jackie’s husband died in an auto accident many years earlier. Ed’s wife Dixie was from El Dorado, Arkansas and I knew her well, since we graduated from high school in the class of 1957. Dixie had died from a malignancy twenty years earlier.

In a brief conversation with Ed that Sunday morning,  he said, “Did you know Dixie and I had a foster home in Russellville, Arkansas, and we had eight foster children we raised?” “I had no idea, I responded. That had to take lots of administrative skill to establish a foster home. Would you sit down for five minutes and let me tell you what God is doing regarding a free medical clinic in Branson?” I explained the clinic concept to Ed and told him I believed he had the administrative skills and the heart to be our Executive Director. He thought for a moment and said, “John, you sure know how to ruin a man’s Sunday afternoon.” Ed called the next morning and reported God had spoken to him, and he would accept the responsibility. He further said he was terrified and needed our prayers and assistance. Within the next four months all the pieces were in place and the clinic opened.

There were other amazing stories regarding the clinic’s beginning, but the fact it was organized and opened in such a short time, confirms God’s sovereign hand in it. Early in the planning phase I was hopeful the clinic could be open one evening every other week and and later expand to have a clinic two nights a week. As I began recruiting doctors one after another agreed to help, and soon there were sixteen who volunteered for one night each month. A larger number of nurses volunteered and an equally large number of other volunteers signed up. There were also sixteen saints who agreed to be trained and serve as chaplains. We were astounded by the responses, and when the clinic opened we were scheduled to see patients on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 P.M. Patients are seen by appointments only so we can manage the number of patients treated at each clinic.

The servant work of the Free Clinic could not have been accomplished without the full support of Skaggs Regional Medical Center. Not only does the hospital provide free lab tests and X Rays, but has provided computer hardware and software. In addition they allowed us to use their patient information website. The Dietary Department provides box meals for the volunteers of each evening clinic. In July, 2012 Skaggs leased to the Free Clinic a beautiful of

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 thirty 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 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 two 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 seven years have exceeded our expectations, and this was our primary reason for the move. The seven 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. (Pro. 3:4,5)

Dr. John

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

Free Clinic

Cathy and I learned over the years to never make the statement; “We will never make another move!” We are fully convinced God desires we keep everything in an open hand including our place of residence. The Bible teaches we are strangers and sojourners on this earth, and our responsibility is to go where He leads. A pastor friend once said he 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 calling.

The desire to move from Fayetteville grew stronger as we considered the opportunities in Branson. The most painful reality was moving away from Ginny and her family 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 move, but it would only be for a short while. Our plans were to spend three or four years in Branson and return to Fayetteville following my retirement. I have not forgotten the promise made years ago nor will Ginny allow me to forget!

The decision was finalized, and we moved to Branson in November, 2005 for me to begin the directorship of the Wound Care Clinic at Skaggs Regional Medical Center. We bought a large, beautiful home which was an easy five minutes drive to 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 to 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 which had three hyperbaric oxygen chambers. I advised the administration early on if they were serious about clinic growth the facilities needed to be remodeled and expanded. Initially there was reluctance to invest the necessary capital until they were more certain I was was going to stay and work hard. I was sixty-six years old, but told them I would work four or five more years as long as my health allowed. Within the third year the hospital completed a major remodeling project, and the Wound Clinic was a beautiful, large facility capable of continued growth.

Late into my second year, 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 the quality of medical care there. As we talked about Budapest I told him Cathy and I had been there several times on mission trips. I also told him a little about our Florida experience with the faith-based medical clinic. I saw him in the clinic on one more occasion for follow-up, and his problem was quickly resolving. They were planning to leave for Budapest in January, 2008, and I received a phone call from him in early December, 2007 asking if I would meet with him and a chaplain friend for lunch. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a faith-based medical clinic in Branson. To ask if 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 Restaurant for a meeting which was about to change our future life ministry in Branson. Richard was a chaplain with an organization called Christian Resort Ministries whose goals are to place chaplains in R.V. parks across the country, and to assist in the start-up of faith-based medical clinics for the medically uninsured. The purpose of each clinic was to provide quality medical care and medicines free of charge, and for each patient have a face to face meeting with a trained chaplain who would present the gospel and pray with them. His organization (CRM) had started and was helping manage two other medical clinics. God had impressed them Branson was an ideal place for a such a 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. Richard said CRM was looking for a Christian physician with a heart for ministry who would be willing to take the lead for such a work. The preliminary organizational work had began six months prior and included several area pastors and church leaders from different denominations. The clinic was not to be tied to a specific church or denomination. Richard asked if I would consider praying about becoming the director to which I replied, “No, I don’t need to pray about it. God had given me the vision of of such a clinic fifteen years ago.” Within a week of our initial meeting, I met with Chaplain Dennis Maloney, President of CRM and our hearts immediately connected. I saw the passion he had for such a medical and spiritual work in Branson, and I was thrilled to get started.

Many hours of hard work were done by some faithful people over the next ten months, and The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks opened on November 8, 2008. The Executive Director of the clinic was Ed Williams, and the story of his involvement in the work will be recounted in another post. The board for the clinic consisting of seven people including me; a physician staff of fourteen; a nursing staff of twenty; a chaplain staff of sixteen and at least thirty ancillary staff. All of the staff were volunteers as there were to be no paid 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. Many people have referred to the clinic as belonging to me, but I have assured them the clinic is definitely not mine. I was given the privilege of joining a large number of Christians who heard from God and responded with “yes” when invited to join in His work. For me FMCO was the fulfillment of a vision from a faithful God.

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 outskirts of town not far from our kid’s home. 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 first week in town I interviewed with a surgical group which was responsible for managing the Wound Care Clinic at Washington Regional Medical Center. They hired me that day to begin work as soon as possible. We began attending University Baptist Church where my good friend, Dr. H.D. McCarty had been pastor for thirty-seven years, and we joined without visiting any other church. It seemed everything was falling in place, and we were confident we had made the correct decision to move back to Arkansas.

Adjusting to our new life in Northwest Arkansas was much easier than our Florida experience, 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 sporting events.

My work at the Wound Clinic involved a major new learning experience on my part, but with the help of the doctors and an outstanding nursing staff, I was up to speed within six months. I was working only thirty-two hours per week and earning considerable more than I earned in Florida, so financially we were more secure.

Apart from some significant problems in church which were related to the retirement of Pastor McCarty, our life in Fayetteville was good, and Cathy and I fully intended to end our  journey there. Professionally I had no immediate plans for retirement as I neared age sixty-five. My health was good, and despite the fact I was one of four medical directors I was doing the majority of the work. The other directors had full-time surgical practices and were happy for me to 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 nights and weekends together. Our phone seldom rang at night unless it was one of our kids calling.

Cathy and I had more time to travel and were able to visit our other children more frequently. Our son John and wife Gina lived in El Dorado which is a five hours drive from Fayetteville, and we loved watching our three 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 two hours drive away, and we made the trip there often. We grew to love Branson and the area of southwest Missouri, although Cathy and I were not big fans of the entertainment shows there. Ginny became pregnant with her first child not long after we moved to Fayetteville, so we were able to experience the excitement of our first Fayetteville grandchild. Claire was born in August, 2001 and any doubts of the wisdom of our move to Fayetteville vanished.

Early into our fifth year in Fayetteville I got a phone call from Mary Kay in Branson concerning a close friend of hers whom we knew well. She had a serious wound problem following an operation and needed advice concerning her further care. The solution was not complicated but required a wound specialist to manage on a weekly basis for at least three months. 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 the same day 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 like a job here?” I said I was not looking for a job, but would be glad to talk with their recruiter to help him find a medical director.

Cathy and I were very happy with our life in Northwest Arkansas, and were not seeking  another move. The attraction of a move to Branson was the opportunity to spend quality time with our kids living there. 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 to my specifications. Medically this was very appealing since I did not have the same luxury in Fayetteville. Our decision for a move was brought to a head by the administration at Washington Regional Medical Center when I was given a preliminary offer to assume the sole directorship of the clinic. The Vice President in charge of all medical clinics said he would have to clear the change with administration, and I would know their decision within two 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 to “leave things as they are,” to which I responded “things would certainly not remain the same.” This was a clear word to Cathy and me a move to Branson was the correct decision.

Dr. John