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Bob Hirt

Ken Farrell called me early on a mid-November Saturday morning from the telephone he had in the cellar of his home in Java Village, in Wyoming County, New York. Back in those days, they were not called basements; they were called cellars, as in “fruit cellars,” places cold enough to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for months at a time, with little or no spoilage.

“Doc, you gotta stop by to look in on Sally sometime today, preferably this mornin’. There’s somethin’ not quite right about her. She’s not eatin’ her grain at all and she’s just actin’ kinda peculiar-like.”

It was early enough and my usual Saturday call list wasn’t yet that overwhelming so I headed north about 10 miles to Ken’s place. When I pulled into the driveway, took my bag out of the car and started toward the horse barn Ken ran toward me and yelled out, “Wrong way, Doc, she’s here in the house!” “What, a horse in the house? “ I thought.

“Well, she ain’t exactly in the house; she’s in the cellar. She don’t have her winter coat yet and with this nippy spell we’re havin’ I figgered best to keep her in here for a while.”

Sally was clearly showing signs of stomach bloat, a digestive condition seen occasionally in all mammalian species. In my practice it was usually dairy cows but in this case it was a problem caused by changing Sally’s feed to green alfalfa very abruptly from the usual regimen of dry hay. I was able to resolve the problem rather easily with a speculum and stomach tube to relieve the gas overload. I was ready to head home after giving some advice to Ken, accompanied now by his grandson, Billy.

As I walked under the dark stairwell going to the upstairs I noticed something shiny. It was coming from an object lying partly under an old torn quilt and various other items. It caught my eye. “Hey, what’s this?” I asked. As it turns out it was an old mission clock.

“It don’t work, Doc, it’s an old clunker. Do you want it”?

I offered what I thought was a fair price but he brushed me off saying it was one less piece of “junk” he had to haul away. It had gorgeous copper numbers on its face, a face made of heavily-grained walnut. I took it home and I was able to easily remove the numbers, re-polish them and then sand and re-stain the wood to its natural finish and replace the numerals. It looked gorgeous. Some 47 years later that lovely antique clock still graces my family room wall. I wish my eyes could always remain that sharp! The rest of the day turned out rather upbeat and positive. It was a good start for a Saturday morning.