Mind Over Miller: Mountain man
I’m a mountain lover. Some people want to live facing the sea, and some overlooking a river, a lake, or a reaching endless prairie. I can understand how such scenes can inspire, but mountains elicit a spiritual wave in me no matter how often I have seen them. I understand why so many religions have regarded an imposing peak as the place where the deity resides.
On Christmas day of 1946, I climbed to the snowy top of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak. On an Army furlough, I gazed across the magnificent Alps and vowed to always live in the mountains. That was one reason I wanted to go to veterinary school in Colorado, at the foot of the Rockies. It was also the closest veterinary school to my home in Arizona.
Then on February 10, 1955, at 7:20 p.m., I changed my mind. Four of us students were on ambulatory with our professor, Dr. Pierson. It was 10 F and a yearling Guernsey bull was about to be castrated. As I watched Dr. Pierson reach into the bucket to grasp the emasculator, I realized for the first time what a rural practice would be like in Colorado in the winter.
I turned to my classmate Jay Call, who was from Kanab, Utah, and I said, “I just made a major change in my life plans. I’m going back to southern Arizona when I graduate. I can commute here to ski.”
Jay replied, “I just made a similar decision.”
A year of solo practice in Arizona motivated me to seek a group practice, and the search led me to California in 1957. In March 1958, I made a call to see a cow in Carlisle Canyon. We had experienced a wet winter, and the grass was green and waist-high. As I drove into the canyon I was stunned by the view of craggy Boney Mountain and Carlisle Creek, tumbling and rushing along the canyon floor. It looked just like the Colorado Rockies; I decided that I would live in that canyon someday.
Twenty years later, in 1978, we moved our family, five horses, and three dogs onto a little ranch I purchased from one of my clients, and we live there still.
After 35 years, I still get a thrill when I drive home and see the majesty of Boney Mountain and the rosy hue of sunset covering the canyon walls.
Best of all, I occasionally drive up to Yerba Buena Road, which goes halfway up to the summit. I get out of my car and look at the magnificent view of mountains and valleys and beautiful Lake Sherwood, which cannot be seen from my home even though it is only a few hundred yards away. Hidden by an oak bosque, it is a forest of tangled beauty.
I have seen this view countless times while making calls to see critters of all kinds, but now I can park and enjoy the beautiful scene to my heart’s content.
Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at robertmmiller.com.