Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies

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9780962789656: Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies
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Recounts how Dr. Anderson overcame tuberculosis and initial reluctance among her patients to establish a long and respected career

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From the Inside Flap:

raphy which reads like an adventure novel."
BOOKWATCH
It is 1907 and Doc Susie came to Fraser Colorado with a bad case of tuberculosis and a broken heart. But soon she forgot about her own troubles and lived a life so colorful that Hollywood wanted to make a movie of it. For the first time, here is an account of the real Doc Susie--the amazing, inspiring story of a woman who defied her times and her fears to help those who needed her.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter I Across the Great Divide

The locomotive of Train Number One on the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway steamed, hissed and clanked impatiently alongside the Moffat Station platform. Conductor George Barnes, fresh-faced and almost rakish with his bow-tie and brass buttons, stood beside the train's only passenger car stamping his feet for warmth against the frigid Denver morning. Barnes pulled his pocket watch from his vest to the length of its thick chain: 8:05, five minutes until departure - right on schedule. Although the December sunshine was bright he glanced nervously to the west. There, the Great Plains jammed to an abrupt halt against an impenetrable wall; white peaks jutted more than twice the height of mile-high Denver. Tall clouds behind the peaks could signal trouble, the possible build-up of a blizzard on the western side of the Continental divide; the pristine picture of sunshine on alpine crests could be wiped out within the two hours it would take for his train to climb to 11,660 feet, where the roadbed crossed the mountains over the highest rail line ever built in North America. Barnes didn't relish the idea of spending Christmas of 1907 marooned by avalanches, far above timberline at Corona, the "Top of the World."

"All aboard . . ." he bawled, consulting his watch again.

"Hold yer horses, Mr. Barnes." A baggage handler bolted from the station waiting room. "There's another passenger."

"Who is he?"

"Ain't a he! There's a lady in the station, feelin' poorly, so the agent is loadin' her on a trolley."

Barnes' booted foot stamped an extra beat. As if he didn't have enough problems getting his outdated rolling stock over the Divide, now he had a woman to look out for - and if she was being hauled out on a baggage cart it figured that she was a lunger. In summer the Moffat Road - dubbed for its owner, David Moffat - hauled scores of tubercular "invalids" west in search of a cold, dry climate. Some found health in the lush meadows and virgin forests. The poorer ones got off the train and asked around until they found an agreeable rancher's wife who would feed hearty pot roast and venison for a small fee. Richer ones rode the train to mineral baths located at the Grand County Seat, Hot Sulphur Springs. Others got off the train in Granby and headed fifteen miles up the Colorado River to the shores of Grand Lake. The bracing mountain air seemed to make the victims feel better, but most departed when the weather started getting cold in September. According to rumor, when they returned to Eastern cities many died.

A colored porter was approaching on the platform, straining to pull a cart piled high with trunks, barrels and cartons. Perched on one side sat a delicately attractive little woman ramrod straight as though mounted sidesaddle, a small white dog cradled in her lap. Intrigued despite his annoyance, as the cart rolled to a halt Barnes hastened to assist the lady down. Lifting her by the waist he found his suspicion of fragility confirmed; beneath her voluminous petticoats she weighed very little.

Her bags were tagged for a lumber camp named Fraser, in Grand County about 85 miles across the Continental Divide from Denver. From October until June the railroad was the only means of getting there. Berthoud Pass, the wagon road between Denver and the area called Middle Park, was blockaded during the long winters by deep snows. Until tracks had been laid over the front range three years previously, there had been no winter route to pierce the area's splendid isolation. Although less than 50 miles from Denver "as the crow flies," people joked that no sensible crow would ever attempt to wing it over 13,000-foot peaks, even in summer.

"Ma'am, are you sure you want to go to Fraser? Nothin' there but a sawmill and a few shacks. And it's so cold they say you've got to get out of town to get warm."

"I know Fraser," the woman replied. Her voice was low and pleasant.

"I've been there."

"This is a dangerous trip in winter even for men. Avalanches can leave you stranded for weeks. Why don't you wait until July or August. Can't beat summertime in the high country."

"Because the Continental Divide won't go away, no matter when I travel. And you're going there with or without me, so it may as well be with me."

"What's the hitch?" A short stocky man with a bushy beard was leaning out from the vestibule of the passenger car. His eyes met Barnes's and rolled in dismay as the two watched the diminutive stranger dictate to the baggage handlers exactly how they should stack her belongings alongside mail bags. To an offer to tie her dog next to her luggage she said, "Of course not," and that was that.

Covertly, Barnes studied the woman. High cheekbones gave her face distinction. Her delicate nostrils were set over full lips that drooped in a perpetual pout. Dark eyebrows arched perfectly over piercing blue eyes fringed with long lashes. Only the deep, lavender circles showing through the transparent skin beneath her eyes contradicted the suggestion of buoyant youth. Barnes took her for thirty-odd; actually she was thirty-seven.

Her clothing was well-cut, from fur hat and woolen coat to expensive, but sensible, boots. She certainly didn't look like one of the homely mail order brides who showed up from time to time. And she definitely was too refined to be a soiled dove headed for a logging camp like Arrow or Fraser to open her own crib to service lumberjacks. If somebody had expected a relative from the East, he probably would have heard about it. Whoever she was, he heartily wished she would stay in Denver and wrap Christmas presents.

As he assisted the woman aboard, her dog growled and pawed at him. "Careful," she said matter-of-factly. "He will bite."

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