Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 22
Transportation hazards did not, as one might think, disappear with the coming of the automobile. More than once after I bought my first car did I yearn for those steady, dependable horses of mine.
My driver and I were on our way to Aplington in my first car. The roads were a glare of ice and we drove with chains; but the chains, for some reason, kept coming off or getting loose. We would go a way, then stop to adjust the chains; go a little further, then stop for the chains again. Thus we traveled all the way to Parkersburg. Once my driver borrowed some wire off the fence along the way to see if that would help. It didn't.
Once in Parkersburg, which was a town on the way, we decided we might just as well do the thing right. We put the car in the garage and ordered not only new chains but also new tires. While the work was being done we relaxed over some juicy beefsteak.
We left town in high spirits; we had had a good meal, our car was in good repair, the roads were much less icy. We chugged merrily along--for almost a mile--when pop! a tire blew out! A new tire!
I, who prided myself on never swearing, pressed my lips right together and just sat, looking neither right nor left. My driver said nothing. Then I began to laugh.
"Laugh if you want to," my driver said. "You may not swear, but to me that silence was the most profane thing I ever heard!"
Another time I was driving to a little town in Grundy County for a consultation. I got lost but finally saw a settlement and pointed it out to my driver. "That may be the town," he replied dryly, "but there aren't any doctors there."
Puzzled at his show of intuition I asked him how he knew.
"Look over there," he nodded to one side. "There's the cemetery but there's only one tombstone in it!" We had a good chuckle and eventually did find the town, one with a doctor in it!
But when I think of how my horses saved me from great injury and possible death at least twice, I can't help recalling the time that my car, inanimate though it was, performed a similar service.
It was before the roads were improved for automobile use. My driver and I were going at dusk over a high turnpike just after a spring freshet, with the water over the roadbed in many places.
As we approached a bridge, one front wheel struck a large rock in the rut, tilting the car toward the deep, running water beside the road. The soft dirt gave way and the car started to swerve and turn over. Then, just as it seemed nothing could save us, the headlight caught on the railing of the bridge, held the car thus supported by the rail, and keep us from being thrown into the rushing stream.
Recovering from my fright, I told my driver that when we were on the verge of being dumped into the water, I had had the comfort of the flashing thought that my thirty-thousand dollar accident policy would help care for my wife.
Just to satisfy myself, when I got back to the office, I looked up the insurance papers. That policy had expired at noon that very day! The agent who collected the premiums, I learned upon inquiry, was seriously ill and so had not taken care of my policy.
Believe me when I say that I lost no time in restoring the validity of that policy. After all, two narrow escapes in one day are enough for even a country doctor!
Photograph of Dr. and Mrs. Rohlf in an early automobile, from the Rathe Family Archive