A crowded trunk and memories of the 1970s

I’ve got plenty of junk in the trunk.

No, I’m not talking about the Urban Dictionary definition, but it may apply, too. For today’s purposes, I’m talking about Fiona’s rear storage compartment. Fiona, for those of you who don’t know, is my new old car. And her trunk is filled with junk. Her inventory includes the:

  • Lawn chairs I neglected to remove after we used them when local favorites, the Creepin’ Charlies, performed at the Muscatine County Arts Council’s annual Second Sunday Summer Concert Series, which began Sunday evening at the Pearl Plaza patio in downtown Muscatine.
  • Gym bag I take to the Muscatine Community Y on the mornings I’m good and go to the gym.
  • Backpack I use to carry my work-issued laptop and other work stuff.
  • Bag of clothes — from my recently organized closet — that I still haven’t taken somewhere to give away.
  • Umbrella that has been much needed lately because of the frequent rains we have received.

It’s enough to make me wonder how the groceries are going to get home the next time I travel to the supermarket.

Looking into the mess made me think of Joe “Doc” Graham, the veterinarian who lived and practiced in Milo, Iowa, for 60 years before his death in 2006 at age 86.

To write today’s blog post, I found Doc’s obit from the the Record-Herald and Indianola Tribune. It documents his status as a member of what journalist Tom Brokaw and others have labeled the Greatest Generation. Born in 1919, he graduated from veterinary school at Iowa State University in 1942, practiced for a year in Centerville, Iowa, and then served in the Army Second Engineers Special Brigade during World War II — from October 1943 until December 1945.

Of course, I never knew any of this. And I still admired him. He had been making regular calls to my family’s farm for 20 years by the time I was born. As I grew up, he was always exceptionally nice and pleasant to the chatty farm boy who talked his leg off and asked lots of questions as we vaccinated cattle.

Doc was not a big man, but he had a real knack for working with livestock. He was regarded by my dad, who had known Doc since boyhood, as the best vet around in our corner of Southern Iowa. Doc’s resume supported my dad’s belief: Member of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association and its Executive Board, Iowa Veterinary Board of Examiners and at the national level. He served as president, vice president and secretary for the South Central Iowa Veterinary Medical Association and in 2004, was presented an award for outstanding service to the profession and the association. In 2005, he received the Veterinarian of the Year Award from the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association.

I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess he was patient with my folks and other customers who may have been slow to pay him during the worst of the Farm Crisis. In every way, he was a community leader, having been a member of the American Legion for 58 years, Masonic Lodge for 56 years and the Milo City Council for 30 years. He had been a 4-H and a Meals on Wheels program volunteer.

pick up truckFor all I know, he delivered those meals in the same four-door sedans he preferred for his veterinary practice, which set him apart from many of his peers. Most large-animal vets I’ve known, the ones who travel to their patients, use customized pickup trucks. But Doc always said he would have carried around too much junk if he had a truck. So he carried whatever he needed in the trunk and backseat of the biggest four-door cars he could buy. Of course, I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, so the cars were pretty big — for sure bigger than today’s cars.

But you could still only carry so much junk in the trunk. It’s a good thing I’m not driving around in one of those Chrysler Newports, Buick LeSabres or Ford LTDs. If I was, it’s hard to tell how much more junk would be in my trunk.