Late Spring, 1632
Dr. Les Blocker snorted moonshine out of both nostrils. Gagging and coughing, he spat the liquor out on the floor of his screened porch. “Dammit all, even the batches of shine taste different since the Ring of Fire and this batch tastes like burnt billy goat assholes. The sun comes up in the wrong place. Much of my family was left up-time. I’ve volunteered to be one-half of the face of up-time veterinary medicine. Like two people are going to educate new vets, preserve centuries of progress in treating animals, treat hurt and sick animals of multiple species, and keep animal and human disease epidemics out of Grantville and the area. Well I can either keep dragging my dobber in the dirt about it or get on with it as best I can.”
Les was startled out of his reverie by his wife, Ruth Ann, calling him. “Les, you gone deaf, dinner is on the table. “ She and his grown daughter Leslie were already seated at the kitchen table. The two women could be twins – a generation apart. Both were tall, thin, and lean-faced. Unlike Les, who was short, round-faced, and tending toward fat. They always tried to share as many meals together as they could. Leslie began the banter that the family had shared for years. “How’s my favorite Daddy?”
“The only one you have,” Les replied. “Unless your Momma has a secret.”
Ruth Ann winked at Leslie. “Well that garbage man was one fine-looking man.”
“Hung like a Missouri mule, too,” added Les. Sometimes it was the garbage man, or the meter reader, or the milkman (even though they never had a milkman). Though Les was a good Christian man, he had never been a prude. His colorful language and “for mature audiences only” stories were something of a legend in Grantville. Ruth Ann and various Baptist ministers and deacons quit trying to reform that part of him years ago.
Today’s early supper was poke salat, squash casserole, plus ham and redeye gravy. Washed down with milk from their Jersey cow.
As they ate Les noticed that Leslie was quieter than normal. “Everything OK with Jeff? Do I need to show him the Burdizzos?”
Leslie laughed and shook her head. “No Dad, remember I told you – no burdizzos, especially with fiancés. I remember when you showed it to Harry Lefferts when he worked for you in high school. He wasn’t worried until you told him it was for castrating cattle without breaking the skin. I thought he was going to pass out.”
“Oh lord,” Les said. “What was I thinking of when I let Harry, Cory Joe, and Darryl work here together. It’s a wonder that the clinic is still standing. Just the fist fights among them… Those three could fu… errr mess up a rock fight. Looks like those three stooges turned out OK though, just a little wild.”
“I believe that every wild child in Grantville worked at the clinic some time or other,” Ruth Ann said. “You never seemed to hire any good kids.”
“Pass the poke salat please, Ruth Anne. Those good kids didn’t need the money or direction. And I know what it’s like to be a wild child.” Les handed the bowl to Leslie. “Want some greens, your Momma assured me she boiled them three times and isn’t trying to poison us. So if it isn’t Snider, why so glum?”
“Dad, you know I don’t like poke salat. It’s Dr. Adams. His wife and kids being left up-time is bothering him more than he lets on. Plus, all the extra jobs he’s been doing since the RoF. Can you talk to him? You’re the best grief guru I know. Ever since Emma was killed in the car wreck up-time, you’ve been so good with people that’ve lost family. I don’t think Momma and me could have stood it without you or stood losing Hoss, Dan, Mary Jo, Jean and the kids when they were left up-time”.
Les got up from the table and put his dirty dishes in the sink then headed to the bedroom. “I’ll see what I can do. I’ve got to work on me first.”
Ruth Ann motioned a puzzled Leslie into the living room. “I’m getting really worried about your Daddy. He sits on the porch and stares into the distance, sipping his tea. Sipping shine too when he thinks I’ve gone to bed. He won’t say boo about it, since he thinks he has to be strong for everyone else. You didn’t know about it, but when your sister was killed by the drunk driver, he nearly went crazy. Drank and drank and drank. Had bad dreams again from his time in Vietnam as a USAID veterinarian. One really bad night, I found him getting his ‘SKS’ out of the closet, the one the Green Beret sergeant gave him. He said ‘that sorry MF burnt my baby up’. I had to get down on my knees and beg him to think of us if he went to prison. The truth was I wanted that SOB dead too, but we had to think of you kids.”
“Whatever happened to that boy that ran into Emma?” Leslie asked. “Did he ever get out of prison?”
“He never went to prison,” Ruth Ann replied. “He got out of jail on bail and just up and disappeared, left the country I reckon, his people never did hear from him again. I hope he fell down a mine shaft.”
“Anyway, soon after the gun deal, Les put down the bottle and the dreams mostly went away. He began helping other folks who had lost a loved one. It was his ministry. He hasn’t been doing any counseling since the Ring of Fire. The dreams have started again and he calls out to the kids in his sleep.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a knock on their front door. When he opened the door, Les saw an obviously agitated cavalryman. It was one of the three young military farriers that were recently accepted as veterinary students. “Mr. Oliver, what can I do for you.”
The tall, broad-shouldered, dark-skinned Ulster Scot trooper replied, “Dr. Alexander sent me to fetch you, we all think we have some remount horses with glanders in the quarantine pen.”
“Let me tell my wife where I’m going,” Les rushed down the hall into the living room. “Well, it’s started, Ben has found glanders in some cavalry remounts. I wondered how long it would take for it to show up”.
Leslie looked puzzled.“ What’s glanders? I’ve never heard of it.”
“It is a very deadly and contagious bacterial disease of horses and people,” Les explained. “It was eliminated from the US is why you never heard of it. I better get going, the sooner we can get rid of the infected horses the better.”
On his arrival at the quarantine pens, Les saw his colleague, Dr Bentley Alexander, in mask and gloves, royally chewing out the other two military farriers. Ben looked like the Marlboro Man. Tall, wiry build, high cheekbones – in his usual attire of jeans, khaki shirt, and Resistol cowboy hat. Sgt. Robert MacGregor, the horseshoeing instructor, also properly attired, was vigorously adding his two bits. Robert was the red-haired Scottish version of Ben. Since the troopers were not wearing masks and gloves, Les had a pretty good idea what the butt-chewing was about.
“Howdy Les,” his fellow veterinarian said, “You know what these three were doing? They were examining the glandered horses without using their gear before Sgt MacGregor and I got here. Well, Mr. Oliver was using gloves, which is why he got to go get you.” “Bloody idjits.” added MacGregor.
Les motioned to the three abashed troopers. “I’ll talk to you shit-for-brains in a minute.” He turned to Dr. Alexander, “You think the horses have glanders, Ben?”
“Yeah, I do,” Ben answered, “the boys think so, so does Sergeant MacGregor”.
Les once again faced the three young farriers. “What part of ‘you will wear protective gear around glandered horses’ did you three stooges not understand? Three stooges fits you three. Mr. Ross Oliver, your name is now Mo. Mr. Daniel Banner your name is now Curly. Mr. Lawrence McDonald you name is now, uhm, Shemp.”
Hearing the chuckles from the other masked and gloved veterinary students, who were sitting on the corral fence watching the show, Dr. Blocker turned on them in full fury. “All y’all pissants get your asses over here right damn now.” Dust flew as the students sprinted over to him. He asked, “Ms. Clinter, did you recognize the glanders in the horses”?
“No sir, I didn’t,” she answered.
“These boys did,” he said as he pointed to the troopers. “Mr. Harr, can people get infected with glanders?”
“Yes sir, they can,” the student replied.
“What happens to people with glanders of the respiratory system, Mr. Schmidt?”
“They die, Herr Doctor.”
Les nodded his head. “Right, they die, yet none of you made sure that your classmates were properly protected before handling the horses. Look folks, Dr. Alexander, Sgt. MacGregor and I’ve told you over and over that you’re all in this together. You each have your strengths so you have to help and teach each other. We aren’t going to wash one of you out of the program. One flunks, you all flunk and this program shuts down for good. OK, let’s look at the horses.”
Les put on a mask and gloves then led the group over to a small herd of horses. He saw that some of the animals were very, very ill. Most had ropey nasal discharge and lumps on various parts of their body. Some showed no signs of infection. “Dr. Alexander, would you lead us through medical rounds about these horses?”
“Glad to Doctor.” Ben pointed to the horses. “Mr. Oliver, please show us the lesions that we usually see in glanders.”
“See these large ulcers in the nose, those are typical for glanders,” the student explained. “When combined with the thick pus coming from the nose, you know it is glanders. See the thick swellings on the head and neck of the next horse over. They look like ropes under the skin. That’s the skin form of glanders.”
“Good,” the doctor said. “Mr. Banner, what are some other common names for glanders and how is it transmitted?”
“We Germans call it Rotz and the skin swelling is sometimes called farcy by English speakers,” the young man said. “The bacteria that causes the disease is spread by droplets in the air from the horse sneezing and coughing. It can also be spread by direct contact of the pus from the nose and the skin swellings to the skin of an animal or person. The bacteria can live in the environment on a feed bucket or fence post for some time.”
Ben was pacing back and forth, his brow furrowed. “Very good, Mr. Banner. Mr. McDonald, how do you tell the difference between glanders and more common diseases like horse strangles?”
The young man, who was built like a pro linebacker, said in his thick Scottish brogue, “The usual strangles only has knots under the jaw and never has the sores in the nose. Sometimes it’s very hard to tell bastard strangles from the farcy. If they have knots all over it could be either. In that case you have to wait till the ropes form from one knot to another. Then you know it is farcy. And the pus is more cheesy and thick with strangles usually.”
Ben nodded. “Good summary, Mr. McDonald. Ms. Clinter, tell us the dangers of glanders to people.”
“If people get the respiratory or systemic forms of the disease they will probably die. Even up-time antibiotics don’t work well against glanders in any form. The cutaneous form is often disfiguring and requires the abscesses be drained multiple times over several months.”
Ben wrote a note on the clipboard he usually carried while teaching. “You did a good job of hitting the high points, Ms. Clinter. I may have told y’all this before, but in the first up-time veterinary school – in France in the 1700s – there were multiple fatalities among students and faculty studying glanders. Everyone get a good look at all the horses. Let’s get some good photos of the horses and of the lesions.”
As the students moved toward the horses, the doctor turned to his colleagues. “Sgt MacGregor, could you tell your glanders horror stories again?”
“Be glad to doctor,” said the sergeant.
“Scare the piss out of them, Robert, I don’t want one of our students dying because they don’t take the disease serious enough.”
The sergeant grinned. “Oh, I always try to make my lads and lassies wet themselves at least once a day.”
Ben watched as Les walked over to the fence and stared into the distance between the fence rails. It wasn’t like Les to stay upset about anything for very long. When Ben worked for Les as an undergraduate, Les had chewed him out plenty of times, but five minutes later the older vet would be laughing and cutting up. Les’s sense of humor seemed to have been mostly left behind after the Ring of Fire. Ben ambled over to the fence and put his hand on Les’s shoulder. “Students pull stupid stunts,” he said “That’s a given. Remember the dumb stuff I used to do?”
“I can’t stand to lose anybody else,” Les said. “I’ve tried, but I just can’t get past leaving my sons and grandkids behind. It’s bringing back things that I would rather forget, Emma for one. Damn it, I know all the right things to say to folks that lose someone, but they aren’t helping me the least little bit. Makes me wonder if I’ve been talking nonsense to them all these years. I know it’s irrational, but I can’t shake the gloom, if that make any sense. The thought of losing one of these kids, to anything, is too much to bear.”
Seeing his friend and mentor in pain disturbed Ben. All he could think of to say were clichés, but he felt compelled to try. “The students aren’t kids. They’re young adults that are responsible for their own actions. We can’t hold their hands or they’ll never learn to think. And that’s one of our goals – to make them think critically. I’m sorry about Hoss and the others left behind after the Ring of Fire. There are just no words that are adequate. I miss Hoss, even though the silly rascal spent all his time getting me in trouble.” Ben hugged Les close, whispering “We need you, boss man. Hang in there, we’ll get it all figured out. Just like the students, we’re in this together. You hurt, I hurt.”
With all the conflicting emotions Les could barely speak. “Thanks,” he said, “I didn’t mean to lay all that on you. I’ll either get over it or not. Just need some time, I guess.” Les doubted that time would heal his wounds this time, but didn’t want his friend to worry.
Les watched the five horse traders who owned the glandered horses striding stiffly toward the students and Sgt. MacGregor. “Looks like trouble,” he said to Ben. “You armed?”
“Yep,” said Ben, “so is Robert and have you ever seen the farriers without the new play pretties we gave them? You?”
Les grinned and patted his revolver. “Never leave home without it.”
Les heard the demanding voice of the roughest-looking trader, an Englishman, well before he and Ben walked up to the group. He looked more like a hardened mercenary than a horse trader. The man addressed the sergeant. “If you won’t buy the horses, give them back and we’ll find other buyers that are interested.”
“Nay, not in Grantville you won’t and the poor animals that are near dead won’t be going anywhere again,” Sgt. MacGregor said. “I saw you read the signs about diseased animals by the gate. You had your chance to turn about, but didn’t take it.” The Englishman made a show of opening his coat to reveal a couple of horse pistols. Sergeant MacGregor winked at Mr. McDonald standing beside him. Banner and Oliver had made their way behind the men. The rest of the students were making a semi-circle around the small band of traders.
“I’m glad to see that the sergeant has been teaching y’all more than just horseshoeing,” Les said to the students. To the traders he said, “The very sick horses will be humanely shot and burned. All the other horses, including the ones you are riding will be branded on the left jaw with the letter G, for glanders. No one from Grantville will buy the branded horses. And we hope that soon nobody anywhere will buy disease-branded animals. If you try to resist the order, it will be done anyway and you will be permanently barred from Grantville.”
The Englishman said, “I’ve never heard of such nonsense.” Les was about to reply when Sgt MacGregor pointed to the man and said “Don’t give me that shite, I’ve seen you trading horses to King Gustav’s army. You’re lucky Colonel Stock isn’t here yet, he would simply hang you from the nearest tree. These Americans are a wee bit more tolerant of the likes of you than the colonel is.”
The head trader began gasping for breath and there were loud murmurs from the other traders. “Rittmeister Stock is coming here? When?”
“Aye, soon,” the sergeant replied. “And it’s Colonel Stock now. He’s a horse marshal in King Gustav’s army. He’s eager to exchange ideas with the doctors.”
The horse traders’ attitude changed from arrogant to cringing in seconds. “We will be glad to cooperate with whatever you gentlemen decide,” said the head trader. “Colonel Stock doesn’t have to hear of this does he?”
Les was pleased that there was no shooting. He said, “We’ll discuss it among ourselves, but I think we can handle it without involving the Colonel this time. Don’t ever bring diseased animals to Grantville again. Understood? I recommend shooting all the animals with glanders, they will infect your own mounts if you keep them long enough.”
The horse trader looked puzzled. “Infect?” he asked. “What do you mean?”
Les always looked for chances to educate people about the science of diseases, so he took his time explaining glanders and infectious diseases in general to the traders. When he was done with his lecture he said, “Do you have any questions? I know you may have a hard time believing that invisible organisms are responsible for such things as glanders, but it is absolutely true. We know beyond doubt that it’s true.”
The horse traders were still somewhat bewildered after the doctor’s lecture, but the leader was quick to say, “We believe you Doctor. Please, you will tell Colonel Stock that we believe you?”
Les was puzzled and annoyed but saw that it was very important to the man. He said, “I’ll see to it personally.”
The traders were all very loud and enthusiastic in thanking Les. Les glanced over at Sgt MacGregor. The sergeant was at attention and grinning broadly. Les knew that when MacGregor looked like that, he was suppressing either a laughing or screaming fit. He heard a humming sound coming from deep in the sergeant’s throat. Humming meant laughter, strangled growling noises meant screaming. So Robert was amused. Les would have to ask him about that later.
Ben, seeing Les’s bemusement and MacGregor’s amusement, took charge of the situation. He said, “Dr. Blocker, I’ll get the students and these gentlemen to lead the diseased horses over to the burn pit.”
Ben led the group to a remote area screened by trees and well away from running water. This was the first time that all of the students were involved in mass euthanasia, so Ben hoped that everything would go smoothly. He turned to the three farriers. “Since y’all have done this before you’ll help me with the first horses.” To everyone he said, “The way we do this is draw a line from the base of one ear to the inside corner of the opposite eye. Then we do the same from the base of the other ear. Where those lines cross is our target. Hold the gun as perpendicular to the target as possible. Done correctly, the horse will be dead before it hits the ground. Respect the animal and respect the procedure. Euthanasia is the last good thing that we can do for God’s creatures who have served us and have often been our friends. It’s never to be taken casually or lightly. Harden your mind to what must be done. But don’t harden your heart. Let’s get on with it.”
Shooting the horses went as well as any very unpleasant procedure can go. Several students had tears in their eyes well before all the horses were shot, but all did their parts. Ben was pleased at how gentle and respectful the students were in handling the animals. The bodies were pushed into the pit, covered with tree limbs and burned.
The horses that the traders kept, which showed no signs of disease, were hot-branded on the jaw. Ben watched as the students handled the horses. Sgt. MacGregor supervised the branding. Les had the traders laughing in another part of the corral as he told ribald stories and jokes. Ben walked over to the Sgt and students. “Someday, we’ll have enough dry ice or liquid nitrogen to do cold branding instead of hot branding. It doesn’t hurt as bad and doesn’t scar horse’s thin skins as much.” He called to Les, “I’m going to send the students who aren’t on duty on home. It’s beer-thirty.” Les nodded and waved as he continued to talk with the traders.
Ben had a special assignment in mind for the students. “I want y’all to break up into at least three teams. Make sure that there are up-timers and down-timers in each group. I want a paper from each group about all aspects of glanders, tuberculosis, brucellosis, and rinderpest from both up-time and down-time perspectives. Those are the diseases we must keep out of the Grantville area at all costs. The paper is due in two weeks.” There were half-serious groans from the students. Ben grinned his best grin at them. “What? You think you already have enough to do? Poor babies. Get on home or wherever”. The students left the corral chattering and carrying on like a flock of crows. No doubt they were headed to the nearest watering hole to imbibe some liquid refreshment. Vet students never passed up liquid rounds where the day’s cases were discussed with the aid of beer and whisky.
Les watched the horse traders riding and leading their remaining animals away from Grantville as the sun went down behind the hills. “Nothing like a good dirty joke to calm down an irritated horse trader. Same as back in West Virginia. That Englishman leading them worries me though, one minute he was acting like he wanted to kiss my ass and the next kick it.” He smiled and shook his head. “Ben, would you make a report about today’s activities to Willie Ray and the agricultural committee? I’ll brief Dr. Adams and the medical committee. Robert, if you don’t have anything better to do, could you make sure the students heading to the beer joint behave themselves. It’s been almost a month since the three stooges cleared out a bar. Those boys like to scrap. I don’t want to bail them out of jail again.”
Robert laughed and shook his head, “I never mind sitting in a pub, but when those lads get the bit between their teeth, it is hard to whoa them. I could beat them bloody and work them half to death, but that only lasts a wee bit. After the last ruckus, I had a little talk with them. I told them if they continued in their foolish ways, I had no choice but to tell Colonel Stock about it. They’ve behaved better since.”
“That reminds me,” said Les, “Is he a nine-foot tall ogre that eats babies for breakfast? I know he’s your commanding officer and is one of King Gustav’s horse marshals. Should I regret sending him a letter asking him to visit Grantville? ”
“Nay, he’s no ogre, though he doesn’t mind if dishonest sutlers and horse traders think so. He hanged a horse trader that sold glandered horses to the Swedish army. But that was more because several of his men got sick and a couple of them died. I was one of the ones that got sick. My cousin died. We were careless in handling the horses even though he had taught us better. He is the best officer I’ve ever served under. He cares about his men enough that he won’t tolerate having them hurt because of their foolishness or lack of training. So he can be a very tough taskmaster and will take the hide off your back if he has to. But the worst is the look of disappointment in his blue-gray eyes. He has remarkable eyes. Rarely raises his voice. His men love him and will do anything for him. I never want to see the look of disappointment in his eyes again or get another quiet, icy reprimand from him. Those hurt worse than the lashes that lesser officers think is the only way to discipline.”
“That sounds like what Mr. McDonald told me.” said Ben. “Didn’t his family have a riding school that was destroyed in the wars?”
“It was a Ritterakademie, which teaches much more than riding. It’s a knight academy in English. It is much like a combination of your up-time military academy, riding school, and martial arts school. Anyway, I had best run along if I’m going to catch up with our youngsters.”
Robert was having a pleasant conversation in the Gardens with two Grantville locals close to his own age. One said he was a retired U.S. Marine and the other laughed and said he was a retired biker. Whatever a biker was, Robert could tell that he and the Marine were hard men. Robert liked to converse with mature hard men who had no reason to prove their manhood by being troublesome. The three young military farriers and the other students were talking with a Grantville local that taught martial arts – as they called it here. The farriers were friends of his and often practiced their skills at his gym. There was no hint of trouble until three twenty-something-year-old up-time soldiers joined the students at their long table. They had the look of hard men still learning their craft.
The bearded biker glanced over at the table. “So much for a quiet evening.” The Marine chuckled and said “Boys will be boys”. But there was no trouble for a long while. Of course the farriers and the three locals were circling each other like wary gamecocks. But the conversation seemed pleasant enough.
Then one of the Grantville lads said, “. . . and then we’ll go to Ireland and kick all the English and Scottish invaders out.” Robert MacGregor of clan MacGregor was mildly offended but he knew that Lawrence McDonald, whose family had served as gallowglass mercenaries to Irish kings for centuries, would be mortally offended. Robert watched as McDonald slowly rose to his feet and growled something in Gaelic. The offending party also stood. “What did you say?” he asked. The tall, dark Ross Oliver was also on his feet. “He said, quite lyrically I thought, my arsehole is more Irish than you are, arsehole.” The three farriers and the three up-timer soldiers were facing each other across the table. One of the other up-timers removed his coat, which revealed a large Bowie knife sheathed at his belt. Oliver had a predatory grin that his companions knew too well. His knife had appeared in his hand seemingly from nowhere. He said, “Och, you want to play knives do you?”
As Robert pushed his chair back he said to his tablemates, “I may need your assistance to stop this from getting out of hand. McDonald is the strongest man I know, Banner is an excellent pugilist and grappler, but I may have to shoot Oliver to keep him from slicing your man to ribbons.” The biker pointed to one of the young Americans. “We may have to shoot them both—he’s a pretty good hand with that Bowie of his.”
Shooting anyone proved unnecessary. Robert heard an icy quiet voice that he knew so well say in German-accented English “Corporal Oliver, please put your knife away.” The knife disappeared as quickly as it appeared. The pale-faced Oliver stood at rigid attention, as did his two companions. Everyone at the two tables was standing very still if not at attention. Robert was amused. An angry Colonel Carl Stock seemed to make everyone want to stand at attention, whether they had a military background or not. The Colonel was an impressive figure. Tall, broad-shouldered, dressed in a dark, floor-length, padded leather riding coat that some Americans called a duster. Deadly sword, long knife and horse pistols on his belt. But Robert knew it was the ice in the blue-gray eyes, killer eyes, and in the quiet voice that froze people in place. And the concern in the voice and eyes at the same time. The Colonel commanded respect from all who met him; he did not demand it, something in him made you want to not disappoint him.
Colonel Stock seemed to glide across the room to the table of the combatants. Several other hard men followed him. Behind them were a dignified middle-aged woman and a young woman barely out of her teens. Robert watched as the Colonel said to the farriers, “You three see to our horses and the wagons. We have come a long way today and the animals need food, water and shelter. I assume you can carry out those duties without causing a riot?” The farriers replied as one, “Yes, sir.” And all but ran out the door. The three young Americans also started toward the door. Colonel Stock gestured broadly. “Gentlemen, please, we all have too many common enemies to have our young men fighting among themselves.” The Marine growled at the three Americans, “I agree with the Colonel, y’all sit and drink your beer. And try not to make anyone else want to carve you up tonight if you can help it.” Still scowling, the three sat.
Robert introduced his tablemates to the Colonel and those accompanying him.
Colonel Stock gave each man a slight bow and gestured to the other table. “And these young people?”
Robert introduced each veterinary student in turn. “They are some of the other students that I wrote you about that are being trained in veterinary medicine. The others are on duty at the veterinary hospital.” The three up-time soldiers then rose, saluted and formally introduced themselves.
Colonel Stock nodded, “I am Carl Stock, Horse Marshal for his Imperial Majesty Gustav of Sweden. May I present my wife Barbara, who cares for our library, and my daughter Katerina, who hopes to become one of your veterinary students. My officers are Captains Giovanni Caldarola, Aert VanZandt , Emile Billiot, Otfried von Meusebach, Ragnar Ljungberg, Bill Wallace, and Esteve Fages y Callis. All are experts in their homeland’s schools of swordsmanship and are master horsemen. These young men are Frantz Kuhler and Jorgen Jönsson, apprentice military farriers and two of my family’s traveling Ritterakademie’s students. May we join you and the students at your table?”
Sergeant MacGregor sat down at his adjoining table after the newcomers were seated and said, “Mr. Harr, please go ask Drs Blocker and Alexander to join us after their meetings if it is convenient. I reckon both committee meetings are at the elementary school. “
After everyone ordered food and drink, there was lively discussion in a mixture of German and English, all of Colonel Stock’s party being fluent in German and speaking and understanding some English. The food orders arrived a few minutes before the veterinarians came in the door.
MacGregor got up out of his chair when he saw them. “Colonel Stock, Drs. Alexander and Blocker are here.” Colonel Stock rose and bade the others to keep their seats. He walked with the sergeant to greet the pair. MacGregor made the introductions and they all walked to the long table where more introductions were made.
After everyone was seated, Les turned to Colonel Stock. “Colonel, we are very happy you decided to visit Grantville. Sergeants MacGregor and Lennox and Captain Mackay think very highly of you as a man, officer, and horse doctor. They all say you are the best horse doctor in Europe. Doctor Alexander and I hope to learn everything you can teach us about your treatment methods and medicines.”
“There are some equally good horse doctors in Europe,” The Colonel replied. “Some, like me, studied human medicine at universities in order to better understand the science of treating animals. Others taught themselves science and medicine in order to understand animal disease. I had to leave university prematurely to help with my family’s Ritterakademie. You say you wish to learn from me. I came here hoping to learn from you. The Scots say you two doctors are miracle workers.”
Ben joined the conversation. “No, we’re definitely not miracle workers. We’re country veterinarians who stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. Veterinary education in the time we come from is more rigorous than human medical education in some ways. We are trained to treat more than one species. Robert showed us your writings on diseases after we asked about current treatments. He had to translate them for us. They are scholastic gems. We use them as textbooks.”
“Grantville appointed Dr. Alexander and me as the veterinary medical examining board,” Les said in a solemn and official-sounding voice. “The board is authorized to grant veterinary licenses to practitioners that we think are qualified. As the veterinary school, we have the authority to award Doctors of Veterinary Medicine to qualified individuals. Sergeant Robert MacGregor has Grantville veterinary license number three. He won’t accept a DVM yet. We’ve discussed it and we’d like to offer you license number four and a DVM degree. Please believe us, we offer them to you because we think you are very qualified. We hope you will accept and join us as an equal colleague at the veterinary school and on the examining board.”
Colonel Stock sat in silence for a few moments tapping the steepled fingers of both hands against his chin. He folded his hands as he began to speak. “Dr. Blocker, Dr. Alexander, you honor me. I came here expecting nothing. These wars have made us all lose hope in humanity at times. My only thought was to find a place that is safer for the dependents of the Ritterakademie. And to learn what you would teach me. I will accept upon several conditions. My first duty is to King Gustav, the second is to the staff and the families of the Ritterakademie. I’m afraid that the veterinary school must come third for some time.”
Les was smiling as he stood and extended his hand. “Welcome to Grantville, Colonel. We welcome your staff, students, and families as well. We have room for you and your family and several others at my house and we’ll find places for everyone to stay. Robert has told us your first duty is to King Gustav. We understand that. Please understand you’ll be our full partner. True colleagues never stop learning from each other.”
Colonel Stock smiled as he shook Les’s hand. “Then I accept. I understand some horse traders tried to sell horses with Rotz and you turned them away. And that Captain MacGregor’s charges drew your ire. Yes, Robert, I said Captain MacGregor. I won’t allow you to turn down the commission this time. One thing I don’t understand is why you called them the three stooges. They are quite intelligent when they aren’t breaking things or causing trouble.”
Les laughed. “Exactly, Colonel. Exactly. The Three Stooges were comic actors that were always breaking things and creating a ruckus.”
Les spotted the three young American soldiers sitting at the table. “Colonel, have you met these three? They worked for me when they were teenagers. They were my original three stooges. Y’all tell the Colonel some of the things you did when you worked for me. You’ve been behaving yourself tonight, I assume?” Everyone within earshot roared.
A waitress interrupted the conversation at the table. “Les, Daniel Banner is on the phone. He wants to speak to you and a Colonel Stock. He asked for Sgt. MacGregor, but I told him you and Ben were also here. He says it’s an emergency.”
Everyone wondered what kind of emergency would require talking to Les and the Colonel. The two men were passing the phone back and forth. They all soon had their answer. “This is an all hands and the cook situation,” said Les. “Two things are going on. First, there is a very sick boy in the horse traders’ camp a couple of miles outside of Grantville. He probably has glanders. The farriers are going to the camp to scout and fetch him to the hospital if there are no problems at the camp. The boy’s name is Adolf Dudensing. His father Axel is in camp with him, along with several other horse traders. As soon as we got off the phone I had them alert the hospital. The second problem is the reason they are approaching the camp cautiously. There’s a large gang of bandits about two days ride from Grantville. They are ex-mercenary cavalrymen led by an Englishman named Charlton. They’re holding the families of the horse traders hostage. They made the traders try to sell glandered horses here today. The Englishman that led them is on his way back to Charlton’s main camp. Colonel Stock knows more about these bandits.”
“Yes, Bannister Charlton deserves his evil reputation,” said the Colonel. “He has about forty to fifty men with him. Ross Oliver captured a boy who was scouting the veterinary hospital. The boy had been sent by the Englishman to find a hidden route into town. The bandits plan a raid to steal stock and whatever else they can carry off. The boy’s real motive in coming to the hospital was to find help for his sick friend. Sergeant, I mean Captain MacGregor, I need to talk with Mackay and to someone in the Grantville military. We need to hit Carlton before he can raid Grantville.”
“I’ll go to the cavalry command post, “said MacGregor. “There’s usually an officer or two there.”
The young American with the Bowie knife stood. “Colonel, I’ll alert Mike and Frank. What do you need from us?”
The Colonel thought for a moment. “We need men that can ride and fight. We must attack them before they break camp. If we do not, they will scatter and gather again some place else. And they may kill their hostages. I will be at the hospital. Anyone you two find can meet me there.”
A party on horseback, which included the sick boy’s father, arrived at the hospital. They were met by both veterinarians, Dr. Adams, Colonel Stock, nurses, and several Scottish cavalrymen–all wearing surgical masks. Lawrence McDonald carefully handed Adolf down to the men, who placed him on a gurney. Dr. Adams did a quick exam of the boy. “Take him to the isolation area we prepared. We don’t need everyone to come in with us, just the one or two who know the most about him and his condition. Drs. Blocker and Alexander, please join us. You probably know more about glanders than me or any of the physicians.”
“Colonel Stock should come with us,” said Doctor Blocker. “He’s seen cases of glanders before and may know down-time treatments that will help.”
Dr. Blocker was carrying several thick books. “I brought all the books that have anything about glanders in them. Between us and the books we’ll figure something out.”
The nurses quickly started an IV on Adolf, taking his vital signs and drawing blood for lab tests. Axel watched the procedures on his son with concern. “You’re not going to bleed him, are you? I’ve never seen that help. We‘ve given him some willow bark to decrease his fever.”
Doctor Adams looked up from his examination of the patient. “No sir, we don’t use bleeding. We’re taking samples of his blood for testing.”
Colonel Stock approached the worried father. “Herr Dudensing, how long has your son been ill? You have seen glanders in people before?”
“Adolf fell ill three days ago. At first I wasn’t worried. I thought it might be a cold or something. But then he started getting knots on his neck, a bad fever started, and he started coughing. I’ve seen glanders before. This looks just like it.”
The Colonel turned to Dr. Adams. “The boy has been sick three days. Herr Dudensing has seen glanders before and so have I. We are both positive that the boy has glanders. I do not know of any cures. I use willow bark to reduce fever and the father has already done that.”
“Thank you, Colonel,” said Dr Adams. “Dr. Blocker, what are y’all finding in the books.”
The two veterinarians were thumbing through several thick volumes that were scattered on a table. “Nothing very helpful or very hopeful,” said Dr Blocker. “Neither the medical or veterinary texts recommend a specific antibiotic. They list several that have been tried with varying results. Success in treating systemic glanders with anything is 50-50 at best. I think hitting him with every antibiotic we have left is the best course. I had one of the students bring the injectable antibiotics from the veterinary hospital. I recommend cetiofur to start with, unless you have a similar fast-acting cephalosporin with a human label. It can be used intravenously, but giving it intramuscularly works nearly as fast. We also have florefinicol, enrofloxacin, and trimethoprim-sulfadiazine. We’ve already given you most of our injectable tetracycline. I recommend using it also unless you have doxycycline you can use. Doxy is one of the recommended antibiotics. The good thing is that all of the antibiotics should be safe. They’re all used in multiple species of animals.”
Dr. Adams frowned. “Doesn’t look like we have much choice. You vets had more injectable antibiotics than all the physicians and even the pharmacy had at the RoF. Let’s start with the cetiofur, then give the others one at a time. That way we can tell if he has a bad reaction to one of the drugs. We’ll monitor him closely and then it’s just a waiting game.”
Dr. Blocker explained the treatment regimen to Colonel Stock who translated for the father. “The doctors are using the machines to watch Adolf’s condition. They are giving him medicines to try to cure the glanders. But there is a problem, even in the future treating glanders is very difficult. The horse doctors seem to know more about it than the physicians and are advising them. They are even using some animal medicines. It is in the hands of God now.”
Axel smiled for a few seconds. “Good, I’ve always trusted good horse doctors more than human doctors. Yes, may God guide these good people that my son may live. Colonel, I hope you know that we are honest horse traders. We would never buy or sell glandered horses. The bandits are holding our families’ hostage. Please can you free our families?”
The Colonel’s eyes seemed to ice over. “I assure you that we will free your families. I am going outside to talk to the military authorities now.”
An hour later a nurse reported that Adolf’s temperature was dropping and he was breathing easier. Les and Ben left the care of the patient in Dr. Adams’ hands and joined the discussion on freeing the horse trader’s families. Colonel Stock came back inside when the council outside concluded.
“Herr Dudensing, stay with your son. The other traders will lead us to the bandit camp. We will free your family.”
“My son is getting better, praise God,” said Axel. “Thank you Colonel. Go with God.”
Axel sat at his son’s bedside as the door to the isolation room opened. His wife and children flooded into the room. All wearing surgical masks. His mask didn’t hide the joy in his eyes. Two days later, a large abscess in Adolf’s lung burst causing a massive hemorrhage. He was 16 years old when he died.
After Adolf Dudensing’s funeral, Colonel Stock, Ben, Les, and Robert rode back to the veterinary hospital together. It was an overcast, dreary day, which matched their moods. Les was the first to speak. “I’m stooge number one to think we could save that boy or even keep glanders out of Grantville.”
“I’m stooge number two,” said Ben. “I didn’t even think to ask the horse traders if any of them were sick.”
“I am the third stooge then,” said the Colonel. “I knew Charlton was out there raiding and stealing, but I did not make it a priority to stop him.”
“Does putting a DVM behind your name make a man daft?” said Robert. “Les, you and Ben kept that boy alive long enough to say goodbye to his family. Without you he had no hope. Colonel, you united and led men of several countries to save the families and to put paid to the Charlton band. If you’re stooges, it’s because you think you can fix this present world. Only Jesus can do that. If you’re stooges, then you’re stooges of hope.”
The men rode on in silence for a while. “Colonel, my three American stooges and your three did good in the raid on the Charltons,” said Les. “I guess we’ll have to quit calling them stooges.”
“Please call me Carl. They made some mistakes that enthusiastic young men always make, but overall they did well. I think they should keep the name a while longer. To keep them humble. Robert how are your studies going? We need a fourth old stooge to help keep the six young stooges out of trouble.”
Robert laughed for the first time in days. “I don’t think all of Grantville and the Germanies can keep those six in line for very long.”