Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
Soon after the Regiment was formed, it became apparent that something was needed for the civilian members to air grievances. Through trial and error, it was decided that once a month, on the first Monday, the afternoons would be reserved for a meeting of the command staff and anyone who has a request, complaint, or suggestion.
Penny Riggens had left three weeks earlier, and with Corporal Wheaton’s help, I had written up a proposal for the command. I was the 3rd person on the list that day to speak. Ahead of me was Martha Olsen.
Martha was dressed in what looked like a newly made dress. Something copied from a catalog. I’m sure that she thought it the height of fashion, and she was right for Wilkin’s Nevada.
The Colonel and the rest of the Command Group were seated on one side of a long table. On the other side was a podium, centered on Colonel Anderson. Martha stood at the podium. She had her arms crossed and was impatiently tapping her foot.
“Colonel Anderson, you have promised that we would have appropriate teachers for our children. You have yet to live up to that commitment. What do you plan on doing to fix this issue?”
I could see the frustration in the Colonel’s face. “Martha, we have already brought in three different teachers, none of which met with your approval. I believe we have done the best we can to provide competent, experienced, and even-tempered educators. If there is any roadblock to this process, it seems that your standards are possibly too high. Maybe you could be a little more tolerant and allow us to fill these positions. Give these people a year or six months to prove themselves.”
“I don’t think you have been trying hard enough, Colonel.” As if she hadn’t heard a word, Martha arrogantly responded.
“Well, Martha, I think the command group has spent more than enough time trying to meet your demands. Perhaps you have a better way to find a suitable candidate?”
“Now that you mention it, Colonel, I have contacted an education broker by the name of McOmbie. He has assured me that he has several outstanding candidates available right now. For a small fee, he can have them on their way within the week. We could have suitable teachers here within two months.”
Colonel Anderson glanced over to his S2, Captain Burgess. Burgess nodded his head and wrote McOmbie’s name down. “Mrs. Olsen, You wouldn’t happen to know Mr. McOmbie’s first name and the company he works for,” He asked.
“I don’t see how that matters, but his first name is Clyde. I believe he is self-employed.” It was apparent that Martha didn’t like being interrupted or questioned.
Colonel Anderson spoke up. “Martha, we will allow you a $1000.00 budget for this project of yours. If you find a suitable educator, one that meets your approval, we will meet with the candidate and discuss a more permanent contract. The Command Group will have the final say on any candidate and will decide the compensation offered. Now, Is there anything more to your agenda?”
“No, Sir, I will be getting in touch with Mr. McOmbie immediately.” Martha smiled smugly.
“Very well, get in touch with Lieutenant Dickson after the group adjourns. He will issue the draft for the $1000.00 to you.”
“Thank you, Colonel. You won’t be disappointed.” Martha turned from the podium and started walking from the room. As she passed me, she glanced down at me, sniffed, and then stuck her nose in the air.
As she was leaving, Colonel Anderson spoke up. “Doctor Barrow, you’re next.”
As I nervously approached the podium, he said, “I understand you have a proposal for the Regiment?”
“Yes, Sir. Since arriving here, I have heard about the medical care, or lack of care, for the smaller towns, mining camps, and farms. When there is someone available, they are more likely to be a drunk or incompetent. If not an outright fraud. And I don’t want to speak about the patent medicine and snake oil salesmen that roam the countryside. Some of those potions and nostrums are dangerous and sometimes deadly.”
“Well, Doctor, there’s not much that we can do about any of that. We aren’t a government agency or law enforcement. I’m not even sure if there are laws concerning these issues.”
“I’m aware of that, Sir, and I’m not suggesting that we could eliminate all these problems. I am proposing that we set up a traveling medical service like the judicial circuit court, but for health care. We could outfit an ambulance with the needed supplies. Have a doctor and a couple of medics staffing it. Then travel around to where they are needed. I would imagine that the public relations benefits alone would make the concept worthwhile to the Regiment.”
Colonel Andersen sat back in his chair and steepled his fingers, obviously deep in thought. After a couple of minutes, he leaned forward and said. “Doctor, at first look, there is a certain amount of merit to your idea. I know that during the war, the use of mobile ambulance’s and field hospitals positively impacted the survival of wounded soldiers.”
He paused and looked around to the other members of the command group. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do, Louise. Please give us a couple of days to think and discuss this. Then we’ll get back to you about it.”
“Thank you for the group’s consideration, Sir. Do you have any idea on how long this will take?”
Several members of the command group chuckled. “Don’t worry, Doctor, right now, this sounds like a good idea. But we’ll need time to discuss it. I’m sure that we will be able to get back to you by the end of the week. But don’t think that this will be something that takes off immediately. Something like this needs planning and organization. Even after we decide, we’ll need to consider who will be on this mobile Doctor’s office you’ve proposed.”
This was unexpected, and I started getting concerned. “Sir, I had assumed that I would be in charge of this?”
The Colonel was smiling, “Don’t worry, Doc, we’ll let you know.”
I was being dismissed. As I was walking out, Corporal Wheaton walked out with me. “Don’t worry, Doc. Look at it this way, they didn’t yell at you.” He was smiling when he said this, so the sting wasn’t quite as irritating.
It took a couple of hours for me to get over my funk. When I calmed down, I returned to my usual activities. Over the following week, I had forgotten about it by the time Friday came around. That accounted for the momentary confusion when I was told that Colonel Anderson wanted me in his office. As I was leaving my office, I mentioned it to Corporal Wheaton. He grinned at me and said. “Don’t worry, Doc. This fast, it’ll be good news.”
When I got to the Colonel’s office, Corporal Higgens was at his desk, and Lieutenant Justice was waiting for me. He knocked on the door and announced me. Inside, I was surprised to find Chaplain Sims as well as Captain Burgess. It was apparent what Father Sims’ duties were. But Captain Burgess was a bit of an unknown to me. All I knew was that he was the S-2. Colonel Anderson was sitting at his desk. Also, in the room were another Lieutenant and a sergeant, neither of whom I recognized.
Colonel Anderson stood and offered his hand. “Doctor Barrow, Welcome. Can I offer you something, coffee? Tea?”