Column: Think spring: Here's a love story
WORTHINGTON -- Now and again a story or an interview from a day long gone will come mind. I thought lately of a wonderful love story.
I talked with Achsah Payton Christensen at Slayton in 1984, when she was 91. (Achsah is from the Bible, she said; she cited the verses from Joshua and Judges.) Achsah began talking about Lewis C. Christensen, the veterinarian who studied at the University of Pennsylvania and who came to Slayton to open a practice. Achsah called him Doc. They were married in 1913. She was 20.
"He was a good veterinarian, too. He should have been an M.D.," Achsah said.
"I took care of the doctor's office. I was his office girl. I knew all the people living around here.
"I drove for him.
"Hog cholera broke out at that time. He went day and night. He'd sleep while I drove from one place to another.
"January 1916. Dr. Christensen got a call regarding a fine horse which was ailing.
"Ordinarily if it got late I would call to see if everything was all right," Achsah rued. "But when I'd call, every phone along the way would ring. They were all on one line then, you know.
"Before he left, Doc said, 'This could take a long time. We want to take care of that horse. Don't call. You'll just wake everybody up.'"
The doctor set out with a young man named Walt as his driver.
"There was a terrible sleet storm," Achsah went on. "Doc said later he remembered thinking, 'Now we'll have to be especially careful when we come home.'
"I thought of calling once but then I thought I'd better not. He told me not to.
"They started back and the car skidded west of Slayton. It slid back and they were both pinned underneath. The boy died, but it wasn't from an injury. He had a heart problem.
"Two boys were walking from Hadley to Slayton to go to school the next morning. They found them."
Doctors told the young veterinarian he would have to have his leg amputated. As months went by it became necessary to perform three amputations, each time removing more of the patient's leg.
"He wouldn't stay in the hospital. He said he just couldn't take that. This went on for at least three years.
"We made a hospital room out of the dining room. I dressed his leg twice a day. He said I was the only one who could do it without hurting him.
"He was a wonderful man to take care of.
"And there were a lot of funny things that happened.
"I'll tell you -- Doc was a great one to tease.
"One time we were carrying him outside and there was a beggar there. Just out of nowhere Doc said to the beggar, 'Hey! This is my side of the street!' That guy got out of there in a hurry. Doc laughed at so many things.
"That winter the vet from Luverne came over. Doctor Anderson. We didn't know him but he said things were slow at home and he had just come to see if he would help us out. He had heard about Doc. I thought that was so nice. We worked out a thing so that he worked on a fifty-fifty basis. He got money and we got money.
"Then we had the most wonderful students.
"One summer it was a student from Louisiana. The next summer there were two students. They would carry Doc out to the car and drive him out. Then he would tell them what to do."
For a period Dr. Christensen had a peg leg. "There was a Mexican boy who helped him.
"I just loved to dance. And they had that beautiful dance hall at Lake Shetek.
"Doc would take me to the dance. He would dance just with me. He wouldn't dance with anyone else."
What did you dance?
"Oh, everything. The two-step. The three-step."
Was there a three-step?
"If there wasn't we made it up!"
Dr. Christensen "sold his business to Doctor Radford, but not his practice.
"There were always people that wanted just Doc to come out and take care of their stock ..."
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.