We're saying goodbye to Steve McDonald again, our down-home, yarn-spinning veterinarian blogger and columnist.
Soon after I first took the reins of Beef Producer seven years ago, McDonald's wit and natural storytelling talents were brought to my attention by J.T. Smith, that loyal Texan and former editor of the Farmer-Stockman magazine.
I contacted the good doctor and asked if he would write a column for Beef Producer. He agreed and we named it "Eye on the Tailhead," a tongue-in-cheek reference to the all-too-common position assumed by bovine practitioners in relation to many cows they treat.
McDonald won the hearts and loyalty of a lot of readers with his stories about himself and his clients, all while preserving their privacy and dignity. Meanwhile, he dispensed some sound veterinary advice.
After about a year, he told me he has Parkinson's disease and, together with some family matters, that meant he needed to quit his column. He suggested at the time he might be willing to take up the pen again one day but he said for the time being he simply needed to stop writing for us. Reluctantly, we let him quietly slip away.
Then a couple years ago Boehringer-Ingelheim told us they wanted to sponsor a veterinary column and blog and call it "Animal Health Notebook." With fear of failure and a ray of hope in my heart I sent McDonald a note and told him what was afoot and asked if he would consider plying the scribe's trade again, along with his veterinary practice.
To my delight, he told me that he recently had some surgery which helped ease his Parkinson's and that he would indeed consider writing for us again. Since then he has produced roughly 25 great blogs and close to two dozen monthly columns.
His sage veterinary advice is always a good read in the Beef Producer but I believe it's his blog, where he just writes what's on his mind, that really captures my imagination and that of many readers. I can't say I always belly laugh at his wry sense of humor but he always, always brings a smile to my face.
Very often he takes a viewpoint reminiscent of Will Rogers humor. An example is his recent column on the "three great races of veterinarians." He listed them as small-animal vets, equine vets and mixed-practice vets. I grinned all the way through and the funniest thing was how generally true were his stereotypes.
A month or two ago he wrote about a difficult surgery in the field and a sudden loss of vision that truly frightened him. It seemed one eye went completely blurred and he had to finish surgery squinting through the other eye. As a person who never needed any glasses until age 40 and now needs them to do everything, Doc had me in the bag. Oh, could it get worse? Turned out he simply lost one lens from his reading glasses.
If you haven't read the good doctor's columns, now would be a good time, before they disappear.
McDonald is a private man and I didn't ask his permission to tell you about his Parkinson's disease, but I suspect those of you who followed his columns and blogs with anticipation feel a connection to him and I figured you would like to know. So I'll also ask you to keep him and his family in your prayers.
Thanks for the memories, Doc. Hope to see you soon.