Doc Smith

Luke Boyd

By by Luke Boyd

In that day and time, all doctors made house calls, and Doc Smith was no exception.

In addition to these regular rounds, he was subject to being summoned for emergencies. Since there were no phones in the country, somebody had to come and get him when he was needed to deliver a baby or treat an injury. Doc Smith delivered both my brother and me at home. There was another time when Daddy had to go get him to put me back together. To this day I’m grateful that he was as good a doctor as he was.

We were living on a new-ground farm back in a low part of the Delta toward the river. Because water would cover the land ever so often, our house was built up on pilings about four or five feet off the ground. I was two years old and some months. I don’t know just how many. I know that we are not supposed to have memories of things that happen when we’re that young, but the incident is still vivid in my mind. I don’t remember anything that happened after it but I do remember the fall. I was going up our front steps and something behind me–perhaps a noise, a call, a dog barking–caught my attention. I looked back over my left shoulder but kept on walking up the steps veering to the right as I walked. A step or so from the top I stepped out into space. As I fell, I instinctively threw my right arm out to break my fall. I landed with all my weight on that arm. The elbow splintered, bones came out of the skin and stuck in the soft earth. I remember crying, but I don’t remember the pain. Daddy picked me up and sat me up on the porch. Mama came running up and I heard Daddy say, “It’s broke. I’ll go get Doc.” Beyond that, everything about the incident is blank.

Daddy brought Doc back with him and they laid me on the kitchen table. Mama held chloroform to my nose while Daddy assisted Doc. Without the help of x-rays, pins, wires, screws, or all the other things orthopedic surgeons consider indispensable today, Doc Smith took his hands and pushed the broken pieces around until he got them lined up where he thought they should be. He sterilized the gashes where the bones came out, sewed them up, and put on a splint.

When the splint came off, everything seemed to work fine, but my arm was a little crooked. Instead of angling away from my body my forearm angled in. My parents decided to let well enough alone and not attempt any further fixing. Time has proven that decision to be correct. I’ve thrown just about every kind of ball there is with it and done every kind of lifting and never had a problem, except for having to try to explain to a whole bunch of Army doctors that it really did function. One flatly told me even after I bent it every possible way that any elbow put together that way could not work.

Today, more than sixty years later, when I think about what Doc Smith did that day on that kitchen table, I’m truly amazed. I wonder how many of our modern physicians could duplicate that feat.

(For more by Luke Boyd and “Coon Dogs and Outhouses V1” go to or