“Country Doctor”

(By Hassan Javed)

He stares out of the window. It is cold and windy outside. There is a fire burning in the room. Suddenly the phone rings. It is well past midnight. He picks up the phone. “Hello,” says a worried voice. “I am listening,” he replies. As he puts down the phone he has a grim expression on his face. He picks up his briefcase, hurriedly wears his coat, puts the scarf around his neck and steps out into the cold and chilly night. He makes his way through the freezing night at a brisk pace knowing that every second counts. This is what came into my mind when I first saw the “Country Doctor” at the Brunnier Art Museum. Courage and determination are the words that can be used to describe the “Country Doctor”. The “Country Doctor” is a 2003

bronze casting of 1936 painted plaster. It was created by Christian Peterson out of plaster in 1936 during the Great Depression. Peterson had no money to cast it into bronze during that period. It was cast into bronze in 2003 and preserved by the Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums at Iowa State University. The “Country Doctor” is an inspiration for this heroic image of a physician making his way through a freezing Iowa winter. He is wearing a cap and a coat. He has a medical kit in his one hand whereas he tries to close his front coat with his right hand. The scarf around his neck flies back as he makes his way through a cold and breezy wind. His eyes have a determined look in them. The calm expression on his face shows that he is steadfast in his goal and fully determined to accomplish it. As I roll my hand over the sculpture I feel myself transported fifty years back, when country doctors were heavily relied upon to tend to emergencies. Peterson himself wrote about the figure “…no matter what the weather, no matter how fatigued they may be, they are always at beck and call, and they can be depended upon to arrive in time…”

The “Country Doctor” can be interpreted as a tribute by the artist himself to country doctors and the medical profession as a whole. He may be showing his gratitude towards two country doctors who tended to his sick wife, Charlotte one cold night. He brings hope, a hope that human beings can overcome the adversities that life brings onto them, and rise equally to the challenge. Former President Hughes wrote about the country doctor “I think it is one of the finest things he (Peterson) has done and absolutely first class. It looks to me as if it ought to be cast in marble.” I also talked with Amanda J Hall who is Education Assistant and security at the Brunnier Art Museum. “I think of the country doctor as a noble profession. He is determined and larger then life. He also represents a dying profession, but you can see the courage and steadfastness he brings with him,” she said. Lynette Paulmen who is the curator at the Brunnier Art Museum told me of the country doctor as representing compassion and dedication. “To me the Country Doctor is a memorial by Peterson. This is because we don’t think about the adversities faced by people such as country doctors that came before us. We can easily go to hospitals today to get treatment, seldom

realizing how difficult it was to get these simple facilities fifty or sixty years back,” she said. The “Country Doctor” can also be compared to the “Gentle Doctor” at the museum. The “Gentle Doctor” is a simple concentrated composition of a standing doctor holding a pup in his hands and the mother dog by his side. Both the sculptures represent the profession of medicine. They have a look of care and calamity about them. They were also created at the around same time. However, there are certain dissimilarities as well. While the Country Doctor has something definite to do, the Gentle Doctor is standing still. There is a difference in the work of art as well. The Gentle Doctor appears more docile while the Country Doctor is depicted as someone who is moving through cold and windy conditions, and has a certain objective to accomplish. With the development of modern hospitals and state of the art medical equipment, being a country doctor has died out as a profession. But sculptures like the “Country Doctor” keep reminding us of the challenges and hardships faced by the people who came before us, and who continue to make a difference in our lives. We should not only be appreciative towards their efforts but give them the highest respect and honor they truly deserve.

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure." Peter Marshall