View from the Barnyard

The Greatest Story Ever Told – “Doc”

Sunday as I sat watching the downpour of rain I thought to myself – even the skies are weeping for Doc Krog. How appropriate that he would leave this earth close to Veteran’s Day because he was one tough Marine.
“Doc” Krog was the Veterinarian Hero of Sanborn County’s hard-working farmers who love their land and their livestock. Since the ‘50s when he opened the Pony Hills Veterinary Clinic, “Doc” devoted his life to his work, which meant he willingly went to be bitten, scratched, stomped and kicked by his patients on a daily basis.
Dedication is the word that comes to mind foremost when I think of Doc. He was no modern day vet who only worked eight to five. Doc was a man of few words, worked hard and played hard. He was quite adept after last call at Don’s to go and perform a C-section that would see him watching the dawn break.
    I never knew Doc very well until I started working at Van Dykes in 1984 and I started having coffee breaks with McGee, or Della or Jody Forbes, the telephone and shop assistants. Many days Doc would come through the swinging door from the back, root through the medicine shelves and depart without a word spoken.
One day I asked him a question that stopped him in his tracks. I said, “Is it true, Doc, that if a cow loses its cud it will die, but if you stick a rag in its mouth to chew on it won’t?” He looked, laughed softly to himself and answered,  “Young lady, who ever told you that?” (I was raised believing that, courtesy of my Aunt Elsie.) That was Doc and my bonding moment. Of course, we had many more when I became bartender at Don’s.
Doc always told me I was the best “bartenderess” in the state of South Dakota and he didn’t need to pay a psychiatrist $100 an hour as long as he had me to visit with. His favorite phrase was, “What’s my word? – People – then spell out, P-E-O-P-L-E,” as he pushed his glasses up on his nose. He would visit our camping group at Twin Lakes during Memorial weekend and loved the campfire time with his friends. Most would retire at midnight, but one morning we discovered Charlie Knigge and Doc still at the campfire reminiscing. Charlie said Doc had started to tell his life story and started in 1948.
Doc had many harrowing close calls in his life. An especially exciting one was when a buffalo cow chased him into the back of a pickup and then up and over the roof and hood at Aubry Lynch’s. He had to be fleet of foot in his profession plus an agile jumper to crawl fences to escape. He could probably have qualified for the Olympics.
For his 70th birthday Georgia and I set about (with the help of Julie Bebout, our camera woman) creating a video for Doc to show how much his friends appreciated him. So we traveled, stopped people on the road, found them on tractors and had them speak to Doc on film. (We even had a cow along a fence say, “Remember, me Doc? You delivered my calf.” Georgia does superb cow talk. Doc said he played the tape so much it finally broke.
On that tape is one of the most heart-wrenching stories of friendship and devotion I’ve ever heard. I cannot ever retell it without crying because it truly shows what Doc was made of. Jackie Evers had called us to say we had to go to Artesian to film her uncle John Grassel’s story.
The year is unknown to me but the winter was a tough one and John said he awoke and looked out the window and saw about 60 Hereford bulls down on the ground in his lot. (He cried in the retelling because he knew if they died, everything he had worked for was gone – his whole livelihood.) He called Doc, who worked with him side-by-side IV’ing the herd all day in the cold as a blizzard approached.
The snow began in earnest and he told Doc he better leave before the nightfall in order to get home. The weather advanced to what would be a three-day blizzard. The second day John was greeted with the approach of a tractor with Doc Krog driving. It was a repeat of the first day and their hands and feet were numb with the cold. Again Doc took his leave and the storm worsened.
John said his spirit was so low on the third day and he was giving up hope when he spied Doc on foot coming over the snowdrifts with a backpack of medicine. (We all wept right there.) That story alone showed the true measure of a man called “Doc.”
Doc would go on to continue working as a vet well into his 80s-plus. He and his closest pal, Jim Larson, would raise cattle together for something to keep busy in his spare time. Still riding horses in his  70s, Doc was all cowboy. The one thing I failed in doing was getting a picture of Doc manning the head gate of the cattle chute with a syringe in both hands. That would have epitomized him to “T”. I was so wishing that it would be the way he left this earth, doing the job he loved the most.
I always told him he was the toughest man who ever lived because he was the only man I knew who could close a bar at 2 a.m., get hit by a semi at 7 o’clock, be thrown in jail, bailed out by 10 and still finish the day working cattle without batting an eye.
We hope you are
doing the jitterbug
in Heaven,
Country Claude
and Dee Baby

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