With Father’s day coming up, I’ve been thinking about my father and his father, William ‘Doc’ Lukens. I never met my grandfather, he died before I was born, but through the storytelling of his children, especially my Uncle Dick, I feel I know him. Dick, my father, and their five other siblings grew up in Hillsboro, Ohio during the depression years. The one defining thread that runs through my family’s stories is the ability to laugh at oneself; this is the gift my grandfather gave to us. Here is a story I heard many times at family gatherings about ‘Doc’ and his buddies.
S: There was a guy named Ove Brown who was not only the town ‘character’ but was also one of Hillsboro’s most notorious practical jokers. His appearance even looked funny; he was tall, bald and skinny. Ove was always scheming and one of his favorite targets was Doc Lukens.
Ove frequently stopped in Doc’s office to chat or just tell him the latest stunt he had pulled on someone. Doc always looked forward to his visits because this would give him some new stories to tell to the gang that hung out at the General Store on Saturdays.
In those days, any time Doc went out, the office was left unlocked so that patients and their humans could come on in and wait for his return. On this particular day when Ove came in and found that Doc was out, he made himself at home, sitting at Doc’s roll top desk, leaning back and propping his feet up. He looked as though he belonged, so when a lady came into the office carrying a chicken, she just assumed that Ove was the veterinarian.
“Something is wrong with my chicken,” she said. “My whole flock is not doing well. They all seem rather droopy.”
In his new role as vet, Ove said, “Let me take a look at that chicken,” and proceeded to look into the bird’s eyes. “Hmmmm, bloodshot eyes” he said. Then opening the chicken’s beak he looked in, “Hmmm bad tonsils as well. “
The lady, who apparently was deficient in the area of chicken anatomy, asked “Does it look bad?”
“Which way does your henhouse face?” Ove asked.
“That’s what is wrong. Your chickens aren’t getting enough rest. The sun coming in every morning is waking them up too early.”
The lady, astonished at such an expert diagnosis, said, “You don’t say, Doctor?”
“Yep, that’s right. You tell your husband to hook up his team of horses and chain it to the henhouse and turn it around so those hens can get their beauty rest. Friday my partner will be here in the office, so I want you stop in and he will give you some medicine for the chicken’s droops.”
“All right, Doctor, I’ll do just what you said.”
That Friday afternoon, the lady returned to the Vet’s office and she told him about her visit earlier that week and said that his nice partner had taken care of her and her chicken.
“What?” Doc asked, confused.
“You know, the skinny, bald-headed man. He examined my chicken and said that it had bad tonsils.”
“Oh! What else did he tell you?”
“Well, he said it had bloodshot eyes from not getting enough sleep, but since we turned the henhouse around, all my hens are doing much better.”
“Yes. He said that the sun was waking them up too early.”
By now Doc had figured out that he was the newest victim of one of Ove’s practical jokes. “Oh boy!” Doc replied, trying not to laugh out loud.
The next day, when the guys gathered at the General Store around the Pot Belly Stove, heard how Doc was finally on the other end of a prank, they roared with laughter, having all been victimized by his sense of humor.
*This story appeared as part of a piece called ‘Animal House’ in Ohio Magazine in 1989, as written by Dick Lukens, son of ‘Doc’ Lukens.