When Doctors Made House Calls…. by Kate Bridges

One of the most dangerous things about living in the Wild West was how close they came to the edge of physical survival.  Can you imagine giving birth at a time when the number one killer of women was giving birth?  

Fortunately, it’s all fiction for us, so we as writers are free to wreak havoc in our stories.  But our tales are based in reality, and those were some tough men and women.  Adding a medical problem to a story raises the stakes immediately.  Not only are we concerned about how the relationship is going to work, or how the villain will get stopped, but we also wonder:  Who’s going to tend to that stab wound?  And what is that strange disease the neighbor has?

I find it fascinating to write about the medical problems.  I’m sure it’s got something to do with my background as a former R.N. (pediatric ICU).  I enjoy the research, and tend to give every book some unique medical dilemma.

klondikefever-webimage.jpgKlondike Fever, out now, is set in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush.  The hero is a Mountie.  One of the secondary characters, an old man, wears a broken set of spectacles.  One of the lenses is smashed.  He’s living in the woods, hundreds of miles from a nearby town.  He either wears the eyeglasses with just one lens, or he’s totally blind.  On the run from their own troubles, the hero and heroine agree to take him along so he can buy a ‘new set of eyes.’

Of course, it’s a love story first and foremost.  It’s about a reversal of fortune, when the richest woman in the Klondike is robbed on a stagecoach headed to Alaska, and chained to the man she used to work for as a servant.

Western Weddings is an anthology I have coming out in May, with fellow authors Charlene Sands and Jillian Hart.  In my novella, “Shotgun Vows,” one of the secondary characters is trampled by a horse and almost doesn’t survive.  It’s a key turning point in the story of two young people forced to marry at gunpoint.

westernweddings-webimage.jpgI spend a lot of time researching on the web, and have spent blissful days at my local university in their medical archives.

What surprises me most about the late 1800s is how much the medical community actually knew about diseases, rather than what they didn’t know.  Here’s an example.  I was scouring through actual copies of the British Medical Journal from the 1880s and could not believe the detail of some of their clinical trials.  In the 1880s in London, doctors were studying the increased rate of prostate cancer in chimney sweeps.  And I thought prostate cancer was a fairly modern concern.

Unfortunately, I think many Hollywood movies make it seem like the doctors knew very little.  Definitely, we know tons more now, but not all doctors back then wanted to amputate a leg with a rusty saw, if you know what I mean.  It also makes me wonder how our future generations, two hundred years from now, will view the type of medicine we practice.  Will Hollywood of the future paint us as dimwitted and archaic?  

surgeonwebimage.jpgHere are some other interesting facts. Did you know that Parkinson’s Disease has been treated since ancient times, but its symptoms weren’t categorized until 1817 by an English physician named James Parkinson?  One of the early treatments to stop the tremors was to have the sufferer ride in a horse and buggy very fast.  For some reason, speed calmed the body.  That’s how one of my young characters deals with it in The Surgeon (released 2003).

Before the rabies vaccine was invented by Louis Pasteur in France around 1885, everyone in the world was terrified of catching it.  Packs of rabid dogs were the scourge of North America and Europe.  In fact, it’s been said some of the first tales of vampires grew from the real-life witnessing of a rabid human being attacking the throat of another.

There is something riveting and powerful about overcoming these medical obstacles.  Of neighbors helping neighbors.  And about writing how women were finally allowed to study and enter the field of medicine.

katebridgessmallerwebphoto.jpgI always love to hear from people about personal details from history.  Tell me…what occupations did some of your grandparents or great-grandparents have back then?

One of my grandfathers was a wagon maker.

If you post a comment or a question on my blog today or tomorrow, we’ll enter your name in a draw to win one of four signed books— Klondike Fever (2) or Western Weddings (2). Kate


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90 thoughts on “When Doctors Made House Calls…. by Kate Bridges”

  1. Wow thats some great info my auntie had Parkisons disease. Oh and if I had lived back then I still probably would have been an aussie so no rabies to worry about. Thats some scary stuff (australia doesn’t have rabies). From whats read i think people back then were very inventive with natural remedies. I think they were also much fitter and healthier on a whole so would be less sick than people now days.

    I love the sound of Klondike Fever. it has a couple of elements that i love. The yukon area and Alaska and a Mountie! I read a book which featured a mountie that got me back into reading and I fell in love with the idea of the Mounties from an earlier era. Thanks for sharing

  2. forgot to say dont know alot of my family try but i know mums grand father was the oldest bullock driver in australia at one stay way over 90 at the time.
    her grandparents on her fathers side helped start one of the churches in the area.

  3. Hi! Thanks for responding all the way from Australia! I didn’t know that about the lack of rabies there. I used to live in Alberta, and they don’t have rats in the province, only mice. Weird, eh?

    Sorry to hear about your Aunt’s condition–hopefully she was young enough to have benefited from some modern medicines. Interesting about your history with reading about Mounties. Was it the book, Mrs. Mike? I read it for the first time after I’d written three Mountie novels of my own. What a heartbreaking book, Mrs. Mike, but so moving and well written!

    Your great-grandfather sounds like quite a hero! 🙂


  4. Good morning, everyone! It’s a sunny blue day in Toronto, and I’m happy to be here blogging. In between, I’m cleaning up my spring yard from a long icy winter.


  5. What a fascinating topic!

    Kate, I love how you fold your medical knowledge into your books. It really makes them something even more special.

    What online sources do you use for your medical research?

  6. Howdy, Kate! I have to tell you that I checked out your website yesterday after learning that you’d be visiting, and I fell in love with the cover for Klondike Fever! Wow, that guy is HOT! And then I read about the book and saw that his name is Dylan . . . and I’m partial to the name Dylan (it’s my son’s name 😉 ). I will definitely be getting this book!

    I recently found out that one of my great-great grandfathers made shaving razors for a living. My mother actually has one of those razors that he made. Let me say that razors have come a long way! 🙂

  7. One of my grandfathers was a farmer,an the other was a old timey Baptist preacher,from wearing clean overhalls to church to baptisting people in a cold creek,They were old when I was born,so my memories of them are not a lot,im 52 now,but those are what I remember the most

  8. One of my great grandfathers was a teamster. Another worked as a stockman before acquiring land of his own. Both were pioneers of the area where I live. On my mother’s side, one great grandfather emigrated from Scotland and took up land in central Queensland.
    One of my ancestors was brought to Australia as a convict on the 2nd fleet – something most of us aren’t ashamed to boast of these days!

  9. Hi Kimber–thanks for dropping by! A fellow Toronto writer! I just checked out your website–love the photo of Will Smith! 🙂

    Thank you for the compliment on my books. The medical websites I use for research are never the same from book to book. I Google all the time, plug in the name of the disease with the word ‘history’ attached to it, and see what it comes up with. I do visit medical museums when I can, and have some basic textbooks on anatomy and physiology I refer to. There’s a great apothocary building (they’ve turned it into a museum) in Niagara-on-the-Lake that I love to visit. It’s on the main street, filled with vials and potions as it was a hundred years ago. It must have been a wealthy area, because most Western towns didn’t have that much in supplies.

    For modern times, if I have a medical question (ie. for family or myself) the Mayo Clinic website is amazing. I go to it first, then will check out the Canadian Paediatric Society website for kids, etc.


  10. Hi Andrea!

    So nice of you to visit. LOL on the hot cover guy (I really love that cover, too). And what a coincidence on the name Dylan. That’s a real hero’s name, IMO!

    Shaving razors, eh? They were probably those long single blades with the leather strap. Sounds kind of sexy! Wouldn’t want to use one on my legs, though!


  11. Hi Heather! (who’s also blogging today, with fascinating details from Australia)

    You sure have a lot of cattlemen in your history! I wonder what your great grandfather did for a living in Scotland (must have handled livestock.)

    Wow, that convict story sounds like a great upcoming novel to me! You should write it. 🙂


  12. Kate, Wow, I’m so impressed with your medical knowledge and you are right, I did think they were far less knowledgeable back in those days than they were apparently. Perhaps because along with the growing knowledge, country people still clung to their home remedies and superstitious beliefs. Now I want to read your next books to learn more. Of course I’ve always had a soft spot for Mounties and Western men, perhaps because they always gets their man… and their woman? Lol

    The trampling by a horse was a very real danger. I recently visited Knole House in Seven Oaks, Kent (England) and the 4th Duke of Dorset was killed in a riding accident. He was only twenty-one. He was just reaching the age of herodom. Very sad.

    I do have a question. How do you deal with bullet wounds in fiction? They really did a lot of damage and with no antibiotics must have been dangerous. Are there places where a bullet can hit, yet the wound no be so debilitating so as to put the hero out of action for the rest of the book? It seems to me, most authors pick the shoulder?

    On the ancestry question, one of my grandfather’s was a sailor, he loved the sea, but his family made him come home and run the family business, a bakery, which prompty went bankrupt in the dirt thirties. My mom learned a lot from him and was a fabulous cook. I just wish some of it had rubbed off on me. On the other side of the family, the boys all went into military, and the women were soldiers’ wives, going way back, but the chain is broken. No one headed in that direction now.

    Great post, great question.

    Best wishes, Michele

  13. Welcome Kate!
    I am fascinated with your depth of knowledge and your intriguing books which feature such a wonderful locale. yes, it is amazing that these pioneers managed to thrive and persist even with the threats that could take place. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing.

  14. I love the fact that you have featured a lady-doctor… it is quite original! I also like to read those funny facts about medicine in those early days! I don’t know how they did it!

  15. House Calls… I am glad we don’t do much of those anymore. I also like doctors in books… however, I also like it when the information is correct, as I love to read about the history of medicine and all the progress that has been made in the last century.

  16. In England, doctors still make house calls. Not as often as they used to, but you can get the doctor out. It really surprised me when I moved over here.
    Anyway, I do love your books Kate and am looking forward to reading this one.

  17. I think it’s interesting how we (as a human race) have gained and lost knowledge so many times. Wonder what the world would be like if we retained the knowledge through times like the dark ages.

    One grandfather worked for the modern railroad, the other was farmer/rancher/soldier/engineer/and one of the first workers in natural resource districts. He’s 100 now with lots of stories to tell.

    His father was a dreamer. LOL Kinda like me. He wrote poems and cantatas and wasn’t too successful at farming or trying to grow an orchard in the sand hills of Nebraska. Once, as a trusting soul, he got involved with ‘selling land in texas’… if you know what I mean. That didn’t last once he figured out what was REALLY going on.

  18. Hi Kate,
    What an interesting post today. It is great to read about how you combine your historical writing with your medical training and know how. Your novels all sound impressive and wonderful. My son just graduated from Med. School and will be a pediatric resident.

  19. Enjoyed reading your post and learning a bit about the history of medicine. One of my grandfathers was a milkman and delivered door to door. My grandmother was a housekeeper who worked for well-to-do families. I’m not sure about the other two. Makes me curious now.

    Great cover on Klondike Fever. Both of your stories sound really good!

  20. Hi Michele!

    You have a very interesting family history of sailors and military men! (in England). Thank you for your comments on my stuff.

    By your question, everyone can guess you’re a writer. (I’ve got your latest here on my desk, waiting to be read, Brides of the West–can’t wait)!

    About bullet wounds. They are less dangerous in fleshy parts of the body, where there are no internal organs or bones. So, for instance, hitting any of the four limbs is not that bad (Of course it is, but for writing purposes you know what I mean!). Fleshy parts of the shoulder, and even a bullet graze around the ribs is survivable. Once a bullet enters an organ, though, such as kidney, liver, spleen, heart, etc, the bleeding would have been difficult to control back then. Even today it is. Hitting bone is survivable (arm or leg) but it usually won’t heal the way it was put together, unless it’s a graze, and not shattered into pieces (just say so in your story).

    Hitting the femur bone in the leg is disastrous. If the large veins and arteries are nicked, bleeding is profuse. Healing of a femur bone would result in some shrinkage, too, so there would be a permanent limp. However, there are so many variables in an individuals medical situation, you could conjure up many different scenarios and not have to worry too much that it’s unbelievable.

    Much of the severity of the wound depends on the type of bullet. Some bullets are small and go straight through something, where the entry and exit wounds are the same size. Some bullets expand when they hit an object (bone or flesh) and the exit wound is much larger than the entry wound. (Google what you need)

    Shotguns will ‘spray’ pellets or slugs when the trigger is pulled, so anyone in the line of fire would have several holes in their body. A rifle shoots more like a gun and has one direct hit. I’ve never used that difference in a book, so I would Google all the details first to make sure I’ve got it right.

    Then we get into the whole musket thing. Don’t ask me about that! But anyone writing about these weapons needs to research the trajectory, etc. Nothing too detailed, but a couple of hours on the internet will make you seem so much wiser when you write it in a book.

    About penicillin…it’s true they never used penicillin until the 2nd World War, but people did survive without it. I’m sure every family has its story of survivors in WWI or in the late 1800s of some horrible accident/illness that they overcame. Those are the heroes we write about, and the ones who unfortunately don’t make it because of lack of antibiotics are the secondary characters.

    They did have poultices made of certain things that they applied to pull out the infection, etc., so it’s quite believable in your novel if you had a character survive with a home remedy. I think, in general, authors are very cautious in writing about gory accidents because of fear of getting things wrong. I think there’s a lot more leeway to sock it to ’em! Especially in historicals, when we can excuse the other characters for not knowing what to do to help.


  21. Hi Kate – Waving from sunny California where we might see triple digits this weekend. I loved your blog about medical procedures and interventions back in the olden days! I guess Hollywood put those notions of backwoods doctors in our heads. Loved your covers, Klondike Fever is awesome and of course, Western Weddings is “very” beautiful. Hope to do another anthology with you one day.

    For those who don’t know this, Kate will be joining the Fillies in a few months as a permanent blogger! Welcome!

  22. It was great learning about your historicals and the background which you have researched so well. I enjoy the Westerns which you have written which portray the integrity and grit of the settlers and their hopes and fears. Incorporating medicine within the stories is appealing and makes for interesting reading. Thanks for this lovely journey back.

  23. Going way back my relatives on both sides fought in the Revolutionary War. Most were farmers and one was burned at the stake by the Indians.

    Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was so popular – did you find the medical terms and knowledge accurate for that time period?

  24. Ellie–thank you for your comments. I agree–they were amazing pioneers and just dove right into things. What a work ethic.

    Nathalie–oh, thanks! You must have read that book. 🙂 I don’t know how those people did it, either!

    Lily–glad to hear you’re fascinated about medical details. I could go on and on about them myself, and do find it most interesting when applied to a certain character, to see how they handle things.

    Victoria B and Michelle S–So nice of you to drop by! Thank you for your lovely words and for being here. 🙂 Fellow HH authors, and writers of extraordinary times!


  25. Lizzie–I often wonder that myself, about the knowledge we’ve lost over the years because people weren’t able to record it. LOL on the dreamer in your family!

    Alissa–thank you! Congratulations on your son graduating from med school! You must be very proud. And pediatrics is a really special place to work.

    Kammie–I remember those door-to-door milkmen! On our farm, we also had a baker who drove door-to-door with fresh-baked bread and goodies every Saturday morning. I loved when he arrived….

    Charlene–thank you for that welcome! Triple digits in California? Wow!! Hope it’s not too hot for RWA in San Francisco. I won’t mind, though, it’ll be an adventure. I’m really looking forward to being a permanent blogger here. You’re all so friendly! 🙂


  26. Anne, thank you. I’m so glad you enjoy the stories. I love putting that medical detail into them.

    Karen–wow, what a history, and sorry to hear about that relative burned at the stake. I can’t imagine. It all seems like such distant history until we know someone in our past it happened to. Dr. Quinn–yes, they were accurate in their portrayals. I’m sure they had researchers and staff on hand who were actual doctors themselves. That’s how most of these TV shows seem to do it these days. You know who I really like? Dr. Sanja Gupta (not sure of the spelling)–the doctor who gives medical advice on CNN. He’s cute and smart!

    Great questions and comments, I’m enjoying this!


  27. Hey, ladies, can you send some sunshine my way? I woke up to snow on the ground again, arggghhh! That was very interesting to read about Parkinsons and rabies, that’s something I never knew. It is intriguing to read old medical articles.

  28. Hi Lynn- I’ll gladly send you some sunshine. We have an abundance today!

    Kate- SF has really weird weather. The summer there isn’t usually warm at all. I froze at night in July, the daytime temps average in the high 60’s, low 70’s but the nights get quite cool. But then you never know, in Reno’s RWA they said it never rained in August and we had Thunderstorms and torrential rain while going to the HQ party!

  29. Hi Kate – great topic and GREAT stories! I have both the Klondike books because we lived in Whitehorse for several years and everything about the Klondike fascinated me. One day I hope to go back and actually hike the Chilkoot, but with the boys being babies/toddlers when we lived there, it just wasn’t possible. Looking forward to the new anthology!!

  30. Happy Saturday to all,

    We had a wonderful doctor during our childhood years and he actually made housecalls. I can remember my youngest sister being bitten by a
    dog. Dr. Willard Pratt came to the house and he stitched her throat wound closed in the living room. Back to question: My paternal grandfather
    was a carpenter who helped my Dad build our
    house. My maternal grandfather worked in the
    Brown Shipyards, here in the Houston area,
    helping to build the ships used in W.W. II. When
    he retired from that job, he went to work for
    the city parks department. He loved taking care
    of “his park” (Hermann Park) These two men had
    a work ethic you would not believe! A man took care of his family!

    Pat Cochran

  31. Hi Kate, what a great post. There is a lot on info in this post. I have an uncle with parkinsons, its not a pretty site. These books sound fantastic also. I would love to win.

  32. I too think alot about women giving birth back then..having had 2 children myself (in a hospital…with lots of drugs..LOL) I really can not imagine being out in the middle of nowhere with little to no help while giving birth.

    I was just watching LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE (one of my all time faves)….Doc Baker was saying he might start clucking soon…everyone was paying him in chickens…he was trying to givem them away! LOL.. life was so different back then…people helping other people! If people were not caring and generous back in those days..nobody would have made it very well.

    I dont know a whole lot about my family’s history..it’s sad, because I’d really like to know more! My grandfather did fight in W.W. II..he got a purple heart!

    My husbands family actualy mostly came from Ireland. They ended up in America sometime a long time ago and they worked as fabric dyers…..and I think I am correct in assuming that alot of times people took their last names from their trade..so, now I am Melissa Dyer… atleast I have a little history, even if it’s not my own 😉

    Thanks for the awesome blog Kate! have a great weekend

  33. I do not know much about my great grandparents and what they did… I am disappointed in not knowing much of the past… Just little tidbits like my great grandfather came here from Sicily. My grandmother’s mother was Irish, My grandfather’s line has Lenope Indian in it somewhere, and my dad’s ancestors were known as Hillbillies or Ridgerunners… That’s all folks!!!

  34. Hi Kate,
    You had a lot of interesting information in your post. I don’t know what they all did but my I had a great-grandfather whose family built ships in Denmark but he sailed away to come to America where he met his wife who was also from Denmark and she was a maid.

  35. Lots of interesting backgrounds! My one grandfather was a sheep herder in Sicily and came here and farmed. Another was a fisherman in Sicily. In America they owned a very small grocery store and then a very small restaurant in the south. My dad then moved up north and had a variety of jobs until settling on a grocery store and then a hardware store. Unfortunately the small businesses were put out of business from large malls moving in.

  36. I suppose it wasn’t easy to survive anywhere back in those days. For instance here in Finland you were lucky if you lived past your tenth birthday. Like my great grandmother. From all the children of my great great grandparents she was the only one to live long enough to get married and have children.

  37. Hi Lynn–where do you live? Could it be north of Edmonton, Alberta? I hear they had snow last week. How frustrating, wherever you are! Thanks for dropping by.

    Charlene–the weather in SF would explain some things I was wondering about. I’m taking family with me to California (including my teenage daughter and niece), and can’t find any hotels with outdoor swimming pools. I was thinking that was odd for California, but if it’s not that warm overnight, that explains it.

    Laura–hi! Lucky you for living in Whitehorse. The air sure smells clear and pure up there. Hiking the Chilkoot? That would be fun. We were lazy and rented a car!

    Patricia–that sounds like quite a nice doctor to tend to your sister that way. I’m impressed with your ship-building grandfather. I can just picture the shipyards (even though I’ve never seen one!)

    Virginia–thanks for your comments. Sorry about your uncle. Good luck on the draw! One of the Fillies will be choosing the winners–2 today, 2 tomorrow.

    Melissa–lol on Doc Baker clucking. I used to watch that show a lot, too. How interesting about the fabric dyers in your history. Now there’s an interesting occupation rarely mentioned in Historicals! Yeah, you probably did get your name from that. Thanks for the reminder on that tidbit of history!


  38. Colleen–very passionate people in your family, with the Italian and Irish blend! And then the Lenope Indian and Hillbillies…quite a family tree!

    Maureen–Denmark is a place I’d love to visit. Your great-grandparents’ meeting sounds very romantic.

    Jeanne–that’s so interesting to hear how your family transported their skills from overseas and how they passed them down through the generations.

    Minna–You’re emailing from Finland? How cool! Your great grandmother sounds like she had to live through a difficult life. Glad she made it!


  39. Hi Kate, welcome to our little corner of the world. It’s great to have you. Hope you have a good time. Loved reading your post about the early doctors. They really had things hard back then but they were so dedicated.

    Love the cover of your new book! It looks great. Best of wishes with it.

  40. Hi Kate, I love your post today! I just finished a book on Civil War Medicine and the ingenuity in the surgical instruments, especially for removing bullets and deciding what,when and how to amputate was really interesting for me. The thought process behind the various procedures to ensure maximum return to a productive lifestyle for the wounded soldiers was not what I expected, especially with all the stories out there about the surgeons who butchered their patients. The book is titled “Civil War Medicine” by C. Keith Wilbur, M.D. if anyone is interested.

    As far as jobs, my whole family is from Greece. My paternal grandfather was the town mayor and also a sheepherder and he owned the only local tavern which was the bottom floor of his house. My maternal grandfather was a shoemaker also in Greece before coming to the US to work in the copper mines. My grandmothers were mothers and wives (in that order by the way). That’s just how things were.

    Can I ask you where you worked as a PICU nurse? I work at Children’s in D.C. and it’s always an adventure.

    Thanks again for your post. Have a wonderful weekend.

  41. Hi Kate,
    That was a fascinating post. One grandapa was a farmer and the other worked for a Belgian bank in Hong Kong.

  42. Both of my Grandparents were farmers and had cows,chickens, pigs lived off there land basically my Grandmother made quilts and soaps. I loved the info in your post especailly about the vampires. I know i am glad I live in todays medical offerings when it comes to child birth I don’t think i could’ve survived it back them. Wonderful post.

  43. What a great post. I love reading about medical history. My ancestors were farmers, mill workers and coal miners.

  44. Kate,
    I live on Lake Superior in NW Wisconsin and the whole area is still getting snow. It’s warmed up enough now that it’s not sticking but I bet it will again tonight.

  45. Am looking forward to reading Klondike Fever. I don’t have a clue to what my grandfathers occupations were. They were both gone long before I was born. My grandmothers were housewives.

  46. My great-grandfather was a teacher in both Wales and the States. My grandfather dropped out of the 6th grade and became a miner to help bring in money. At 17 he lied about his age and joined the army to fight in the Mexican Border War followed by WWI and WWII. He was forced out of the military at the start of the Korean Conflict because of his age.

    My doctor still makes house calls!

  47. Linda–thanks for the welcome and the kind words! You have a lively place here. 🙂

    Za–nice of you to drop by! The Civil War book sounds interesting–I’ll take note of the title and author, thank you. I agree about those bullet extractors–I have a couple of books on antique medical instruments. They sure look scary, but it is astonishing the detail and the number of instruments they used back then. That’s wonderful about your working at Children’s Hospital in D.C.! The place must be busy. I worked in Edmonton Alberta in the PICU and NICU, then moved to Toronto where I worked at Mount Sinai and then McMaster Children’s Hospital. I have never been able to put a seriously ill child in one of my books! They’re always adults. (although there was a stillbirth in one story before the book opened) It’s tragic but it did happen.

    Jane–Hi! A Belgian bank in Hong Kong? Imagine what his life must’ve been like, working in Hong Kong decades ago. Fascinating.

    Lori–I found the vampire stuff interesting, too. I cannot imagine what it must be like to witness a person having rabies and not being able to do anything about it. (sounds like a horror book, not romance!)

    Crystal–Your ancestors sound hardworking, too. Thanks for posting.

    Lynn–wow, that’s not that far north to be getting snow. I hope it warms up for you soon!


  48. Estella–thank you. I don’t know what all of my ancestors did, either. I wish I knew more, like many of you here say. My mom doesn’t even know what some of them they died of, since they didn’t have doctors close by. Diabetes must have killed many, without anyone realizing what they had. They must’ve just slipped into a coma and were gone within hours.

    Susan–your grandfather sounds like quite the adventurous spirit! An admirable man. You’re lucky your doctor still makes house calls–I guess there are pockets of geography where they still do (as Michelle S was saying earlier about England.)


  49. Hey, Kate!

    I’ve been helping with my family’s garage sale all day today, but wanted to hop on and say hi! (It always slays me how shoppers will dicker over a quarter. sigh . . . )

    Anyway, my grandfather once worked for the Italian police and then became a shoemaker here in America. My maternal grandfather was a farmer from Germany, and my cousin still farms his land today.

    Great to have you here!

  50. Kate, your post about the bullet wounds was fascinating. In the story I’m presently writing, my hero is shot in the shoulder. Thanks for all the research tips. Do you have a medical background yourself, or is it just a topic that interests you in particular?


  51. I am fascinated with your background and all the research for your wonderful novels. These books all appeal to me since they portray the lifestyle and I can picture these locales vividly. Your writing is special and these stories wonderful.

  52. Kate, I read a series by Janette Oke called the Canadian West, but it was the first book that got me hooked. They moved to a remote part of the west in canada living in the wilderness with mainly Indians. but something about the book made me fall in love with Mounties and canada.
    I actually got there last year to BC mainly Vancouver and then up to Pemberton near whistler.
    but im going back

  53. Hi Pam! — It’s definitely garage sale weather out there, isn’t it? Now I know summer’s coming. LOL on the haggling over a quarter. I didn’t know you had an Italian background, but it sure makes sense with your gorgeous black hair and complexion. My husband’s family originally came from Germany–those farmlands are really beautiful. (we visited once many moons ago)

    Heather–Are you up already on the other side of the world? Those 8 hrs flew by! Glad you found the bullet material useful. Yes, I have a background in nursing, for ten years. Now I try to combine that medical stuff with my writing, although I never planned it that way. I never would have guessed, when I started writing Westerns, that I would be drawn to include so much medical research. I think we as writers tend to discover ourselves as our stories unfold.

    Pearl–Thank you for your lovely comments!

    Ausjenny (I’m thinking this means Jenny from Australia)–I’ve never bumped into that book myself, but her name seems awfully familiar. Maybe I saw it in the library when I was researching. I’m glad you got to see BC! I was in Vancouver 2 yrs ago. It’s gorgeous. And not too big–not as big as Toronto–so it’s easier to get around without the huge traffic tie-ups. And their vegetation is so lush, it feels like a rainforest.


  54. I enjoyed your post, Kate, and plan on reading your books. It’s good to get away from today’s high-tech world through fiction, and I love the way you bring in the medical aspects.

    Both of my parents’ families lived in the north Georgia mountains and did some farming. My dad drove a school bus when he was 14. And my granddad made some furniture which we have in our house – a cedar chest, chiffarobe (sp?), even a fiddle.

    My mother’s dad abandoned his family when mother was only 2, so my grandmother had to be pretty tough.

    Thanks for all the treasured memories you’ve brought to my mind today!

  55. Yes Katie Ausjenny is Jenny from australia (but the other is easier to type.) She is a christian author and has many books out. the love come softly books she wrote and have now been made into films.
    the first book was when breaks the dawn (of the canadian west series)

    Australia being so an island and so far from the other countries was able to keep out rabies (for one an animal with rabies would need to take a long voyage to get here and would have died before getting here) also our quarentine laws are so stick they keep alot of things out. its just a pitty it didn’t keep the rabbits and foxes out.

  56. Carole, thank you for your comments. You have an interesting history. I admit, I laughed when you said your dad drove a school bus at 14. It reminded me of my father-in-law teaching my daughter how to drive when she was 10, on the back roads of his property (just a few years ago, without me knowing). You must treasure those furniture items your granddad made. And indeed, I bet your grandmother was a very tough woman.


  57. Whne I lived in Montreal many years ago we had a doctor who came to the house. With three children and all young this G.P. was known through the city for his dedication and skills. Your fascinating look at this era and the trials and tribulations mentioned has sparked my interest in your writing.

  58. Kate, I just looked at your website and enjoyed your pictures of the Yukon.I travelled there in May last year – more snow than in your photos! I went horse-riding and canoing on a lake – was a wonderful experience.

    Skagway is a fascinating town.


  59. I don’t really know anything about my great grandparents but I know my grandfather worked for the naval shipyard in Philadelphia, PA. I was supposed to work in the office there after I took the civil service test but it ended up closing down. I hope everyone is having a great weekend.

  60. Hi Mary–good luck on your 1880 doctor! Sounds like you’re well into the research. Sometimes I find myself getting sidetracked by some interesting fact that gives a whole new dimension to an illness or situation.

    Jenna–thank you for your comments! That’s great you were able to get a G.P. to visit the house, especially when kids were young. How handy!

    Stacey–howdy! Thanks for the welcome! 🙂

    Janet–I bet the shipyard in PA was huge, being on the east coast and all. And yes, I’m having a great weekend, thank you!


  61. very interesting about the medicine(stop tremors of Parkinsons by fast riding; I’d have hated to have lived back then when it came time for the need of pain pills– I do wander how they survived as they did.
    Both grandpas were farmers; one worked for the railroad before obtaining land.

  62. Robyn–hi! I would have missed the pain pill part, too, and am glad I live in these times. Thanks for posting.

    I’m going to call it a night, all! Keep the posts coming because I’ll be back tomorrow to chat some more. The Fillies will take care of announcing the winners when they pick them. Have a good night, everyone. Thanks for sharing your stories today.


  63. That is interesting about your post about doctors making house calls. On the news a few days ago, they had a story about some doctors picking up the practice again and making house calls.

    Oh, and welcome to the blog Kate!

  64. Hello! First, I want to say that I LOVE your books.

    Fascinating post! I am not sure the occupations of some of my ancestors…I know there were a few soldiers, some farmers, and a store-owner or two. But I don’t really know a whole lot about it. My grandmother does genealogy so maybe I will ask her about their occupations.

  65. Love to read about medical stuff. I loved Medicine Woman Great show. My grandfather had Parkinsons. He died at 56 when combined with heart problems his heart exploded. My family’s background is mostly into farming, however my grandmother’s father ran a still.

    Love the idea of house calls at least back then doctors went into medicine because they actually cared for people. Now I think most of them do it for the money. No one has any common since anymore, the better technology gets the dumber people get sometimes.

    Love the sound of your books. Can’t wait to read them.

  66. Jennifer, thank you so much for your compliment!! It would be interesting to ask your grandmother about their occuptions, I agree.

    Kathleen–I wonder if some doctors around here might start up the practice again, too. I saw something a couple of years ago in the news, but nothing every came of it.


  67. As always, a great informative post! Thanks, Kate. Looking forward to your permanent residence LOL. I recall looking up a few things I saw on Dr. Quinn (one of my all-time fave shows) and they seemed pretty accurate, like intubation…my great-grampa taught school, boys on one side, girls the other. 🙂 My great-grandma’s dad marched with Gen. Tecumseh Sherman in the civil war. However, he got discharged due to dysentery (sp.) just prior to the march to the sea.

  68. Good morning, everyone! Hope you all enjoyed Saturday night. It’s another beautiful sunny day in Toronto–and I’m here for more questions and comments today.

    Tanya–thank you for your comments! That’s fascinating about the Dr. Quinn episode with intubation–I missed that one. Now I’ll have to do some research about intubation. 🙂 Interesting occupations with your great-grandpas. And in one case, your great-great grandpa. You’re lucky to know so much about your history.


  69. As for occupatios, well, in countryside there weren’t that many options for my relatives: you were either a farmer, farmers wife, farm-hand, maid, dependent lodger… And it was hard life, especially if there had been a few really cold nights at summer: it meant famine at winter. For instance here we have a small statue (hands holdning an empty bowl) by the church in memory of all those people who died of famine in 1860s.

  70. Kate,
    Love to see how you’re writing about the Klondike. It’s so fascinating. Banff recently had a wonderful exhibtion of pictures at their museum–beautiful black and white photos of the trip to the Klondike.


  71. Thank you all for chatting with me over the weekend. I enjoyed our conversation!

    Congratulations to all the winners–Minna, Maureen, Andrea W and Kammie.

    I’ll see ya ’round. Take care!


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