Today, the idea that we might pay the doctor with a chicken has become a political joke that everyone is making fun of, and has become a political liability, perhaps, to the person who brought the idea to national prominence and considerable ridicule. However, in earlier and harder times, paying the doctor with a chicken, or even with anything else of some value, minimal or otherwise, was the only way poor people could pay doctors and often the only wages doctors received. Following are some photos of a sculpture of a little boy and his mother bringing a chicken to pay a kindly doctor. This sculpture is located at the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George UT. I have posted these photos before, but the popular discussion of the topic warrants showing them again.
The sculptor has captured perfectly the look of kindly compassion on the doctor's face and the looks of anticipation and concern on the faces of the little boy and his mother.
Many people had no money, or precious little during the Great Depression of the 1930s, including my parents. My dad was gone more often than he was home during this troubled decade. When my little sister became seriously ill, my parents took him to a town 12 miles away to see the doctor. In Mother's account book appears this item: "picture to Doc Tom for $5 doctor bill." My dad had just begun making inlaid wood pictures during the middle 1930s, and they paid for this visit with one of his very first pictures. Some sixty-five years later, Doc Tom's daughter called me, whose husband was also a retired physician, and told me about the picture. She said it had hung in her parent's living room all the years she was home, and then hung on the wall in her home for all of the decades since. She told me that the picture belonged to me and our family, and she wanted to give it to us. The picture had been sadly neglected and, with age, the inlaid veneer and frame were peeling. My sister, ironically the sister for whom the picture paid the doctor bill, and her husband lovingly and beautifully restored the picture to its original condition. Now the picture hangs on the wall in my bedroom and I cannot look at it without my eyes clouding over. On the back etched with a wood burning pen are the words "R. M. Blood Dec. 1935." Here is the picture:
Since this inlaid picture was one of the first ones Dad ever made, the design is simplistic. Over his lifetime, he completed hundreds of complex inlaid pictures. He became an expert in sizing up patterns and varieties of woods to use to display artistically mountains and animals and Victorian houses and cowboys and many other things. But this picture, perhaps among the very first, is an icon and a tribute to his perseverance during the Depression and a tribute to the kindness of Doc Tom and, subsequently, of his daughter, who recognized its worth to our family.