More Prairie Doctor

31 March 2016

More Prairie Doctor
by Lewis Draper
Published by High Hill House Publishers
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$23.75 ISBN 978-0-9809669-3-0

Lewis Draper, a medical doctor and one-time NDP MLA for Assiniboia-Gravelbourg, enjoys telling stories about his colourful life, and he does not mince words when he picks up the pen. One patient he refers to in his self-published book, More Prairie Doctor, puts it succinctly: “‘You have a reputation for speaking your mind, Doc, and telling folks how many beans make five.’” It’s true: the man is not meek.

In this new title, which follows Draper’s three previously-published books, he anecdotally shares thoughts and experiences on a wide range of subjects, including his blatant disillusion with the NDP government that closed fifty-one rural Saskatchewan hospitals; pilot training; pet tales (including raccoons); his globetrotting eldest daughter’s adventures; the purchase of a Rolls Royce, carpets, a hotel in Moose Jaw; his involvement in civic and provincial politics; abortion; and, perhaps most importantly, he introduces us to several of the prairie people he came to know and help both medically and otherwise during his twenty years as a dedicated GP living and practicing in Gravelbourg.

One learns much about the author in his opening “Apology”. He writes: “I believe these narratives are an important record of what rural, solo physicians working in isolated areas sometimes hundreds of miles from expert advice can accomplish, even in a blizzard in the depths of Winter using ‘a bent nail and a sharp penny’”. He also maintains that “It is equally important to inform a newly nascent generation of city-bred politicians, bureaucrats, and administrators what their grandparents and great-grandparents had to face in their efforts to build our New Jerusalem in Saskatchewan’s Green and Pleasant Land – pace Tommy Douglas.”

After his medical training in Glasgow, Draper and family settled in Canada and he began his practice at Lafleche Union Hospital, but that “union” was to be short-lived: the family was ordered to “get [their] horses out of town immediately,” or leave. The Drapers did the latter and moved to Gravelbourg, where the bulk of the stories in this book are based. The doctor – who was sometimes even called upon to treat animals – eventually became a council member, then the town’s mayor, before being elected to the SK Legislature.

Draper’s distinctive voice is evident in the following excerpts. Upon completing his flight-training circuits: “As with everything, after a successful first time it’s a doddle – even sex!” Words about “city bureaucrats”: “ … they lead blinkered lives that can only see the bottom line in a warped system of bookkeeping that treats us all as if we were factory-made widgets.” After treating a local teen who’d hit a barbed-wire fence on her snowmobile and required several facial stitches: “Any old fool can check blood-pressures. This is the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding of medical practice.”

Draper’s array of topics, political passion, jocularity, and tendency to leap between wildly diverse subjects call to mind a spirited Saskatchewan “coffee row”. Whether you agree with him or not, one thing is certain: you will be entertained by this outspoken prairie doctor.


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