Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America

Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America

by Bo Brock


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626342644
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 92,631
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Dr. Bo Brock, DVM, owns a thriving, multi-species veterinary clinic in Lamesa, Texas (population 9,207 and sometimes referred to as “the middle of nowhere”). He graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M University and was voted equine practitioner of the year for the state of Texas in 2007.

In addition to his thriving veterinary practice and moonlighting as an author, Bo is an active public speaker and adjunct professor at Texas Tech University.

Read an Excerpt

Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere

Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America

By Bo Brock

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2014 Dr. Bo Brock
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-264-4



I wonder what being me would be like without the group of closeknit people that make up my family. I'm older now and most of them have passed on, but I see them so differently now than when I was young. They were all I knew as a kid. I guess I just supposed that every family, everywhere, was just like ours, only with different bodies. But I was wrong. My family was its own unique group of characters, the likes of which I haven't seen since.

I watched them work and learned my views of the world and values just by being with them. They were all so diverse and different, yet they all operated with an unspoken motif: happiness and laughter. They all were funny people. They taught me how to find the funny side of life, and they taught me how to appreciate laughter by respecting crying, and disarming anger.

Seeing your children grow up is an amazing thing. I watched them be born, and I took them to college and cried when I left them. I spent my young adulthood focusing on how to instill the same values in them that all those old people had instilled in me, which means I am the old guy now. I have had more laughs, more tears, more fear, more anger, and more emotion over all from them than anything life has offered.

This collection of family stories is first in this book because I wanted to share where I came from and how I wound up in the middle of nowhere. Before I go off on yarns about the life of a veterinarian, I want to give a little introduction to how the values of rural America were instilled in me from my earliest days and how I have tried to instill it in my babies.


My grandmother, Nonny, grew up in a family of five sisters and one brother. She and her siblings shaped me and gave me my perspective on life. They were rural, moral, salt-of-the-earth people who held firm to their beliefs and spent their entire lives honing their keen senses of humor.

This moment in time starts with my great-uncle J. W., the lone brother in the family, making a trip to the booming city of Amarillo, Texas. While his wife was undergoing some tests at a hospital there, he would stay with two of the sisters, my Nonny and Jo Anna.

For as long as I can remember, Nonny and Jo Anna were naggers. They weren't mean or ugly, just a little hardheaded, and if something wasn't just how they thought it should be, they would tell you about it over and over until you fixed it like they wanted. Every time I saw them, they would nag me about my moustache, or my constant wearing of a cap, or me working too many hours. They would harp on it endlessly, until it almost drove me crazy.

J. W., a farmer/rancher who didn't come to town very often, had arrived in Amarillo with his truck bed full of the tools of his trade: a saddle, some wrenches, a few bits, some plow shanks, and a saw or two. When Nonny and Jo Anna saw the state of his pickup, the nagging began.

"J. W., you better lock that stuff up before you go to the hospital or someone'll steal it. You ain't in Brice. This is the big city, and people are just aching to take stuff like that."

The nagging continued even as his climbed in the cab and drove out of the driveway. I am sure after growing up with this bunch, he had learned to let it go in one ear and out the other.

The sisters, arriving at the hospital a little while later, found J. W.'s pickup in the parking lot. They parked next to it and checked the doors. Sure enough, he hadn't locked them. And all his stuff was still piled in the truck bed just waiting to be pilfered. Being the crafty women they were, they decided to take matters into their own hands by putting all his tools in their trunk. That would show J. W. not to leave all his stuff unattended in the big city.

How I wish I could have seen those two old women shuttling all that stuff out of J. W.'s truck and into their trunk. It must have taken them thirty minutes! Some of that stuff was heavy, but they managed to move every bit of it before heading inside to check on their sister-in-law.

Saying nothing of what they had done, they visited with J. W. and his wife, giggling to each other for no apparent reason and exchanging sly smirks. They were just waiting for him to discover his empty truck and learn his lesson about taking their advice to "lock them things up."

About an hour later, one of the sisters noticed that the pickup they had parked next to was gone. (The window of the hospital room conveniently looked out on the parking lot.)

"Why, J. W., someone stole your pickup," Nonny said as she gazed at the empty spot next to her car.

Unconcerned, J. W. strolled to the window. He said, "No, they didn't. I parked over there, next to the fence."

Nonny and Jo Anna's faces went white. They looked like two little girls who were about to be sent to the principal's office. Their trunk now held all the tools from some other country bumpkin's pickup — and he was gone. How would they ever find him to give all that stuff back? Worse yet, what if he came back with the police and they found all of that stuff in their trunk?

I laugh hard every time I think about that moment. They actually called the TV station and asked them to put the event on the six o'clock news so that whomever they had robbed could get his stuff back. The TV station declined, so they had to call the police, explain the entire humiliating event, and hand the stuff over.

Nonny died on the last day of 2005. She was over ninety and still just as feisty as she was the day she robbed some cowboy of all his tools. We miss her deeply.


Even though my Papaw was a farmer/rancher, my Mamaw would iron his work clothes every day. I could never understand why. Most days, Papaw never saw anyone but me and maybe a few other crusty farmers.

Mamaw mixed up her own starch in a glass Coke bottle topped with cork/metal cap that had a multitude of holes in it, like a saltshaker. She would sprinkle Papa's pants with the starch, and hang them over a chair for a few minutes so they could dry a bit, and then apply the heat of the iron to them.

Because I watched her do this through my childhood, I considered it normal. I just figured that every old woman in the world did it — it was all I had ever known. But, as the years passed, I began to question this practice. Why in the world did Papaw need his work clothes ironed? Mamaw never ironed my clothes, and there was no way I saw any use in doing it for myself. Heck, my clothes were usually so dirty by 9:00 a.m. that any sign of ironing would be long gone.

One day when I was about thirteen, I asked Mamaw about it. I wanted to know why she thought it necessary to invest time and effort pressing clothes that were rarely seen and would be filthy in just a short time.

Her reply was as sweet a sentiment as I have ever heard.

She told me that Papaw was the most handsome man in the world. She said he was her best friend and the love of her life. She loved every chance she got to show him off and make the rest of the world jealous that he was hers. She went on to say, "You just never know when Papaw might run into someone, and I want him to look the part of the most handsome man God ever made."

I looked closely at Papaw later that day. He sure didn't look all that handsome to me. He was a short, skinny man with a relatively big fanny compared to his shoulders. His hair was thin on top, and his false teeth didn't line up too good when he smiled. He wore hornrimmed glasses that were much too big for his face because all he cared about was being able to see. I really didn't see how anyone could consider this man the most handsome one God ever made.

So, I asked her about it a few days later. I informed her that I had closely observed ol' Elmo Brown and most certainly didn't see him as the most handsome man on earth.

She giggled and gave me a girlish smile that grandmothers just shouldn't be able to express at that age.

"You just aren't looking in the right light, Turdhead. He is the most beautiful man God ever made. Those eye wrinkles haven't always been there. I remember when he had real teeth. He has the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen. They are exactly the same color as the sky just before the sun goes down. His entire face lights up when he smiles, and his voice is so calming and full that everyone in nine counties wants to hear him talk."

Say what? My Papaw had always been an old man as far as I was concerned. I never knew him any other way. Was Mamaw actually wanting me to consider that Papaw used to be young? Ha ha ha ha, no way!

She continued, "I want him to feel beautiful! I iron his clothes every day because for all these years, he has made me feel beautiful. He is a man worthy of respect. I want him to look the part every day. I wouldn't have it any other way."

I heard what she said and was kinda grossed out. It was ridiculous to me, and I just decided to forget I had ever asked. How could this old woman think that an old man with false teeth was beautiful? Old people ... sheesh, I thought.

I watched Mamaw and Papaw grow old together. I was probably thirty when it dawned on me what beauty really was — it was Mamaw ironing Papaw's pants with starch from a Coke bottle, and she taught me how to see the world that way.


"Good throw!" Papaw shouted as I completed my first back-of-the-pickup rope sling.

I caught the sick calf around the neck on the first attempt and, at twelve years old, no words could have made my head swell bigger than that kind of "atta boy" from him.

I called my grandfather "Papaw," and he called me "Turdhead." He was my hero. He had the patience of Job as he taught me how to whirl a rope and size my loop. He taught me to keep the slack until just the right moment when I could close the loop down on my target.

It has been a while since he died, but just today I remembered him deeply with the fond memories that come only after the sting of loss has passed, revealing the voice he left to guide me. It was his voice I heard with each item I removed from the trailer.

My wife, Kerri, and I finally got a barn out beside our house so that I could move the things Papaw left to me out of storage. The day after Papaw died, I loaded up all the things in the barn that he had told me would be mine when he passed and packed them neatly into the stock trailer that had belonged to his dad. The trailer and all my treasures had been in storage since a few days after he died.

It took me hours to move those pieces of our shared history from the trailer to the barn. Each nugget brought back a moment that he and I had spent together, of Papaw teaching me, and me not even knowing there was a lesson in progress. He made learning the lessons of life such fun that it wasn't until years later — long after I had grown into a man — that I realized how much he had taught me and how much time he spent doing it.

As I dug through my treasures, I uncovered a bottle of Thermic Liniment. It must have been thirty years old. He used it on every sore horse we ever had; he said it "pulled out the swellin'." Papaw could fix anything that was ailing, and he was especially particular about how to care for our animals. Everything had to be done correctly and at the right time. Even though he was just caring for the animals in his charge, he gave me an incredible passion to care for critters that lives on today.

He would often ask me what I thought the horse I was on might be thinking. He would tell me that if I would look at things through the horse's eyes, it would open up an entirely new world. Through the eyes of critters, I would find an entirely new perspective.

* * *

"Good throw!" Papaw shouted as I completed my first back-of-the-pickup rope sling around the sick calf 's neck. The thing he hadn't told me was what I was supposed to do next. The calf may have been sick, but he still weighed five hundred pounds, and I only weighed in at about eighty-five. I watched as the coils of rope in my hand got smaller and smaller and the calf got farther and farther away. In a panic, I dallied to the nearest thing in sight, a CB antenna coming off the truck's headache rack. Well, the antenna had broken off years before, and all that remained was the spring that made up the base. This, of course, was not going to slow down that calf.

As the tension reached the spring, the knot on the end of the rope hit my hand. Not wanting to disappoint my hero, I held on to that knot for dear life. The next thing I heard, as I went airborne, was Papaw's voice: "Let go of the rope, Turdhead!" He was saying it over and over, and the sound was getting softer and softer as the calf pulled me in the direction of his momma. By now, letting go was not an option. The bracket of the antenna had wedged between my hand and the rope, and I was being pulled along like a rag doll.

The only thing I remember hurting while I was being pulled was my left ear. I must have been surfing on that ear for about a hundred yards before any other part of my body hit the ground. The dragging began to slow as the calf wore down and he approached his destination, stopping just short of his momma.

Being twelve years old and made of rubber, I hopped right on up and jumped on the calf like I was a rodeo clown. By the time Papaw got to us, I had the calf tied up and was working him over.

If you can tell how bad a dragging is by the amount of dirt in your underwear, this had been one monumental drag. I had enough earth in my britches to grow potatoes! As I got up to walk away, gravity took control and it filled up my boots.

I miss Papaw. I miss his view of life. I miss being called Turdhead. I wish I had told him how much he influenced me and how I watched him and hung on his every word. I'm grateful he was alive to see me become a veterinarian, a mission that he instilled in me through his own example.

In his own way, Papaw displayed how proud he was without ever saying those words. I wish he were here now to read how the words he spoke to me as we rode through the weeds and mosquitoes gave me a whole new perspective. I wish he were here now to give me the guidance I still need and to fill my world with his thoughts, but I guess I'll have to settle for the voice he left to guide me.

More Papaw

There are just some things that make a difference in your life — things you will never forget — but you may not realize how important they are when they happen. This moment was one of those.

My dad died the year before I started vet school, and all the money my mother had for the rest of her life was a measly life insurance policy. I had worked hard to have enough money to pay for that first year of vet school. I knew I wouldn't get much financial aid because that life insurance policy made it look like my mother had made a huge amount of money in one year, disqualifying me for grants or loans. By about three-quarters of the way through that first year, I was broke. I mean really broke.

I was so broke, I lived on oatmeal and rode a frickin' moped to school because I couldn't afford to get my truck fixed. I had saved enough money through high school and college that I thought I could get through that first year, but by March I was running out of funds and my stress level was high. I was so tired. I had been studying hard for days and trying to deal with being totally without money. I was wondering if this would ever pay off and how I was gonna make it through three more years.

Papaw called me one Monday night. He hated talking on the phone, but he must have known something was up. We small-talked for a few minutes when he suddenly asked me how much money I needed. Say what? How could he know that I was in a money crunch? I had not told a soul about my moped riding and oatmeal eating.

I told Papaw that things were pretty tough. I told him that I wouldn't ask my momma for money because she needed what she had for the rest of her life. What he said next hit me right in the heart. He told me not to worry, that he would have some money to me by Friday and that I should eat some beef or something that was not just oatmeal. He laughed about the moped and told me to use the money he was sending to get my truck fixed. I told him I needed about $1,000 to make it through, and then I would get a job for the summer. He had a calming way and I knew things would be OK.

Papaw's check arrived with the Friday mail. In the envelope was a check for $10,000. Ten thousand dollars! It was the single largest check I had ever seen, and it was made out to me.

I had worked with this man all of my life. He had paid me like a hired hand, and I had always had everything I needed. I never asked for money, and he never offered it. I had worked my way through college and bought my own truck and horses. But just then I was holding a check in my hand that said more than any dollar amount. It said, "Bo, I believe in you. You're gonna make it, and I am proud of you."

When I finished that semester with a 4.0 grade point average I sent him my report card and told him that he was my hero.

I will never forget how that burden left my shoulders and my spirits lifted when a check from an old, West Texas cowboy came in the mail. Papaw's faith in me gave me a strength that I will never forget. It was an amazing moment.

My Mamaw later told me that he put my report card in his truck. She said he showed it to everyone in the county anytime he had the chance. She said she had never seen Elmo Brown brag about anything in her life, but he bragged about his grandson every day. That knowledge was worth much more than $10,000 to me.


Excerpted from Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere by Bo Brock. Copyright © 2014 Dr. Bo Brock. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION Otis, or Why I Became a Veterinarian,
ONE Family,
TWO West Texas Ingenuity,
THREE Mentors, Colleagues, and Peers,
FOUR Veterinary (mis)Adventures,
FIVE Adventures in the Field,
SIX Cowboys, Old Men, and Oddballs,
SEVEN Cowgirls and Old Women,
EIGHT Look for the Moments,
NINE Unconditional Love,
TEN Leonard,

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Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some of the stories I read from Facebook, but it makes for fun reading. I laughed and I cried.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful peek into rural vet life...many stories made me laugh out loud and Leonard made me cry. Fingers crossed for a second....
ThoughtsFromaPage More than 1 year ago
Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere is a laugh out loud compilation of Bo Brock’s adventures and escapades as a veterinarian (both large and small animals) in West Texas. He has written a column for years, and this book is a compilation of some of these columns. While I have never been to Lamesa, Texas, I have spent some time in West Texas and enjoyed reading his stories about both the people and the land that make up that part of Texas. Some of his funnier stories involve his early years as a large animal vet and his learning how to deal with some of these creatures like the time he had to chase down an ostrich and ended up getting dragged by her and attacked by her male companion. There are plenty of hilarious stories about the owners of these animals too, and the ridiculous things some of them do. One woman had a dog who couldn’t chew his food so the poor soul was chewing up the dog food and then feeding it to the dog! Ick! Tough crowd was probably my favorite of the stories, and Leonard, the last story, a close runner up. Dr. Brock is clearly a wonderful vet with a great sense of humor and lots of entertaining clients and patients. I am a huge fan of Garrison Keillor and Bill Bryson. Dr. Brock is a storyteller in much the same vein as Keillor and Bryson- funny, entertaining and kind. There were a few times that I needed tissues. I really enjoyed this book. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC.
Holly More than 1 year ago
Crowded In The Middle Of Nowhere is stories of what it is like to work as a small town Veterinarian! Dr. Bo Brock shares his stories on what it's like to be a Veterinarian in a small town in West Texas called Lamesa. With stories that have humor to those that require a more serious tone, it's the perfect book for anyone who aspires to become a Vet or someone who loves their animals dearly! I live about a hour east of Lamesa and if I didn't go to the Vet that I do, I would pick Bo Brock to help take care of my animals due to his caring nature that he seems to exhibit! While reading this book, I found myself trying not to laugh out loud during some parts and holding back tears in other parts. If you follow him on Facebook like I do, then you have already read some of his stories that he shares in this book and I really hope someday soon there will be another volume of stories to read! Thank You to Dr. Bo Brock for sharing your stories with the world! I received this book from the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Connie57103 More than 1 year ago
Beware where you read this great book! I was in the doctor's waiting room, waiting for my mom. First, I was giggling to myself. It went to a full out belly laugh more than one time!! I could not help it. I have to blame it on Doctor Brock!!! His writing is so honest and heartfelt. He tells it like it is. Most of the book tells about how busy he and his office is, and it gets funny! He often makes house calls.... he doesn't know what to expect. The ostriches are hilarious. I've seen some, and they don't mess around with monster legs. Then there is a male goose with six females backing him up when he goes to attack Dr. Brock! A cow picks him up and hurls him at a shovel in the back of his truck. And a lady who toots in the office. He tells the stories in the most funny of ways! But, he talks about his incredible upbringing, eulogies on some important animals, and wonderful lifesaving cases. This is a book for all animal lovers and likers. It is healing, also. Thank you to Dr. Bo Brock, Greenleaf Book Group Press and Netgalley for giving me a free e-ARC of this book to read and give my honest review.