Crested Butte Doctor’s Log, 1891

Workers remodelling what was left of an old livery stable near downtown Crested Butte recovered the following doctor’s log dated 1891. It was actually discovered in a small oak filing cabinet under what appears to have been a very busy operating table. The record, penned by Doctor Emil Turlo, recounts a somewhat tedious workday in the late 19th Century. Although not much has been written about this physician we did manage to recover a few facts about the man and the curious path which brought him here.
According to sketchy county records and a few old timers who say they actually met Turlo before his death in 1920 the doctor was a likeable man who always had time for his patients. His name appears on almost every birth certificate in Gunnison County from 1879 to 1912, crediting him with the delivery over 900 babies in his 30 year career. In addition he is said to have treated an astonishing cast of characters from gun fighters to ministers with a healthy dash of prospectors, politicians and prostitutes filling out the roster.
According to hearsay compliments of several of the surviving infants that Turlo helped bring into the world, he arrived in town late in 1878, having spent the better part of a decade in the sterile surroundings of Baltimore’s Mercy Hospital. Prior to that he had served as a battlefield surgeon with the Union Army seeing action in such vacation spots as Chancellorsville, Fort Hudson and Vicksburg. Weary of frontline medicine, he had journeyed west in 1877 to pursue a new career as the personal physician to Serbian Count Rudolph Pazardzhik, first cousin to Alexander of Battenberg, who had only months before been elected Prince of Bulgaria. Unfortunately Pazardzhik was mortally wounded during a poker game in Denver and Turlo found himself with nothing left to do but oversee the funeral arrangements.
Displaced, Turlo decided to head to California but instead, after losing animals and provisions in a late blizzard on what is now Cottonwood Pass, arrived in Crested Butte the next spring. He secured accommodations and, at breakfast the next morning, found that the town was without a doctor. He saw several patients that very afternoon.

Doctor’s Office Log, February 28, 1891
Dr. Emil Turlo, Physician

Note: It should be a busy day today as the miners got paid yesterday afternoon. Be sure to keep an extra supply of bandages, needles and thread, and some of that Kansas City whiskey for an emergency anesthetic.

8 am: Early patients include Roy Berenger, the Jokerville superintendent who is still complaining about the gout, and Mrs. DalRoe, who remains convinced that she is losing her hair. I put Berenger on a strict vegetable diet and demanded he stay out of the liquor cabinet for a month, but from the smell of his breath he won’t followed my instructions. Gout is quite painful but he’s the niggardly mine boss and what goes around comes around. I prescribe some candy pills for Mrs. DalRoe, she pays me in chickens, and she goes away happy for the time being.

8:30 am: The first survivors of last nights brawl begin to trickle in. First is Nick Flynn, who is probably the least proficient street fighter in Colorado. He’s been in over 35 fights since arriving in town, and according to my notes, he’s lost every one of them. He needs a few stitches on his chin and his arm could be broken. He tells me that the facial cuts came from the bar while the arm was soundly broken by (Mrs.) Nora Flynn upon his arrival home later in the evening. Others requiring stitches include Billy Margolis, Sam White and Katie Armbruster, who reportedly won the brawl hands down. None of them have any money until next payday. So what else is new.

9:00 am: Several of the town’s more respectable citizens stop in complaining of dizziness and stomach disorder. It’s too early for the spring run-off. I prescribe a few stiff toddies and a good night’s sleep. Most of my patients will follow my instructions but I think I’ve offended Gert Simmons once again and she’s headed over to talk to the local preacher about my soul. Harold Beete, whom I served with during the War Between the States, came through the back door again this morning. He has a nasty case of the clap and required yet another dosage of Grandma Haney’s tea. I tell him that he’s too old for this kind of thing, and he just winks and heads off for the red light district once again. Mr. Howe, of Jack’s Cabin is brought in by two of his hired men. He has a severely broken leg and almost breaks the other one falling off my operating table. He will have to go to Denver for recuperation.

10:00 am: Doc Shores, the former marshal at Telluride, stops by to warn me that several escaped convicts may be headed this way. He says one is wounded and may be looking me up. I load the shotgun and place a pistol in my medicine bag promptly. Three ladies of the evening stop by, complaining that, while out on a morning stroll, their hair froze to the sides of their faces and I help them thaw out and give them a cup of tea. Warren T. Silt arrived a little late with part of his ear in a paper sack. He says his little brother, Walt, bit the thing off during a fight over whose dog was the smartest. The dog is fine. I sew the ear back on. Warren pays me one dollar. Besides the chickens from Mrs. DalRoe, it is the only payment received so far today. The blind proofreader from the Elk Mountain Pilot stopped by whining about a toothache. He says he’s leaving town and headed for Wichita to pursue a career as a gunfighter. I pull three or four teeth, (I can’t remember the number) wish him good luck, and send him on his way.

11 am: It’s still an hour away from lunch and the loonies just keep showing up at my door. Rudy Martinez, who is always punctual, arrives for a final checkup. He fell in the mine last year, but appears to be ready to go back to work. It’s a good thing he has neighbors who care, since those scaliwags over at the mine didn’t offer to help him out. Martha Dubchec stopped by complaining of a persistent headache. She looks a little yellow. I tell her to quit working so hard and get more sleep. She likes the idea. We may have made it through the flu season without any little kids getting sick this year, but it’s still a little early to tell. Mattie Sorenson bangs on the back door and wants me to tend to her mare. I have to leave the office for a while.

1:00 pm: Lunch was nice and Mattie’s mare threw a fine little chestnut filly. The Sorenson family owns the local mercantile and Mattie credits the office three dollars for my trouble. She’s a fine looking woman, but I’m 25 years her senior. The door is back open as a line forms around the front office and down the stairs. It’s early for the fights to start, but then again it’s getting on to the weekend and there’s no tellin’ who is after who. First in line is the newly elected mayor who has been threatening to close down the brothels. He won’t stay in office long and won’t live long either with that kind of philosophy. Two of the cowboys from the McGregor spread roughed him up a bit but he’ll survive. I tell him to lose weight. I treat a spiffy gambler for a gunshot wound and he pays me with a silver dollar.

2:00 pm: It appears that the day’s emergencies are on the downside, but I must keep the faith as evening beckons. They never told me I’d be sewing up so much meat back in medical school. Maybe I should have been a surveyor like my father. A young Ute boy is brought in with a high fever. With him are his mother and a local medicine man who watches my every move. The boy will be all right if they can keep him warm. They offer a young pony for my services, but I settle for a necklace made from bear’s teeth instead. Local bullies Jack Smith and Tom Lewis are back from Idaho and are sending me a healthy cross-section of victims to keep my company most of the afternoon. Somebody ought to send me them. Someday it will happen. Mrs. DalRoe is back with a bag full of hair. She needs attention so I send her to the local barber, who may still be sober enough to deal with her.

3:00 pm: I receive a telegram from a potential associate, Dr. Ashwan Parvenu, of Santiago, Chile. Dr. Parvenue has expressed interest in joining my practice here in Crested Butte. Something tells me he’s on the run and looking for a place to hide. That’s all right. I can use another set of hands around here. He’s said to be an accomplished surgeon, but is quick with the saw. Bill Hickock stops by to pay a late bill. He wouldn’t be so bad if he’s quit believing his press clippings. Says he’s in the county looking for Wyatt Earp, who runs a faro parlor down in Gunnison. The state medical examiner has wired me that he will not be able to meet this month. We haven’t met since 1889. Several of the miners from Iola and Vulcan are in town for a cock fight. I better load up with splints. Old Man Harris has finally sold his interest in the Peanut Mine to the railroad. Maybe now he’ll pay off his gambling debts and his doctor bill.

4:00 pm: Estelle Crabtree is rushed into my office by her idiot off-spring Clarence. According to the bumbling boy, she has swallowed another cigar. I give her a taste of my private stock and tell her the thing will come out when it wants to. She leaves with some candy pills and promises to quit smoking and talking at the same time. I tell her there’s nothing I can do about her son, either. Medical science is still searching for a cure for what ails him. There’s a big polka dance tonight at the Croatian Hall. I plan to attend with my accordion and my doctor’s bag. We see more injuries from polka than from breaking horses and bar fights combined. I think I’d better take a bath, as Mattie will surely be there. Owen Bright, the recognized town drunk, stops by with a bad cough. I prescribe three days work and a break from his bad habits. He asks if the three days have to be in a row. He’s not happy with my diagnosis and stomps off to the saloon. I lance a bunion on Norma Mason’s big toe. That woman has the strangest looking feet I’ve ever seen. I prescribe rest and larger shoes. Harry Tillman has another lump on his head. He and his big-boned bride, Lolly, have been at it again and it’s not even a full moon yet. Some people shouldn’t drink.

4:30 pm: Just as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel one of our esteemed local trappers, Miracle Pete, is brought in on a makeshift stretcher. According to his partner, Cookie McAlban the two were doing some prospecting up Washington Gulch and he was mauled by a grizzly bear. He’s lucky to be alive, but it looks like I’ll have a house guest for a week or two. The town undertaker shows up via the back door, suffering from severe depression. I suggest that he takes a cut in pay and goes back into the livery business. Mrs. DalRoe is back, this time with a batch of chocolate cookies. She proceeds to tell me that there is no truth, whatsoever, to the rumor that she has been feeding the medicine I prescribed to her dog, Rex. Mrs. Bigwater’s third grade class shows up for a tour of the facilities but are scared off by Miracle Pete. I guess he’s good for something after all.

5:00 pm: Just as I am attempting to shut the door for the evening, three ladies from Miss Hempleton’s House of Delight arrive for their annual physicals. They are pronounced fit as a fiddle and a future payment is negotiated. A rumor of a measles epidemic over in Baldwin is verified, as Mrs. Fabio hauls in her thirteen children. All of them have the symptoms and I prescribe applications of baking soda and dandelion tea. I ask Mrs. Fabio if she’s ever had the measles and she says she has not but that she’s been to Denver once. I let her response go over my head as she will be very busy for the next few days. As I sit down for the first time since lunch, I can hear polka music coming from the hall. I guess it’s finally time to put my dancing shoes on.
-Kashmir Horseshoe

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