Be well. Practice big medicine.

Newman | The Positive Paramedic Project #58 Growing hope

A nugget of Big Medicine every day. #58 Growing hope

This episode of The Positive Paramedic Project takes place in the village of Hatley in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Hatley isn’t a village so much as it is an intersection of two roads, a town commons, and a collection of homes and farms. There is a fabulous Canada Day gathering there every first of July with thousands of visitors turning up from all over the place. Our first Canada Day down here came only a week after we had made the big move from Pointe-Claire to Stanstead.

Di and Emma were pooped and stayed home while Sophie and I went out to watch the fireworks in Hatley in someone’s cornfield in a surreal drive-in-without-a-screen. That’s where we met Lindsey Brus-Peterson. Actually, it was Sophie who met Lindsey and it was Sophie who hitched a ride in Lindsey’s pickup truck back to her parents’ farm where we had left our car. Sophie and Lindsey got to talking about horses which led to another visit out to the farm and an introduction to Lindsey’s parents Howard and Lucy.My first visit out there we got to talking about farming and laying hens and cows and bulls. For this vegetarian city guy, the Brus-Peterson Farm was more than just a bit of culture shock. Howard and Lucy were open and willing to share the reality of running a family farm with me. So I got to visit when the steers and heifers were being vaccinated and steers were being castrated. It was bone-chilling cold in the barn that day and the work was long and plentiful.

I learned how to ascertain vital signs on a cow, how to do a quick check for a fever, how to know when it was more than just regular drool, and how important it is to stay alert around an animal that always holds the potential to inflict serious trauma at a moment’s notice.

That first winter out here was one for the record books. It snowed and snowed and then it snowed some more. We had one storm in March that dropped three feet of snow in less than 24 hours. A few times that winter I found myself, shovel in hand, working to clear snow from the rooftops of cattle barns at the Brus-Peterson Farm. It was rugged exhausting work and I had a tough time keeping pace with Lucy and Howard.

Every visit to the farm included coffee or tea and cookies in the dining room. I had an unending list of questions and Howard, Lucy, Lindsey or her sister Cheryl answered each one patiently – although I’m certain that a few of them went onto the Top 10 Silliest Things Anyone Has Ever Asked Us List.

Lucy died suddenly one morning in May of 2011. Her death sent an emotional shockwave through the family and the community. The funeral was one of the most heartbreaking I have ever attended. Started with The Band Perry singing ‘If I Die Young‘ and ended with tears streaming down every face in the place – and that included some of the burliest farmers in the area who wiped their eyes on dress-shirt-sleeves while struggling to keep it together long enough to get back outside and into their pickup trucks.

Shortly after Lucy’s death, Lindsey successfully completed her professional examinations after graduating with a degree in Accounting. Cheryl and Lindsey both pitched-in more than ever on the farm – trying to heal emotionally while doggedly pursuing their own dreams.

This past Canada Day we caught up with Howard and Lindsey out on the front porch before the fireworks. Lindsey is pulling double duty – she has started her career as an accountant while still working on the family farm. Cheryl was accepted to all of the university programs she applied to and chose to study medicine at the Université de Sherbrooke.

Howard still answers all of my questions although now I read-up beforehand so I don’t sound quite as much like a transplanted city guy. He pops in at our place every now and then to say hello on his way to or from Vermont. It’s still a struggle to get him to pause long enough to take off his boots and come in for a coffee so more often than not, we just chat on the porch about nothing in particular. I’m grateful for the effort he makes in staying in touch.

Howard keeps on keeping on. There’s a new giant tractor to marvel at and the combine is being readied for harvest season. The cows are out standing in their fields and there’s more soy then ever before.  The house is a bit quieter and Howard tends to work longer hours but the Brus-Peterson Farm is still going strong.

They grow hope out there in Hatley.

Be well. Practice big medicine.


NB: Big Medicine is my nod of respect to a First Nations expression that, roughly translated, means the right people working together at the right time will be Big Medicine. I’ve been saying ‘Be well. Practice big medicine’ for as long as I can remember. It is my own very personal version of ‘Sawu Bona’, the Zulu greeting which means ‘I see you’… I see all of you, I see your good works, I see the difference you are making in the world.



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