Lisa C Cantwell
In the nearby hamlet of Utica, Maryland, resides a gentleman and a farmer. He’s a seemingly unassuming sort of fellow, who not only gardens and cans the bounty, but also raises 40 prize Boer goats, along with a bevy of peacocks, chickens, and pheasants. In addition to his homeplace, he manages his late wife’s family’s 500-acre historic property, known as “Green Spring Farm,” near Thurmont. Dr. Raymond “Ray” Ediger is not only an animal lover, farmer, and gardener, but he is also a retired veterinarian, cum author/artist, who has led an exceptional life.
This active 87-year-old insists, “I’m not retired!” In fact, he canned 48 quarts of peaches last year and plans to continue art classes at FCC this September. And there’s more to come on the horizon. You won’t find Dr. Ediger rocking his senior years away on the front porch.
He is, perhaps, best known locally (and statewide) within the 4-H and FFA communities for his work with youth over the years, involving dairy, beef, swine, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, and poultry projects. Some locals may recall seeing him at the Eyler Stables’ weekly Horse Auction, where he served on assignment with the MD Department of Agriculture as a veterinarian to the several thousand horses that were sold there, annually.
Dr. Ediger has a long, remarkable list of achievements, including national awards within the fields of veterinary science, medical research, agricultural excellence, soil conservation, and cattle-breed development. (In fact, elsewhere in this issue of the Banner, is an article about his most recent award.)
But his latest endeavor may project an even greater legacy: a book of some 102 personal stories about the funny, sad, and often miraculous interactions between humans and animals. At his daughter, Lynnelle’s, urging, he has written, illustrated, and published Living, Loving, and Laughing with Animals, The Adventures of a Country Veterinarian.
Dr. Ediger described how the idea for the book came to mind, “I have a daughter who loved stories when she was little. I read the usual famous children’s storybooks to her, and she was smart enough that she got to the point where she would tell me, ‘Dad, you left something out!’ So, I began to make up the stories, often using animals to get a point across and to help her with life lessons.”
Many years later, his daughter recalled those stories and said, “Dad, why don’t you write them up.” Dr. Ediger said that, at first, there was no intention of writing a book, per se, but since he had already jotted down many of the stories, he gave in, “It just seemed like it would be a lot of fun!”
Many of the tales are experiences from his 62-year career as a veterinarian. On this subject, he quipped, “Animals are most certainly interesting, and then there are those humans!” Stories from his early childhood and teenage years in his home state of Oregon are included. Still, other chapters are intimate family portraits, involving relatives, his daughter, grandchild, and of course, his beloved late wife, Louise.
Here is a sample of one of the funnier stories, entitled “Attack Turkey,” excerpted from the book, (with permission of the author):
“Deane [a friend from Sabillasville] worked at the neighboring fish farm where they raised goldfish and koi. Often ducks and geese nested on the banks of the ponds. On one occasion, Deane found a nest of duck eggs. In the nest was one egg that was much larger and speckled. He brought the eggs to me, suggesting since I had an incubator, I could try to hatch them. We set the eggs. After about four weeks, we had a batch of ducklings, and the odd egg hatched, too. It was a turkey. We named the ducklings Donald, Louie, Dewey, and Huey.
Honestly, the turkey was an oddity. It is a well-known fact that birds imprint at first sight. Since it was my wife and me, it thought we were its parents. That appeared to be the case with the turkey; however, it was not with the ducklings. Since they were wild mallards, they flew away as soon as they reached maturity, leaving the turkey all alone. Our little turkey was a friendly bird and steadily grew into a beautiful brown tom turkey. He became a yard ornament and greeted visitors. As time went on, he started to strut around the chrome bumper of any car that pulled up our driveway. It was novel. At first, we took pleasure in watching him. He would sidle up to the bumper, see his reflection and think another bird looked just like him, and he would put on a strutting display. He would go back and forth, holding his breath until his face would turn blue, then letting out a large gobble. He met every car in the driveway, never missing the opportunity to put on his grand display. His knobby, purple head caused many farm visitors to roll their car window down and ask if he would bite before they got out of the car. If it were a peddler we didn’t want to see, we would say, Yes!”
One day, I noticed he was sitting along the road. As every car went by, he would chase it for a short distance. I guess he thought there was a turkey in every bumper. The locals became aware that he would chase cars, so they started playing games with him. He would sit along the road, waiting for a vehicle to come along. He would crouch in readiness. If the car slowed down, he would take off running after it. If the driver put the vehicle in reverse, he would have to change directions—poor turkey. Not only was he hilarious to watch as he chased the cars, but he was also even more hilarious to see trying to change directions! He looked like a wobbly teacup over a saucer.
I was afraid he would eventually get hurt. So when I heard of an individual looking for a male breeding turkey, it seemed like the perfect solution if it wasn’t close to the road. After we let him go to his new home, we missed his antics. Whoever heard of a turkey who chased cars?”
For more delightful stories from Dr. Ediger, consider reading Living, Loving and Laughing with Animals, The Adventures of a Country Veterinarian.
At a cost of $30.00 for each book, or $25.00 for two or more, advance orders of Dr. Ediger’s book may be placed by emailing [email protected].
Dr. Ray Ediger has published a book of stories that span his years as an animal lover and veterinarian. The author is also an artist and illustrated the cover.
Photo by Lisa C Cantwell
Dr. Ray Ediger, retired veterinarian, with his prize Boer goats and his beloved Boer buck at his Utica farm.