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They call it the Golden Years

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Photo by Lisa Setrini-Espinosa Photo by Lisa Setrini-Espinosa

Because that's what they cost

Ahhh, “The Golden Years.” I don’t know who the hell came up with that saying, but he must have been on some heavy medication. Let me tell you about my Golden Years. First, I have a lovely and beautiful wife. We traveled all over in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. As I am a cartoonist I can work from anywhere: home, motel, motorhome, fishing boat, hunting camp, you name it. I even paint funny paintings which I am paid well for. Leanin’ Tree greeting card company has used my humorous work for over 35 years. My cartoons have appeared in outdoor and western magazines even longer. All the companies I have done work for are like family to me, so, I wasn’t surprised when Coors Beer agreed to a set of Western bronzes depicting a branding scene. We had the premier in Houston, Texas during the Houston Rodeo at the Astrodome. This was back in the early 80s.

Now, you gotta remember, up until this time in my life the only involvement I had with doctors had first involved horses and bulls. Those injuries always went away, only to reappear later in life as stiff joints that told you it was going to rain or a storm was coming. Now, I don’t actually remember how old I was at the time, I had noticed graying around the edges and all my friends were much older than I had first thought. I also knew that bulls had gotten much faster than they were just a few years ago. 

I had gotten up early one morning, long before the art show started and grabbed a big sweet roll and a cup of coffee and headed over across the street to the Astrodome to bullshit with some old friends about how the rodeo stock was much wilder back in our day and the kids today couldn’t come close to doing what we did. Shortly after finishing that sweet roll I was leaning against the bucking chutes sipping on my coffee and listening to a young bull rider explain how he had been hung up the night before and was saved by the bull fighter, when suddenly I got this sharp pain in my stomach. Thinking at first it was gas, I tried to strain it out, but it got stronger and in less than a minute I was on the ground, in severe pain and unable to breathe. Thirty-seven days later they turned me out of the hospital in Houston. They had cut me from stem to stern and had found a gallstone had blocked off my pancreas, causing a cyst, which caused the awful pain which led to the surgery. 

They had kept me on morphine for over 30 days. Apparently, heavy drugs are easy to get in Houston. However, they had forgotten to mention there would be withdrawals. I went into deep depression, but it eventually went away, unlike the physical results of the surgery.

Fast forward about 20 years. As a result of that past chop job a lot of scar tissue had built up in there and things started going bad again. Somewhere in there I had to have my gallbladder removed since it was the cause of all these pain problems in the first place. Somehow they had overlooked removing it in Houston. Guess they thought I was really attached to it or something. Anyway, they saw a big mass in there and thought it was cancer, but eventually figured out it was just a big mess left by the guys in Houston. So there was another surgery to try to tidy it all up somewhat. Everything was realigned, removed and bypassed as best as possible so it would all still work. 

But now that the doctors had me in their grasp they discovered a heart murmur and I needed a pig valve. “No problem, I said, “my wife has a pot bellied pig, we’ll just use one of hers.” Apparently, she and the doctor didn’t see it that way and her pig was saved. They raise a special pig to use for people parts, the doctor explained. Cost about thirty thousand. “Okay,” I said, “but I want the rest of that hog cut and wrapped. I’m not paying that much for just a little piece of him.” And yet today when a doctor or nurse checks my heart they say, “Did you know you have a heart murmur?” And I say, “No, that’s a little pig in there eating corn and breaking wind.”

Then it was mentioned that at my age you should have a colonoscopy. “Thanks,” I said, “make it two and I’ll give one to my wife.” Apparently it wasn’t a gift. As I watched the camera probe my innermost person I couldn’t help but notice how pretty and pink everything was. “Good,” I said, “I’m clean.” Then things started to turn yellow, then orange, then red into black. Cancer. The doctor had taken pictures of the color change, so I sent them out as Christmas cards, and people thought they were abstract paintings.

  He said, “You have a lot of colon so we’ll take plenty of it out just to be on the safe side.” Well, I dodged a bullet that time. Fast forward six years and the next thing I knew it was back. In the meantime, I had also had two shoulder operations just so I could help send the doctor’s kids to college. This time the cancer had also moved over to my liver. Another operation to remove even more colon plus chemotherapy this time. Then arthroscopic surgery to take a tumor off the liver. They didn’t get it all so back to chemo.

So after eight major operations in my Golden Years, I’ve gone from a “go getter” to a “come and get me”, and I still have cancer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s never tell a doctor you have insurance. That information spreads like crabs in a marine base. I actually had a doctor come up to me on the street and tell me he had just bought a new Beemer and would I make an appointment for him to see me. The guy was a pediatrician! I went in to see one doctor when I sprained my ankle. My foot was all swollen and stiff, and he asked me how much Viagra I had been taking. I think these people are studying medicine under Doctor Seuss.

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Author info

Boots Reynolds Boots Reynolds The "internationally-renowned cowboy artist" Boots Reynolds has moved his comedic interpretation of life into the writing field with his regular column in the River Journal - From the Mouth of the River.

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health, aging, insurance, From the Mouth of the River, surgery

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