Essays From My Farmhouse Kitchen
By Renae B. Vander Schaaf
Do You Know Doc Neumann?
There really isn’t a more fitting time to finally have this book published than during National Ag Week. The old-time veterinarian was mighty important to farmers as together they worked to keep livestock healthy and alive, thereby protecting their livelihoods.
AJ Neumann was fresh out of college when he came to Orange City in 1949. It was a town clear across the state from the eastern Iowa community that he grew up in.
When he came to Sioux County, there were 2,971 farms with an average size of 161 acres. Livestock was plentiful, if you like numbers, here is what the census said: 78,200 cattle and calves, 215,460 pigs and hogs, 6,511 sheep and lambs, 593,812 poultry and 3,333 horses and ponies. Several of these spe-cies could be found on most farms.
Over two years ago AJ Neumann and I began work-ing on this book Get Up! Get Going! We made this decision after having coffee together with Lee and Bonnie Meier at their charming store, Jubon Juweelen.
In January we began recording his stories around his coffee table. As he spoke I would type the words into my computer. Most of these stories I was hearing for the first time. He has an entertaining way of speaking, so at times we were laughing or close to tears. It never ceases to amaze me the life situations this man experienced.
About mid-way through our work we would take a coffee and almond patty break to consider what we had just written.
At the very last minute, and I mean last minute. This is one time I was grateful that computers are instant. I sub-mitted the manuscript to The Write Place in Pella, Iowa. They offer a book contest every two years.
One day my phone rang, it was Sarah Purdy from The Write Place with the most unbelievable news, our manu-script had won. I knew AJ Neumann’s story was good for I enjoyed almost every minute of working with him on this project. But to win first prize was just the ultimate surprise!
The Write Place has been so very patient and a real joy to work with. They have made very good suggestions and designed an excellent cover for us. There are plenty of unknowns in the publishing world, The Write Place helped us in many ways.
We thought we had done plenty of editing that we had stuff down pretty good. But it seemed like there was always one more edit or addition.
When a man has a great memory and has lived over ninety-two years there is plenty of life to re-member with the challenge of accurately recording it as best we could.
Get Up! Get Going! is a walk back in history as Doc Neumann remembers the Depression years well. Perhaps its the girl side in me, but I really like the chapter where he met his wife. It is just so special how their love blossomed. She truly was his life’s partner in his business.
Amidst the stories throughout the book, he grapples with an underlying question that is asked in the first chapter. He ponders a comment by a local pastor that never leaves his mind. He finds some answers when he experiences a life-changing incident in a small barn, an appropriate place for a country vet-erinarian.
Life wasn’t always easy, nor did it go on auto-pilot. At the peak of his career, he abruptly closed his thriving veterinary practice; and gained a reputation as Horse Doc which opened up a whole new life and experiences for him and his wife Mary Virginia.
I first heard of this man when my farmer and I would travel to Amish Country or attend horse events while writing for agriculture papers. When they found out we were from Orange City, we would be asked, “Do you know Doc Neu-mann?”
Of course, my farmer did, as Doc Neumann was their veterinarian when Dave was growing up. He has a few stories he can tell about the Vander Schaaf family.
I am thankful that strangers piqued my interest on this man. Next time I am asked, the question, “Do you know Doc Neumann? My answer will be, “Yes, indeed. He is an amazing gentleman.”
It has been a unbelievable privilege to with AJ Neumann on this book Get Up! Get Going! I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did in writing it.
Feel free to contact me if interested in a book or having AJ Neumann, DVM speak—he still is going strong.
Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Please contact her at 605-530-0017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.