While Kat’s Law was in final revision, a friend told me about a book she had just finished reading called Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies. The research completed by the author, Virginia Cornell, makes this a fascinating read for anyone interested in the real history of the area and the lives of pioneer doctors. Although this is not a recently released book, writers and readers alike may find the detailed account of life in the high altitude, logging town of Frazier, Colorado a compelling read.
This biography begins when Susan Anderson, a trained frontier physician, arrives in the Rockies seeking to save her life from the ravages of tuberculosis. She hopes to be cured by the pure mountain air. At the age of thirty-seven she still has much experience to offer the few residents of this isolated community, but initially she attempts to hide her skills as a physician, attempting to heal her heart as well from a failed romance.
The treatment works for her lungs, so for the next fifty-one years she stays on to minister to the community of loggers, farmers, and railroad workers. Ah yes, the railroad. The politics of the railroad construction enter into the story quite prominently. This is where Doc Susie’s plucky, independent spirit takes the plot of her life in a different direction as she confronts those who would exploit the workers on the precipitous route of the rail lines.
Part humanitarian, part feminist, Doc Susie manages to improve the lives of this small community through educating her patients and risking her own life to treat the diseases and horrific injuries common to the logging and railroad construction enterprises at the time.