Here's a way to get acquainted with a new neighbor before they move to town: read the book about their life.
Vernon "Doc" Johnson has written a book about his life and times called "Are You Busy Doc". He started the book, at the age of 81, to share his memories and stories about his days as a large animal veterinarian. "I'd thought of writing my veterinary experiences for many years, then expanded it to include stories of my life. As I wrote, so many memories came to mind that the book soon became an autobiography of sorts," Doc said.
He said the greatest challenge he faced when writing the book was remembering the many incidents depicting the delightful character and strength of the people who were his clients. "For instance, when (one of) my poems, written in blank verse was published, a local ranch hand stopped me at the sale barn and said 'Hell, it didn't even rhyme', which delighted me because I considered it my best poem."
His favorite story in the book is the one titled "Jack."
"My reward for having published the book is hearing from old friends and clients," he said.
He and his wife, Marge, are already summer residents of Payson, but they are now in the process of becoming full-time members of the community. You can welcome Doc and Marge at a special event at the Payson Library this weekend. Doc will be signing copies of his book from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9.
The couple became acquainted with Payson while passing through on their yearly trek from western Nebraska to Mesa and back. "We always commented that Payson would be a lovely place to live," he said.
"Are You Busy Doc" is his first book. But he is also a poet, something he started when he was a teen. "It was just something I enjoyed doing," Johnson said.
His poetry has been published in the Omaha World Herald (Nebraska) Magazine of the Midlands and during his years in the Army his poetry was published in various camp newsletters.
Johnson is also an artist. He said he did sketching as a child, but it wasn't until after retirement that he found time to pursue his interest in drawing and painting. He has included some of his work in the book.
But his life's work as a large animal vet was born out of his love and interest in animals.
Asked what advice he would offer young people considering a career in veterinary medicine, Johnson said, "If you're planning to become a large animal practitioner, be prepared to work long, hard hours in all kinds of weather."
After such a long, full life, is there something Doc would have done differently?
"I wish I had written my book earlier in life," he said.
To get the book
The book can be purchased from me directly by calling (928) 468-2007 or e-mail a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The book is also on a website found at Are You Busy Doc.com
Name: Vernon E. "Doc" Johnson
Occupation: Large animal veterinarian, now retired.
Birthplace: Sedgwick, Colorado
Family: wife Marge, son Dr. Kurt of Ogallala, Neb., daughter Paula Lesbo, teacher, Elko, Nev., three stepchildren and three grandchildren.
Personal motto: Live well, laugh often, achieve much.
Inspiration: The culture of early man which began when I found an ancient stone knife.
Greatest feat: Probably building two houses while I was attending veterinary college and graduating in the top 15 percent of my class.
Favorite hobby: Rock hunting and lapidary work.
Three words that best describe me: Kind, sincere and honest.
I don't want to brag but ... I've led an interesting life.
Persons in history I'd like to meet: Lewis and Clark
Luxury defined: Having a comfortable home
Dream vacation spot: Yellowstone National Park.
Why Payson? A small town feeling, Western atmosphere, pine tree and fresh mountain air.