Veterinary medicine and sturgeons

Today, I’m musing about musing, about veterinary medicine, and about sturgeon.

To muse: “… to become absorbed in thought; especially to turn something over in the mind meditatively and often inconclusively.”

We expect a veterinarian to have a working knowledge of all animals. All animals?  Think about it.  There are an estimated 60,000 species of animals within the 5 groups with backbones—mammals (app. 5, 000 species), amphibians (app 6,000 species), reptiles (app. 8,000 species) birds (app. 10,000 species) and fish (app. 30,000 species).  How is it possible to have such a working knowledge?

Sturgeon! More specifically, Lake Sturgeon! At some level I know a lot about the anatomy and physiology of this unique backboned animal that makes me feel so proud and grateful for our community. At another level, I am aware of a Canada-sized area of ignorance within my brain about these huge fish.

Tuesday afternoon, the rain was letting up as I parked my truck on shoulder of Driftwood Lane. Dr. Jim Ziegler was already there with his two dogs, Gracie and Newton. The temperature was 46°. Jim was wearing shorts, a long-sleeved shirt covered by a short-sleeved shirt.  I was dressed for winter running–protective rain pants, with my outer upper layer a road-crew like yellow/green long-sleeve shirt with 3M reflective stripes. Jim informed me that Mike Coppersmith had decided not to join us. He was going to run on a treadmill because of, what had been, driving rain. Now it was just wet and cold. We were on a mission to do a final marking/correction of the turnaround point and the mile markers for Saturday’s Wolf River Sturgeon Shuffle.

While there were patches of sticks and stumps here and there on the Wolf River Sturgeon Trail, it was not under water Tuesday. Our running pack of 4 contrasted with our usual; Jim and Newton were somewhat distracted, looking for and excited seeing occasional swirling swells along the riverbank, indicating slippery knots of sturgeon. Out of character, I (being towed by Gracie) was attempting to stay focused, attempting to not talk while watching my Garmin working hard to concentrate so that course for the Wolf River Sturgeon Shuffle would be accurate. Thankfully, I only had to focus on the “out” portion of our run–as we ran west on County Road X, out and around Big Eddy, and then down to the 5 mile mark on County Road X. On the run back, the 4 of us were able to stop and gawk in wonder at the sturgeon multiple times.

At 2 am, Wednesday, I awoke in the midst of a vivid dream. It was as though my mind’s eye was doing a video replay. Sturgeon! More specifically, the so rare, unique to our area, living dinosaur Lake Sturgeon! I wonder if some molecules of emotion got injected in my veins from the thrill of getting to see a replay of these fish, for it was a longtime before I was able to fall back to sleep.

I am convinced of two things after decades as a student and as a professor: 1) questions, not answers, are what are important in life and 2) humility–being teachable–is the mark of a true scientist and is what I have seen in individuals who are devote in their religious faith. I worry that those around me tire of hearing my favorite stories. Please forgive me if I’ve told you this one.

A do-gooder, teacher’s-pet-kind-of student, came up to Albert Einstein with his test paper in hand during an exam in a physics class Dr. Einstein taught while at Princeton. “Professor Einstein! Professor Einstein!” the student exclaimed, “this is the exact question you asked on last year’s exam!” Einstein was curious. He took the student’s paper. He looked at the question. “Oh. You’re right” he said, “but this year, the answer is different.”

I want to write more about how and why it is possible for veterinarians to have a working knowledge of so many animals, about what I’ve learned about sturgeon. However, I want to conclude by expressing my gratitude for all those who participated in, who volunteered for, and who exhibited such patience and tolerance for all the disruption caused by Saturday’s Wolf River Sturgeon Shuffle. I feel so blessed. I want to express additional thanks. I could never have dreamed of all that has unfolded in my life since marrying Nancy Schanke, since dropping anchor here in Readfield. What a mystery. I’m unable to connect the dots. Being accepted into Nancy’s network of friends (many who participated Saturday); getting to know and running with Dr. Ziegler; agreeing serve on the Sturgeon Shuffle Board with John Faucher has resulted in me, one veterinarian, writing to you about my various musings.

Published in the Waupaca County Post East newspaper,  5/12/11.

Check out Sturgeon spawning in the Wolf River, courtesy of the WI DNR:

Come Face To Face With Prehistory


Become one of the crowd as lake sturgeon make their annual spawning run up the Wolf River, Wisconsin.


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