SHE QUIT–BUT NOT WHEN SHE WAS TOLD TO
By SARA CORE
“The state of Texas is wasting its money educating you. You’ll probably just get married, have kids, and quit!” That was the message I was given by one of the large animal medicine professors I had at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University in 1975. I had entered “vet school” the previous year, one of about 30 women in a class of 138. The response to increasing numbers of female applicants by both faculty and fellow students was mixed. Like any group of people, some were progressive on this topic, some were neutral, and some were, shall we say, “opposed.” That’s putting it nicely.
I had been at Texas A&M for about three years by this time. Back home in San Antonio, I had worked for veterinarians, gone to school, and been an active part of my church. Unfortunately, when I went off to college, like many young people, I was too busy with studies to have “time” for church. The truth is, I could have really used a “church family” in those days. My dad had passed away some years before, and I missed that support. Animals had become my “college family,” but they weren’t very helpful when it came to facing criticism at school.
I had some really great guys as classmates. I remember one, who was from Rising Star and grew up on a ranch, helping this city girl a lot, when it came time to work with the cattle and horses. I knew the “book learnin’” part of animal management, but had very little practical experience. This classmate taught me a lot of the practical stuff, and saved my bacon on more than one occasion! In return, I helped him study for exams, and we became friends. Another guy ( and his wife) invited me to dinner, and he and I studied together, too. When you’re trying to pass biochemistry, anatomy (of five species), and physiology/pharmacology, you need all the friends you can get!
We had an equine medicine professor who was overtly hostile to women, especially those who, like me, were inexperienced around horses. This professor ran the equine breeding program, consisting of several stallions and 50 or 75 brood mares. He would tell me to go into the pasture and catch “that sorrel mare,” pointing vaguely at the herd, which had probably 20 “sorrel mares” in the bunch. When I asked which one he wanted, I got the disgusted “you’re so incompetent” look and he would tell me which one to get. Then, after I caught her and put a halter on her, I was supposed to walk her past the chosen stallion to gauge her response. If she was in estrus, ready to breed, she would want to get close to the stallion, but if not, this 1,000-pound horse would do anything to get away from him, including run over me. That very day, I went to the farm and ranch store to buy some steel toed boots, which I wore every day thereafter in the large animal clinic.
After I graduated and moved to Abilene to enter practice, I was the only female veterinarian in town. Most of my colleagues were very accepting of me, as were most of the clients, though I remember once giving a couple with a new puppy all sorts of information, examining the animal, and then vaccinating him. After this, as was always my custom, I asked the young couple if they had any more questions. They looked hopefully out the exam room door, and asked if they would be able to see the doctor! When I told them I was the doctor, they were embarrassed and apologetic.
I enjoyed practicing as a veterinarian for a long tenure, all of it here in Abilene. But, as it turns out, that large animal professor was right. During my career, I did get married, I did have children, and sure enough, after 34 years, I did quit!
Sara Core is a member of First Central Presbyterian Church, retired veterinarian, and a spiritual director.