Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, May 21, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections and Stories for the Years of Winter… A GOOD STORY IS A GOOD STORY—WITH ANY ACCENT   [M, 5-21-18]

My doctor when we lived in Hoopeston, IL, Dr. Kosyak--always called Kojak by the locals, after the TV detective played by Telly Savalas—was Turkish. When he immigrated to the US, the first thing the government did was put him into the military, when his English was not yet very good. It never did get all that good. [1]

Even with his strange accent, he liked to tell stories, and I found him quite delightful. I knew all the doctors in town, and liked them all, but I chose Kojak as my personal doctor for the stories.

Dr. Kosyak was a macho sort who once decided to hunt grizzlies with a knife. He thought it would make a great story, and be no problem, since he was a surgeon and knew exactly where to stab the bear with the knife. The bear would be dead immediately and not able to retaliate. He got up close, and then the bear stood up on its back feet and roared. Kosyak said, “Standing there with my knife. I thought it a big knife. Now looked so small. Bear looked so big. Ran like hell.” [2]

One day I was walking down the hall in the hospital when the good doctor bounced out of a doorway, grabbed me by the arm, and with no explanation pulled me into the room. “Who this?” he yelled at the older man sitting on the edge of his bed. Neither the patient nor I knew what this was about, or if it might be a trick question, but with no other option, he said, rather meekly, “Rev. McFarland?”

“Right,” said Kojak. “You got brain back. No demented. Go home.”

In that period when he had first immigrated and was in the army, he was the only doctor on duty at his military base one weekend when a Marine brought his little boy in. The kid had fallen and had a big bleeding gash on his head. Dr. Kosyak started to take the kid back to the operating room. The Marine was not about to allow this foreigner to take his son off without going with him.

“Okay,” Kojak said, “but you faint, can’t help. Got to take care on the boy.”

Well, that was an insult. He wasn’t going to faint. He was a Marine! Of course, when the doctor started to work, the Marine fainted.

When Dr. Kosyak had finished, he carried the boy back to the waiting room to his mother. “Where is my husband?” she asked. Kosyak searched for the right English words, remember a new phrase he had heard for becoming unconscious, and said, “He passed away.”

He couldn’t understand why she got so upset.


1] At that time, every Hoopeston physician had an accent. We had doctors from Germany, Taiwan, and Korea, as well as Turkey. The accent hardest to understand was the doctor from Arkansas.

2] Why do men, even smart, educated men, do things like hunting grizzlies with a knife? There’s really no explanation, except, as Tammy Wynette sang, “After all, he’s just a man.”

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