Legends abound in the Big Bend, like the super cowboy Pecos Bill who rode a tornado, used a rattlesnake as a whip and dug the Rio Grande. Well there's another one that's pretty popular in the Ghost Town of Terlingua, and it's about that mysteriously happy man wearing a smock on the porch.
Dr Doug has a huge responsibility over a grand land, and performs "psychiatric miracles in the desert, on the porch" by using medicine, hypnotism and his tried and true therapeutic discourse. He is a gentleman with all the things in life he desires, he just doesn't desire anything.
In his world, the bleak, arid, mountainous desert, everything is rosy and right. He has a fine home, a Clinic on the Porch, a butler named Jeeves, and thousands of adoring friends and fans that hang on his every word. He is world famous, but he lives like a Spartan and donates all of his time and money to worthy causes. People believe everything he says because he acts so dang happy. He is a Master Hypnotist, and he manipulates the sessions on the porch with the use of "medicine," deft words and subtle motions of a wooden cane.
People by the thousands are cured of Unhappiness, often with only one short visit to the porch. There are a few locals that are hard to heal, and they require continuous repeat sessions.
Of course, he will take nothing personally in return for his miraculous healing's, but instead donates any extra time and resources to local charities. He will take "donations for good causes" and applies all funds received to the betterment and happiness of his patients in the world's largest open air mental asylum.
The High Sierra is his getaway, a place of refuge from the maddening crowds on the porch, but he still cannot avoid the fame of his good deeds and lifestyle, so the High Sierra hides him and treats him as just another local to shield him from the overbearing pressures of unhappy masses on the porch clamoring for every second of the doctor's time.
Although Dr Doug is a wonderful, giving, passionate human being, he has his enemies, and his demons. They are the AMA and IRS.
The August Medical Association (AMA) charges that Dr. Doug is a phony and a fraud, uses magic and deadly poisons in his medicine, and has false credentials. They would have him arrested; but the sheriff of Terlingua is Dr. Doug's friend (and patient,) and won't execute the arrest warrant and subsequent persecution sent from New York City.
Dr. Doug counters those dastardly charges, explaining that he has practical experience with over thirty-three years of survival in the harsh deserted mountains and he cites an Honorary Doctor's Degree from the University of Terlingua, School of Minds & Hard Knocks.
As for the magic and poisons, Dr. Doug reminds us that sufficiently advanced technology can appear to be magical, and horrible liver eating poisons like acetaminophen are even this second being dispensed by members of the AMA for profit.
There are no representatives of the AMA in South Brewster County because it is such hard country. There are no Italian Operas, no Broadway Musicals, and no money in Terlingua, so no AMA accredited, certified and accepted practitioners will live there.
The well meaning Doctor saw the vacuum of professional responsibility in Terlingua, and resolved to remedy the situation. He swore that he would not make money from others misfortune, he would dedicate his life to finding the secret to happiness and exposing that knowledge to others, and he would find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if it took his whole life in it's pursuit.
In the beginning, he was also confused by the omnipresent AMA propaganda regarding his favorite medicine. The Hags Against Mothers of Drunk Drivers were encouraging legislation controlling the imbibing of happiness medicine. The State was even setting up NAZI style road blocks to entrap medical imbibement experimenters like Dr. Doug. It was his cross to bear. He continued relentlessly with his medical and psychological experiments, exuding Edison like zeal and perseverance.
There were times when his experiments went drastically wrong, or even ended up in a ditch. Other times the Doctor stumbled upon nuggets of happiness that sent his heart reeling. Throughout those difficult and lean years, Dr. Doug accumulated information about happiness and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and is now ready to share that hard won truth with all that will listen.
That's where the IRS comes in. As Dr. Doug became more famous, he appeared on the Infernal Revenue Service radar screen. Some say the AMA framed him. They just knew he was stashing a fortune in Swiss Banks. but they could never find any evidence what-so-ever. In fact, their investigation confirmed that Dr. Doug had never made any money at all in his entire life, a fact they found puzzling and disturbing. They concluded that if everybody else found out Dr. Doug's formula of happiness, it would put Capitalism out of business.
The thought of Capitalism out of business was so horrifying that immediate and total isolation of Terlingua was ordered. IRS hit teams scoured the area for Dr. Doug, attempting to eliminate the source of the Happiness Pandemic.
They could not find him because he had become a hero to the local population, and they all, even some of the women, started growing beards and looking like Dr. Doug, thus hiding him in plain sight.
It is like that to this day, beards have become a symbol of resistance to unhappiness, and Dr. Doug slips in and out of the generally bearded population like a chameleon, one step ahead of the Infernal Revenue Service and the August Medical Association.
Dr. Doug remains practical. Too much of anything can kill you, even a necessity such as water. Controlled doses of Dr. Doug's medicine have been known to create a sense of well being, a rosy glow, a gaiety of gait, happiness and song. The old wise Doctor acknowledges that an overdose of medicine can cause a "hangover", but advises that same medicine can be "hair of the dog that bit you" to cure the hangover.
All things in moderation is the Doctors creed, substantiated by years of medical experimentation probing the borders and limitations of happiness medication.
Oh! If you do find the Doctor in Terlingua, don't squeal on him to the IRS or the AMA, or else!
Photographs by Terry Anderson