A strong work ethic handed down from father to son has continued the success of Bristow Veterinary Hospital for 56 years. The idea of a veterinary clinic here in Bristow was born in the early 1960s when Dr. Yourman and a leading group of citizens saw the town’s need for a veterinarian to care for their livestock and placed an advertisement in a local veterinary magazine. Dr. Howard L. Mitchell replied to that ad, and Dr. Yourman’s committee all agreed to bring him to our city to begin his clinic.
Having been raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Dr. Howard Mitchell received his DVM from Tuskegee University in Alabama in 1960. He worked for a vet in Poteau, Oklahoma, for a year before starting his own practice on the front porch of his home in Talihina, Oklahoma. By this time, he was married to his lovely and intelligent wife, Edna. His son, Bill, remembered his dad as saying, “That was the best time. I could go off into the woods to hunt or fish, and your mother would ring a bell whenever someone would come for help.”
The Mitchell’s moved to Bristow on their son Bill’s first birthday, November 3, 1962. However, there was some controversy as to where the clinic would be built. Initial plans were to place it in the Southridge addition of Bristow, but for reasons currently unknown, the site was changed to its current location, just one mile west on Highway 16. While this seems the ideal place for the clinic today, at the time it was less than ideal—the town dump was also occupying the same land! However, with Dr. Mitchell’s strong work ethic and the town’s great need for a vet, the business not only survived but thrived. “Dad came from an era when you had to be twice as good as anyone else to be noticed and successful,” said Dr. Bill, who along his wife Dr. Kim, operate the clinic today.
The early 1960s was a time of political and racial unrest in America, and Bristow did not escape the ugly mood of the times. When asked if his father encountered any opposition or difficulty on getting established here in Bristow, Dr. Bill replied, “Once my dad wanted to go to the Hamburger King, where Beach House is now located, to get hamburgers for everyone. When he ordered them, he was asked to wait outside until they were ready.” Another incident happened when they were ready to join the Presbyterian Church. All voted the Mitchell’s in except for one person who promptly resigned. A few members of the church rallied around the Mitchell family and spoke with the man who gave the dissenting vote, and the Mitchell’s became members. A few months later the man with the dissenting vote was back in church. Thankfully, only a few people in Bristow presented such challenges. One client with a sick animal said, “I don’t care what you look like or what color you are, I just want you out here to help me with my cow!”
When asked if he had always wanted to be a vet like his father, Dr. Bill replied that initially he had wanted to become a family doctor, but an event while he was working at a swimming pool changed his mind. A young man had busted his head on the concrete, and Bill sat there “holding his head together” while they waited on the ambulance to arrive. It was at this point he decided that being a veterinarian might not be quite as hard on his emotions as being a physician.
Following his father’s footsteps, Bill also attended Tuskegee University in Alabama, where he met his future wife, Kim. Kim, raised in Jamaica, came to Tuskegee to become a vet also. Bill said that originally she thought she would work on cows, but found herself allergic to hay, so she switched to small animals. Kim and Bill dated for seven years before marrying in 1989. When asked if he had difficulty persuading Kim to move to Bristow, Bill replied with a wide grin, “She was hooked. She would’ve followed me to the moon and back. Now she has come to her senses since then.” Later, when asked what he likes best about being a veterinarian, Bill replied, “I enjoy practicing with my wife. I feel like she is the more thorough, detailed person. I am more the find-a-solution-fast type person. She tries to slow me down and I try to speed her up.” The Mitchells have two children: Lincoln is a second year law student at Stanford University after graduating from Yale. Logan is a senior at Howard University in Washington D.C., majoring in finance and accounting.
Dr. Bill said that times have changed since his father started the business in the 1960s. “When dad was here, there were a lot of big ranches. The times of big ranches are gone, and people now are more or less hobby farmers.” But Bill said he likes living in a small town like Bristow where you know everyone’s first name—your doctor, banker, etc.
Bristow Veterinary Hospital services include acupuncture, large and small animals, Coggins lab, and low income spay and neuter. Bristow has been fortunate to have the Mitchell’s and their clinic here to give loving, knowledgeable care to our pets and livestock. “We are blessed,” said Bill, but Bristow is receiving the blessing as the Mitchell’s continue to be history in the making.
Even from his birth in 1974, Rick Vyper seemed destined for notoriety. His mother, Barbara (Livesay) McClendon, was the first baby born at the Bristow Memorial Hospital in 1954, and twenty years later, Patrick James McClendon, alias Rick Vyper, was featured in the local paper as “First Baby’s baby born.”
After graduating from Bristow High in 1992, Rick served in the US Navy for four years aboard the USS Missouri and the USS Fletcher, which included the six months of the Persian Gulf War. He was a radioman, E-4 Petty Officer, and a SAR swimmer (Sea Air Rescue Swimmer). Upon completion of his tour of duty, Rick came home with his new wife and began raising his three children here in Bristow. Service for his country, however, was still in his blood, and he joined the Army National Guard until 2001 where he also served in communications. Also in his blood in 1999 was the venom of a copperhead snake which bit him while on drill for the Army and he only recovered after several antivenom shots.
Perhaps still craving adventure, Rick went to professional wrestling school in Tulsa in 1999. In 2000, he officially transitioned from Patrick James McClendon to Rick Vyper, and trademarked his name as he began working with the WWF Superstar as a ring announcer and commentator. This jumpstarted his career as a radio host in Butler, Missouri, and in Chicago, he worked with radio host MANCOW, where he mimicked such greats as PeeWee Herman, Sylvester Stallone, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Rick has hosted many concerts and school dances, but he left these gigs for films in 2016.
Rick started with bit parts in movies and television in 2013. Some of the most recent ones are God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, Fatal Attraction (tv series documentary), Then the Night Comes (currently being filmed), Gosnell: America’s Biggest Serial Killer, Evil Deeds, Mark of Death, Starship Valieant: The Ties That Bind, Te Ata and several others. To date, Rick has worked on over 25 feature films, five national tv shows and narrated 15 audiobooks. He also narrated Kiamichi Refuge, written by Bristow’s own Carol Henry Madding. In 2017, Rick became eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild and knew that he was destined for this type of work.
The youth of Bristow have benefitted from Rick’s philanthropy when, in 2015, with the help of Tony Hawk and local businesses and citizens, he built a skatepark for Bristow’s young people and gave it to the city in 2016. Rick was also responsible for getting Klingensmith Amphitheater on the National Register, and nominated Bristow’s hand-dug well as a National Landmark, which it won in early 2017. Our well is officially the deepest hand-dug well in the United States!
Home boy, patriot, wrestler, actor, philanthropist—and he has just begun! Bristow can look on our native son with pride and continue to watch his accomplishments as he IS history in the making!