(Article originally published 2/15/2018)
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.