I heard the tractor coming through the woods before I saw it. As he approached the house on his John Deere, I was at first taken aback with the illustrious Dr. Thomas Wagner. Could this sun burned elderly man, in his straw hat and cut off faded denim overalls, be the distinguished gentleman with a Ph.D. whom I heard so much about? As he cautiously dismantled, I tried to cover my amazement with a smile of welcome. All anxieties were forgotten as two friendly, faded blue eyes and a smile as wide as Texas, welcomed me to North Carolina. His warm callused hands engulfed mine as he kissed me gently on the cheek. The aroma of his pipe tobacco intermingled with the smell of newly cut grass from the field he had been mowing.
After months of weekly visits from my neighborhood doctor, I have come to know the "two" men who reside in one person. Tom Wagner is of small stature with soft white hair that tends to do as it pleases. He is completely at peace with the world when he is on his tractor mowing fields or delivering logs to his neighbors for their fireplaces during the bitter cold winter. He thrives in nature and putting his hands in the soil. His knowledge of plants, birds and animals would be the envy of many a naturalist. Watching him work outdoors, cutting fallen trees into logs or using his tractor to plow me a garden, you can see the serenity radiate from his face. He takes pleasure in the land, animals and nature and asks for nothing in return. His greatest reward is a cold beer and sitting in the swing talking to his friends after a hard day in the fields.
The other Dr. Thomas Wagner I know is very outgoing and distinguished. He has never met a stranger because he will converse long enough to find out who they are, where they are from and anything else he chooses to know. Intelligent, methodical and well versed are three words that describe Dr. Wagner. Watching him move through a crowd, dressed in his black suit and tie, hair combed and in place, reminds you of a politician on election night.
It was unanimously decided by his family and friends that Thomas would make a great politician if he were not so honest and forthright. Tom's knowledge of government and history would make a college professor proud.
Who is the real Dr. Wagner? He is both of these and much more. Gentle yet strong, outgoing yet reserved, father, uncle, mentor and most of all, a dear friend. He is the neighbor that makes a neighborhood your home.
Sitting in my swing with a fresh cup of coffee and two loyal dogs at my feet, I hear the rumble of a John Deere making its way down my long winding drive. I grin broadly as I tell my dogs, "Guess the doctor is making another house call."