By Robert Lucke
Waiting for a doctor in his office is never pleasant. Not even if it is for a newspaper interview with the doctor.
Dr. Phil Huffman was busy. His neighbors had suggested that he would be an excellent choice for the Havre Daily News' weekly Neighbor feature. That was the reason for this visit to the doctor.
Maybe while waiting in his office, a reporter could find clues as to what kind of a person he is. There are the usual diplomas. One from Pennsylvania, one from Delaware. There is a jar of homemade chutney on his desk and assorted kids' and relatives' pictures scattered around. A birthday card was on the window sill proclaiming, "Relax, you're still a pup." Not a lot of clues to his personality in those possessions.
Suddenly he entered, bright shining eyes and a smile that lit up the room and you could see why his neighbors like him.
A little background was the first order of business.
"I came here from Pennsylvania," he said. "Originally I am from Delaware. I grew up in Wilmington but my wife and I lived in Philadelphia when I went to school and then I did my residency in her hometown, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania."
His wife, Rebecca, and he have two children, Mary, 2, and Angelina, 3 months.
What in the world could bring these East Coast natives all the way to Havre, Montana?
"I had some interest in this part of Montana. It is a doctor-shortage area and since the National Health Service paid for my school, some 40 grand a year, I had to agree to be a primary care doctor at a doctor-shortage area."
Huffman will be here for at least three years. His other choices were Greenfield Iowa, Joplin, Mo., and Glasgow.
Once again the Ponies outgunned the Scotties and Huffman came to Havre.
"I figured we had lived on the East Coast all of our lives," Huffman said. "Since we had to leave, it would be nice to come to a different part of the country."
The country has grown on the Huffman family. Huffman fishes and they all like camping out in Beaver Creek Park, especially at the upper lake.
Not only that but they are old-house devotees as well. They bought an old house on Second Avenue that is reputed to have belonged to Gus Descelles, one of the founders of the town.
"We lived in an old house back East too," he said. "We shined up the floors and worked on it quite a bit. We do like older homes. The only problem is they do come with a lot more work."
The Huffmans have slowed to a more Western pace of living.
"Culturally it is very different here," he said. "We had the strangest experience. We were in the airport at Salt Lake and my wife and I both looked at each other, and all the noise and busyness of the scene really bothered us. We were from places that were just that busy but now it bothered us. It made us realize that we have adjusted to the different pace faster than I thought we had.
"And people are just more genuinely friendly," he said. "It has been really nice here. I don't know what 40 below will feel like. People say there is a difference between 20 below and 40 below but they both sound pretty cold to me."
The family has settled down after a very hectic summer.
"We are pretty pleased, actually, with things here. You know with a new daughter, a new job, a move, finishing my residency and taking my boards, all that is over now and we are settling in. Just the last week or two we have felt that. That feels nice," Huffman said.