Florida Beach Boy Turned Into A Wyoming Mountain Man (The Origin Story)

Tampa, Florida (Left) Medicine Bow National Forrest Wyoming (Right)

It was November 2017 in Tampa, Florida. I just started as a broke associate doctor in a clinic nearby my parents house….

It was convenient for a couple reasons:

I didn’t have to travel far for work

I could treat my parents.

I lived at my parents place.

Bad for a few reasons:


The doctor I worked with never listened to any of my ideas to grow the practice.

I wasn’t treated or paid for what I was worth.

After 4 months of working my butt off with no reciprocating gratitude from my employer.. The phone rang…

My close friend Jake from Chiropractic school called me. Jake already knew I really disliked my current situation…

Jake went on to tell me that a Chiropractor in the state of Wyoming tore his lateral meniscus during a hunting accident and was desperate for a doctor to fill his office while his knee healed.

Now, being stubborn as I was, I initially declined. I thought I had all the answers at the time. Thinking that I would get myself out of this jam.

It wasn’t until Jake said, “You would be an idiot to decline this opportunity.”

What I failed to mention is that this doctor in Wyoming is outstanding in patient care. He has been published in multiple research papers and excels beyond all measure. His name is Dr. Miles Fortner and he was going to pay me handsomely with all flights and rooms paid for an entire month.

Now at the time, the office in Tampa, FL had three doctors, including me. So taking a month to help out another doctor didn’t seem like it would hurt the office in my absence.

In reality, the head doctor could care less and would rather me leave so he wouldn’t have me on payroll to save his precious little pennies.

It was then I decided to jump on a plane to the great state of Wyoming. My plan was to give this doctor everything I had, with the possibility to work for him instead of the penny pincher in Tampa.

Keep in mind, it was November.. November 27th to be exact. This means it was actually cold in Wyoming, not like Florida at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

I flew from Tampa International to Denver International and then finally into Gillette, Wyoming.

The plane was the tiniest thing you could imagine. A 13 seater to be exact.

Getting off the plane I was smacked in the face with a wall of frigid wind and the sight of snow dusted plains.

I approached the airport parking lot, where I was left a loaner car with the keys inside the gas tank.

My fist order of business was to meet with the office manager at my new digs for the next month.

As I drove to the destination, I drove by many textile and machinery factories. Not much for seeing, other than farm land and hangars. Gillette, after all, is a shift working town. Many coal miners and oil field workers. You could say it is what powers a lot of America.

Once arriving at my new apartment, I met my new office manager, Tara, who was super pleasant to talk to. After getting settled in, it was off to the office to meet the team and Dr. Fortner!

South Fork Apartments

I was both nervous and excited to meet everyone! I was also nervous. As a new doctor, I was anxious when it came to treating new patients I had never met. This, because I would be doing most of the treating since Dr. Fortner would be on crutches.

When I got to the office, I opened the door and was greeted by Natalia who was front desk receptionist and rehab technician. Then I saw Dr. Fortner sitting down with his crutches. I didn’t skip a beat. Instead of going in for a handshake, I went in for a hug. Because we all know how awkward handshakes can get. I totally bypassed it, and immediately considered him part of my family.

Dr. Fortner showed me around the office and briefed me on my job duties. I was to adjust and treat as many patients as possible and help with patient exercises. I was also instructed to take X-rays when needed. Done, Done and Done.

I loved this!

After the first week of working at Western Plains Chiropractic, I knew this is where I belonged. The way that Dr. Fortner practiced and how he listened to my ideas and concerns was truly comforting. I knew at this point I had to work for him.

Not only was Dr. Fortner a pleasure to work with, the team and the patients were incredible!

At three weeks time, I took Dr. Fortner out for lunch and proposed coming on as an associate doctor and how by hiring me, we could increase the practice growth by double.

It was then that we sat down and drank some mead (fermented honey) out of viking horns. Mead tastes like a sweetened wine. And yes, it will get you drunk.

Mead out of a viking horn :)

Big Lost Meadery Gillette, WY

I explained to Dr. Fortner how I had a background in marketing, digital content creation, writing and social media presence. When I laid it out in front of him I could tell he was interested.

He told me that he would think about it over Christmas break and then get back to me by the beginning of 2018.

Before leaving back to Tampa, we all went out to a Christmas dinner together at Pizza Carrello and exchanged gifts.

It was truly an incredible night, but also super sad.

We all hugged each other goodbye.

It was at this time that I had no idea what my future held, and if I had to stay in Tampa working at an office I could not stand, I don’t know what I was going to do…

I got back to Tampa, Florida on December 22nd 2017. During this week in Tampa, I was super stressed because I was waiting for a text or a call back from Dr. Fortner.

It is all I could think about…

January 2nd at 2pm eastern, the phone rings… It’s Dr. Fortner!

He offers me the job and I cannot be any happier!

I pack up all of my stuff into my car and begin my 30 hour drive up to Gillette, Wyoming!

I plan to drive 10 hours each day and stay at two hotels on the way.

I leave at 7am and plan to stay my first night at some cheap hotel in Kentucky. On the way I passed through Tennessee and it was beautiful that morning!


I also stopped in Nashville, TN. Let me tell you what, that place is super nice! I also had to stop at the local Whole Foods. WOW! Incredible. One of the best Whole Foods I have been to.

I get to my hotel in the middle of nowhere, Kentucky. It was somewhat sketchy, so I made sure to park my car where I could see it outside of my hotel window.

In the morning, I was off to Omaha, Nebraska! Home of the college world series of baseball! I had to see TD Ameritrade Park and of course, get some awesome food at really awesome farm to table restaurant called Kitchen Table!

TD Ameritrade Park Omaha

Incredible Meatloaf Sandwich at Kitchen Table in Omaha, NE!

After my glorious meal and a trip to the stadium, it was time for me to head back to my hotel, which was MUCH better than my previous hotel. I was already rocking my mountain man look with a flannel, a beard and clearly a serious face.

The next day I was off on my final ten hour stretch to Gillette, Wyoming. At this time, there was a good amount of snow as I was traveling through South Dakota into Wyoming. Below you can see a picture of me crossing over the Missouri River. Truly a sight to see!

Crossing through South Dakota over Missouri River

While crossing through South Dakota, the weather got a bit dicey. At times it looked as if I was in a scene out of Game Of Thrones and a white walker was going to jump out at me at any moment.

Where The White Walkers Live

After 30 hours and a few caffeinated drinks later… I arrived in my new residence of Gillette, Wyoming. Over the next few months, I would not only learn how to become a phenomenal doctor, but also go on to learn the ways of the west.

In the coming posts I will document the experiences on the ranch, the hunts and lessons learned in the west world. Stick around. Wyoming and the stories I have created won’t disappoint…

The Time I Rode A Bull Named Norma

She’s A Sweetie

Until the next post!

-T.J. Woodham

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