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Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Rugged Mercy

A Country Doctor in Idaho’s Sun Valley

Robert Wright


Hailey physician Robert H. Wright’s long and captivating career, chronicled by his grandson, illuminates frontier medical practice and family life as well as the region’s thrilling Wild West past.

2014 Outstanding University Press Title, American Library Association


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In the dead of night in 1894, a trembling, wide-eyed 13-year-old boy assisted with his first surgery—an experience that changed his life. Robert H. Wright attended medical school, then returned home to Hailey, Idaho, to marry Cynthia Beamer, his childhood sweetheart, and to practice in the frontier west—a choice that required both rugged courage and devoted compassion. Called to risk his own life on multiple occasions, he remained composed during a crisis, and his gentle confidence calmed traumatized victims. At times, he performed operations by lantern light and traveled by buggy, dog sled, or Studebaker to reach remote patients. In 1917, he led the rescue effort at the North Star mine avalanche disaster.

Eventually, the doctor welcomed a grandson, also named Robert Wright, who eagerly absorbed thrilling tales of a pioneer past. Yet despite their close relationship, the younger Wright sensed mysterious secrets and unspoken heartbreak, and he began to probe for the untold stories. In Rugged Mercy, he unravels and celebrates the lives of his beloved grandparents. Alternating between accounts of the doctor’s decades of medicine and his own memories of growing up in Hailey, the author provides an intimate glimpse of challenges faced by rural physicians in the first half of the 1900s, of significant events in the history and evolution of the Wood River Valley and Sun Valley resort, and of family life in a small Idaho community.

Photographs / 240 pages (2013)


2014 Outstanding University Press Title, American Library Association

“An exciting read of true adventure, highly recommended.”—Midwest Book Review

“Ultimately, one gains a great affection for Doc Wright himself because of his obvious courage and unfailing commitment to the medical profession. In the spirit of the American West, Rugged Mercy succeeds as a story of family, faith, and hard work, sometimes in the midst of suffering. The lively dialogue, family photographs from the author’s own collection, and transcribed letters turn this family story into a historical record that comes to life on the page.”—Columbia Magazine

Additional information

Weight .87 oz
Dimensions 9 x 6 in

eBook, Paperback