When Shan (pronounced Shawn) Wilson and a group of friends celebrated their 2002 graduation from Miller High School, west of Springfield, they took a float on the Current River. It was from Akers Ferry to Two Rivers. The river was clear and deep, rimmed with grey bluffs and white-barked sycamore trees. They paddled into a cave spring; they soaked up the sun, and they cooled off in the cold water. That night, the boys laid their fried and uncovered bodies on a gravel bar where swirling, grey clouds of appreciative mosquitoes blanketed them. Two days later, when they hit the take out point, burned to a crisp and covered with inching welts, Shan was sure of two things – he had just experienced the best trip of his life, and he wanted to live in the area.
Meanwhile, around the same time and just a few miles away as a crow flies, Kalenna Smith was delivering her valedictorian speech to 42 fellow Summersville High School classmates. Kalenna, a popular student and star volleyball player, had already mapped out her life. She wanted to become a doctor, and she wanted to live in the area.
Neither knew of the other, but just as the Jack’s Fork and the Current River joined at Two Rivers, the flow of time and common dreams would bring Shan and Kalenna together, and nine years later, back to Texas County to live and work as Drs. Shan and Kalenna (Smith) Wilson.
Shan Wilson is familiar with rural life. Farming was a part of the family businesses which included his father’s management position at a trucking firm and his mother’s presence as a P.E. teacher at Miller High School. Hunting and fishing were a part of his life growing up in the community between Ash Grove and Everton. “My family always hunted and fished,” said Shan. “My first deer was a 6-point buck, taken with a rifle when I was 13, but the next year when I took my first deer with a bow, I became obsessed.”
Extreme focus is a part of Shan’s personality. By 8th grade, he knew he wanted to become a dentist. “At first I wanted to be an architect. I love building things, making small models.”
But a day observing changed his mind. “My dad suggested dentistry, and after I shadowed my own dentist, I decided that was what I wanted to do,” said Shan. “Dentistry is intricate work. You build things on a small scale while you get to help people.”
The same year Shan was getting his first deer in Dade County, 13-year-old Kalenna also bagged her first button buck in the Shannon County woods where her dad, Kenny Smith, logged. Surrounded by family and attending the school where her mother Sandy was a career Summersville elementary teacher, activities were usually family affairs. So when her father’s back was broken in a logging accident during her eighth grade year, Kalenna spent many long hours at the medical center in Columbia, Mo. providing family support. It was here she decided she wanted to become a physician and return home to practice.
Drury University, Sophomore year, 2004
It was the end of the semester, the last day of class for the seven trigonometry students at Drury University, and Shan Wilson wanted to borrow the chemistry notes of the girl who had sat next to him for the last few months. The problem was he didn’t know her name. “Our professor was Russian,” he said with a laugh, “and every time he called on her, I had no clue what he was saying.” So he asked her friend to tell him the name of the girl who had sat next to him all semester.
“Kalenna Smith,” the friend said.
Kalenna shared her notes and invited Shan to study with them. “They didn’t study much,” Shan said. “There was mostly talking.”
It was the beginning of a friendship, and Shan’s now annual Current River float was coming up. He invited her to come along. He began to describe the beauty of the area when Kalenna laughed.
“I’m from there!” she said. “I live 15 minutes from the Current River.”
Kalenna was unable to go on the float, but a few weeks later, it was 10 o’clock at night when she pulled her Jeep Cherokee under the lights of a Springfield intersection near Battlefield and Kansas Expressway, and noticed a helmeted but shirtless motorcyclist waving at her. “I had just come from Oklahoma,” said Shan, and yes, the bugs stung, “especially the June bugs.”
After visiting in a Hardees parking lot, Kalenna invited Shan to come to Texas County to intertube in the Jack’s Fork and go 4-wheeling along the banks of the Current River with her family.
“I didn’t have a 4-wheeler, so I brought my 1970s Motorcross dirt bike,” said Shan. “It was falling apart. Kenny and Sandy Smith followed behind and picked up the pieces. They found my muffler and the foot peg.”
It was another perfect trip. Shan and Kaleena knew they had found a kindred spirit in each other.
For the next two years, Shan Wilson and Kalenna Smith focused on their goals and friendship. Shan began working at Dr. Robert T. Dewar’s dental office. Taking dental assisting classes, he preformed limited dental procedures, worked in the lab, updated computers, answered phones and got valuable experience in every area of dentistry. “I owe Dr. Dewar a lot,” said Shan. “He was great to me.”
Kalenna balanced classes between waitressing, updating websites with professor syllabuses and drawing blood for St. Johns. A year working at an internal medicine office and a white water rafting incident changed her focus to chiropractic medicine.
It was the 4th of July, 2006 on a Colorado river when the raft Shan Wilson and Kalenna Smith were riding hit the “Smelter Drop,” a bone jarring ledge of boulders that sent the guide flying over the heads of the passengers to the front of the raft. The violent jolt messed up Shan’s back, and left Shan and Kalenna looking for help.
“A chiropractor happened to be in his office,” said Kalenna. “He had been the doctor for the Olympic team, and he had pictures and notes from the athletes on the wall. One from a diver said, ‘This gold’s for you, Dr. Dan!'”
That was Kalenna’s ah-ha moment. “I grew up going to the chiropractor, and I have always liked the natural approach,” she said, “helping the body heal itself, more with adjustments, exercise and diet, instead of drugs.”
Kalenna was accepted to the Cleveland Chiropractic College in Overland, Kans. for the 2007 fall semester, and Shan was accepted to the University of Missouri School of Dentistry in Kansas City.
Three weeks before classes began, Shan Wilson and Kalenna Smith stood with their families on a pine-covered mountain top overlooking the blue waters of Andrew Lake in Silverton, Colo. and were married. After a week honeymoon in Mexico, they headed to Kansas City to live for the next four years. They spent weekdays with books and weekends on archery ranges. “We had to get away from the city,” said Kalenna. Shan bought her a bow, and she took to it like a duck to water.
“We started 3-(Dimensional Target) competitions,” said Shan, “two or three every weekend.” By the next year, Kalenna placed second in the Archery Shooters Association State competition, and Shan was 10th.
“We even starting 3-D tournaments at Big Piney Sportsman Club once a month. We were on the road all the time!”
2011 homeward bound
The decade of focus and hard work came to a good end this spring when Shan graduated with his Doctor of Dental Surgery in the top quarter of his class,; and Kalenna graduated suma cum laude with her Doctorate of Chiropractic. She received one of six clinical excellence awards in her class of 54, and was once again valedictorian. “She did a speech in front of 800 doctors,” said Shan, “and did a really good job. She actually quoted Dr. Seuss and Garth Brooks and tied it together about the journey of life.”
Now officially moved and living in Summersville, Kalenna said, “We are so glad to be here. It is so peaceful! We hear crickets instead of sirens!”
Shan has already fished the Jack’s Fork several times and fried a few goggle eye on the river bank.
But Shan and Kalenna are both eager to work and have started taking appointments in Houston. Whether down in the mouth or down in the back, the Wilsons plan on repairing smiles and getting area folks back on their feet for a long, long time.
“We plan to be here forever – the rest of our lives,” said Kalenna; and in the process, they just might shoot a few arrows, paddle a few canoes and live happily ever after.
Shan Wilson D.D.S. recently joined the staff at RichardsonFamily Dentistry in Houston, and Kalenna Wilson, D.C. is workingwith Dr. St. John’s Chiropractic Clinic in Houston.