Travis Mauzy describes himself as a simple guy. He laughs and smiles readily. He’s easy to have a conversation with, even as a client looking for relief. The no-frills approach at his Manitou Chiropractic is an extension of his personal demeanor.
When Travis, 36, sat down with Humanitou, we talked about being a dad to two young sons and modern notions of masculinity.
We dip into the dream job Travis held for a couple summers in college, snorkeling with the U.S. Forest Service where the river runs through it in his native Montana.
We also talked about his community-oriented vision for chiropractic care, the alternative model he uses that sidesteps the tangles of the insurance industry, and what love’s got to do with it.
Humanitou: You use a simple model of running Manitou Chiropractic without insurance involvement. That feels like a community thing, and more human.
Travis: That’s it. It’s the community part. It’s the individual, the person that comes in. You don’t have anybody over top of you telling you how you can treat that person.
We get into the insurance industry, as soon as you touch it, you can’t get out. As soon as you get into Medicare, you can’t get out.
Some people want to come in and they want to come out. Some people want to come in and talk about a lot of their problems. That’s fine, but we wouldn’t be able to do that, if I was doing that other model.
I think that’s neat, and it fits Manitou. I feel like I get to be a part of the community more and serve the community more.
Humanitou: Is it sustainable?
Travis: I feel like it’s the most sustainable chiropractic business I’ve seen, honestly. They’ve shut our road down with this construction, and I’m still here. I’m not in threat to go out of business. We had floods. We’ve had fires. All since I’ve been here, and it’s not going anywhere.
I’m not looking to buy a yacht or anything like that. I suppose, if my goals were that money-driven, it probably wouldn’t be that sustainable. That’s not what I’m looking to do. Being able to serve is where it’s at.
Humanitou: I’m sure it makes a difference to people that you see this as a service opportunity. My previous experience with chiropractors has not been pleasant. I will avoid going to doctors of whatever kind as much as I can. I think most people do.
Travis: Absolutely. I grew up in northern Montana where you had to drive 60 miles to go see an orthopedist, or that blue-collar college town where, “No, if my leg is not falling off, I’m not going to do anything about it.” I understand that perspective 100 percent.
I thought part of this, when I was talking with Jeff [Boyer, who sold Manitou Chiropractic to Travis when he retired] was, how we can remove the reasons why people aren’t getting adjusted.
Is it because it’s stuffy, that sterile environment? Is it the cost? Is it the brow-beating? What is it?
Travis: Right? So, let’s just not do that. I can still do chiropractic and not do that, right?
Humanitou: You have an easy-going way. Are you chill through and through or is there something that can rev you up?
Travis: (laughing) I think I’m a pretty chill guy, but also have found out, learning about myself a little bit more over the last couple years, that I’ve got a short fuse and, apparently, become very intense, very quickly.
I don’t have things that bother me that much, but when it does everybody gets to know about it. (laughs)
Humanitou: What trips that wire?
Travis: I’ve got kids. Kids are going to push your buttons. But what pushes my buttons with my kids is the part where they don’t want to help themselves, like it’s better for them to just cry than to do something.
People doing that elsewhere irritates me. That whole, “I’m going to announce this to the world and see if something changes.” That type of stuff.
Travis: I try my best to breathe, and I try to give them as much love as I can so they know that when Dad blows up, it’s not ’cause Dad doesn’t love you, it’s not ’cause Dad’s not there, it’s not ’cause you’re a bad kid.
I try to make sure all those are instilled well so that when I do have that fuse go, you already have a background, “No, no, Dad’s OK. He just doesn’t like the situation.”
Humanitou: Someone said to me the other day, “I’m sure you’re a great dad.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m awesome! And I’m horrible.” Depends on some things.
Travis: (laughs) Yeah, absolutely. I try to breathe, but when I get that fire in my eyes, I’m sure that’s intimidating. I’m six-foot-three and it’s a 5-year-old kid making mistakes.
But if there’s anything I can teach them, it’s that self-accountability and that nothing is going to just change. I feel like it’s an important lesson, too. I don’t feel like I need to go back on it, I just need to work on–
Humanitou: How it’s delivered.
Travis: Exactly. I think it’s a good message.
Humanitou: I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called The Mask You Live In. It’s about masculinity. I’m curious about your take on perceptions of masculinity in today’s society and how that factors into your parenting of sons.
Boys and girls have different experiences coming up. It’s a conversation I have with my wife, Becca, from time to time. I understand the expectations of “boy-ness” on our sons.
Travis: I’m a pretty big softy. With my oldest boy, we can’t really even watch movies, because the music is too intense. It hits his core and he has to get out of the room. We watch the Lego Movie and he’s in tough shape, he has to bail.
We’re watching the Elf around Christmas time and halfway through, he’s gotta bail, because he’s just sobbing. But on the same hand Dad’s over in his corner and he’s also crying, because this is super-touching and sweet.
That masculinity has to come into that whole being able to buck up. When the rubber meets the road, can you do what needs to be done?
You don’t have to walk around smashing stuff and being all that is man, but being able to man up when it’s asked of you, I think that’s where that masculinity comes into my life.
Humanitou: I’m hearing a sense of accountability in that, maybe more so than a matter of traditional male toughness. And you’re describing a tender side. It’s a mix.
Travis: I think you have to be all of it. It’s the yin and yang. They’ve talked about that since the beginning of written language. You do have to have that balance.
Maybe that’s why I am crying at that movie but I’m having fire in the eyes when I’m talking to my kids about being able to take responsibility instead of pointing a finger.
But I grew up in that West where it’s old, tough, crusty guys. They were in the original rodeos, you know?
Humanitou: That must have shaped you as a boy growing up with that model of what it means to be a boy and man. How you see masculinity now, is it different than when you were younger?
Travis: Yeah, I think so. You get to be more comfortable in your own skin. When I first started here, I wanted to make sure I was following suit and, “This is who would be in this office.” And now I feel like the office would be built around this person.
When I was a boy, my dad, man. I look up to that guy. He’s an amazing person. He’s went through a lot of things in his life. He’s worked hard. Whenever he had a situation he had to take care of, it was just done.
He didn’t necessarily shelter us from big decisions, and when it was time for us to make decisions on our own, he was there, “You got this.”
Humanitou: Is spirituality something in your life? What does that word mean to you?
Travis: I’m learning more and more about it. I grew up Catholic. My wife (Mary) and I joke that she grew up Catholic and I grew up Catholic-Light. The more of these books I’m reading, I’m finding I can have a relationship with that being that’s bigger than us. I think it’s important to have that connection.
And love, basically. That would be the one word. Everything, I try and do with love. Try and do it here (at the office). Try and treat my wife and my kids with as much love as possible. And then, with that love, you can kind of have that bigger feel.
Humanitou: Love. This actually ties back to the masculinity question, for me. Expressing love openly with everyone is something I think can be difficult as a man.
Travis: I think the more love you can give … I’m a giver. I like to give things. That’s one of the best gifts, and it’s free.
Somebody you’ve never met before walks into this office and you start chatting with them and everything that you do emotionally is with love and everything that you do with your hands is with skill.
It feels more rewarding. The more I can give, the more I seem to fill back up, which is more I have to give. It took some time to get there, I think, to recognize if we can just do this, it feels better, everything works better.
Humanitou: We’ve chatted about odds and ends throughout the many times I’ve popped into your office for adjustments. I think fly fishing was one. What’s your story with that?
Travis: I love fishing. I got to work with the Forest Service electro-fishing (when I was in college). That got me into fishing more. I got to hike to the headwaters of the streams that fed into the Big Hole River in Montana, which is where “The River Runs Through It” was filmed.
It was the Continental Divide, so I was hiking the Continental Divide for a job with the Forest Service. Another summer it was kind of blended with looking for lake trout. We did some netting. When we didn’t find lake trout, we did the Big Hole and we got to snorkel down the Big Hole counting fish. It was the coolest job ever.
I told my boss, “I’m considering not going to chiropractic school, because this is so amazing.”
He said, “You don’t want to do that. Once you graduate you can’t get this job, and then you’re trying to get my job. Do you want my job? I’m constantly arguing for money from the government.
“Go do chiropractic school, and go hike for fun, go fish for fun.”
Humanitou: That was good advice?
Travis: It was great advice.
Humanitou: You’re a number of years into your career now. What’s your long view for it?
Travis: I can’t imagine doing anything else. This is where it’s at.
I was talking with the landlord about trying to get a longer lease. He said, “Well, what are you thinking?” I said, “I plan on doing this for another 23 years or so, so can we get one of those?” (laughs)
I just can’t see myself doing anything else. When it’s time to retire and I need to go do something else, I don’t see myself not doing chiropractic.
I see myself having a little shack on the top of a hill that has a flagpole and I’ll pull the flag up when I’m in there adjusting, and I’ll drop it back down when I’m not. You can peek out with your binoculars, “Oh, Doc’s in,” and go up there and hang out.
That would be ideal. That’s how I end it.