Archive for July 2008

Rorschach, the Maniacal Mutt

July 30, 2008

        For a while we got into Brittany Spaniels.  My son was just a toddler, and we answered the ad with every intention to bring home a male dog.  The boy took one look, latched onto the one he liked, and cradled her in his arms.  We were in the dog business.  He named her Fancy right on the spot.  The name stuck.  

        The dog was aptly named.  She was very regal and proper, but not a bit spoiled, a wonderful pet who stayed close to home and played in the yard with the kids.  The night she died was hard on all of us, but especially so for Tommy Jr., who was a teenager by then.  I knew, and the vet confirmed that no more could be done, but that boy sat up with the dog all night.

        ‘Fancy’ was the only registered dog we ever had.  She was such a fine animal, and dispelled every stereotype about purebreds as nervous and ill tempered, so we decided to let her have a litter.

        She had six, and all of them found good homes, except one little rascal we couldn’t give away.  While the other pups would nurse quietly, this one ran around in circles and had to be bottle fed half the time to survive.  My wife saw it coming.  “That dog ain’t right,” she said.  Marfar named the dog Rorschach, after a big ink blot splotch on his back.  It was prophetic- the dog’s only distinction was a bizarre personality that would have intrigued Sigmund Freud.

        Names often tell a lot.  If you wanted a hero dog in a story, you would never name it Rorschach.  You’d go for a name like “Ranger Dog.”  Try this sentence out.  ‘Ranger Dog jumped in the lake, nuzzled the child by the nape of the neck, and pulled her to the safety of shallow water.’  Makes you want to cheer.  Try that with “Rorschach.”  It doesn’t fit.  In fact it is laughable, and so was Rorschach if he hadn’t been ours.

        What Rorschach lacked in brain activity, he made up for in sheer power and determination.  As he grew into his full size this became apparent, and the kids shortened the name to “Sharky,” a name they could take some pride in.  (But mama, who’d want a dog named after crazy folks?)

        Rorschach couldn’t stand to be penned up for a minute, and loved to roam.  One night he broke away and I had to go deep in the woods to find him.  It was cold and I was tired.  I could hear his lonesome howl off in the distance.  The only bright spot in the adventure was a full moon that illuminated the woods so well I almost didn’t need a flashlight. 

        I found him where he’d run under a fallen tree.  The stake he had pulled up trailed behind him and had wedged in behind the log he’d run under.  All the knuckle-head had to do was reverse field and go back under the log, but no, I had to troop around half the night to find him.  When we got home, the kids petted the dog and snuggled up to him.  “Oh Sharky, we were so worried!”  I went and took a shower.

        We even tried an invisible fence.  After a few shocks, the crazy dog learned to back up several paces to get a running start.  He’d put his shoulder down like a fullback, and then run headlong into the electric field.  He’d make it through to the other side, yelp at the top of his lungs, then realize he’d made the jailbreak and the high-tail it for the woods.

         When Sharky would go missing, the first place I’d check was the farm just down the road.  Sharky was a bird dog, and he’d get into Farmer Wilson’s chickens.  I guess you can’t get above your raising and it was natural for him.  I’d get out my wallet and pay up for the losses.  It was a regular ritual, like bail for a drunken Otis Campbell on Saturday night, and then I’d take him back home to the children.  Wilson was fair about it.  He never exceeded market price even though he had me over a barrel.  He had grandchildren, so I guess he understood.  “Besides,”  he’d say.  “It beats all the work to take ‘em to market, Doc.”

        One winter Sharky had an abrupt change in personality.  He didn’t try to break through the electric fence, and seemed short of breath when he walked.  When he has content to lie by the fireplace to stay warm, I knew he was in trouble.  The vet confirmed the diagnosis of congestive heart failure, and Sharky didn’t make it through the winter.  But while he was here he burned bright and found his way into the family history book as our most eccentric pet.

        Sharky was a good’un, but here is my advice.  If you have one in the litter with a big ink blot on his back, name him something like “King,” give him to a farmer, and tell him you can guarantee the dog will chase the crows out of his cornfield with inexhaustible contentment for all his days.  It’ll be the truth, and you and the dog will both be better off.  Some critters just aren’t born to be domesticated, and Sharky was one of ‘em, but we did the best with him we could.

Dr. B

Rudy the Red Rocking Horse

July 28, 2008

        Years ago my children had a red rocking horse we named Rudy.  Rudy had a hard life.  Not only my young’uns but all the neighborhood kids didn’t think twice to hop on the horse’s back and spur him on without mercy.  Over time the coat on that poor paint pony cracked and peeled, and he lost the lower half of his right rear leg in some long forgotten accident.  Rudy was suspended on a couple of rusty springs, and he became quite creaky with age.  I guess he had a bad case of wear and tear arthritis, ’cause he strained with a God awful noise.

        Back in those days, Neuse River practiced at my house.  Whenever we’d crank up, the kids never failed to jump on and rock to the music.  Man did Rudy make a racket.  As long as I live, I’ll never hear “Reuben” without Rudy’s eek eek eek eek sound track in my head.  My boy is a fine bass player.  He keeps perfect time, and I think it is from all those years of rocking on Rudy while Moose picked ‘Reuben’ on the banjo.

        Moose thought the same.  (So much so that I’ve often thought he built his picking barn where we now rehearse to escape Rudy.)  One day he was by the house, and noticed the horse was gone.  “Hey Doc. Whatever happened to old Rudy?”

        “Gone to the great glue factory in the sky, Moose.”

        Moose laughed at the memory.  “I gotta tell ya Doc, that pony like to have drove me crazy.  Eek eek eek eek.  Mercy.”

        “Yeah Moose.  That was one bad animal, no doubt.  But you gotta admit- a man who can keep time on ‘Reuben’ while the kids rock on a horse with bad springs is a player.”

        “I reckon.”

        One day Neuse River had a practice scheduled at the picking barn. I got there early so me and Moose could set up the sound equipment.  We opened the door and a familiar sound drifted out of the barn.

        “Oh, no,” said the Moose.  How could it be?

        Eek eek eek eeeekkkk……

        “Daddy, Daddy.  Look what Dr. Bibey brought us.  He’s just the horse I always wanted.”  Little Janie was in love.

        “Honey, you don’t understand.  We can’t keep up a horse.  Who’ll feed him….” Moose began to protest.

        “But Daddy, look- he has a hurt leg.  Dr. Bibey says if a family
doesn’t adopt him he’ll end up at the glue factory in the sky.”  Her lip pooched out.  “Pleease…?”

        Moose is a hard bitten bluegrass boy, but there ain’t no way to say no to a tow-headed blue-eyed cherub like that.  Janie brushed a ringlet of curls out of her eyes, held back a tear, and awaited the verdict.

        “O.K. Sweetie.  O.K.”  Moose knew he warn’t gonna win this battle.

        “Oh thank you daddy, thank you.”  Janie ran over and hugged the Moose’s leg, then hopped back on Rudy and began to rock.  Eek eek eek eeek.

        I handed him a small can of three-in-one oil.  “He don’t squeak so bad if you oil him once a month,”  I advised.

        Moose started to respond, then gave me a disgusted look and muttered a few words about how my mama wore combat boots.  We proceeded to get ready for practice without another word.

        Years went by and Simpkins, our bass player, got married.  (The last one to fall- see ‘Bluegrass Bachelor Party.’)  He hadn’t been married two months when the Moose called.

        “You know Bibey, I guess now that Simpkins is married they’ll have some young’uns someday.”

        “Yeah, I guess so, Moose.”

        “Don’t you reckon they’d want to adopt Rudy?  My kids are fixing to go to college you know.”

        “Why don’t you just send him to the glue factory, Moose?”

        “Are you kidding?!  Janie would pitch a fit.”

        “Hm. I understand.  Yeah, I think Simpkins would make Rudy a good home.  We need to raise some more good bass players.”

        I called my kids to let them know- Rudy lives on.  They were pleased.  I always was a good Dad, and I think the last thing they want is that dang squeaky horse at their place.

Dr. B

Book Update and Characters

July 26, 2008

        My agent is a brilliant guy.  He is the one who had me start my blog, and it has been much fun.  He said it would be good practice, and also I would learn a lot from my readers.

        It turned out better than that.  As I finish up my rough draft and first revision, (due in three months) my readers have morphed my story. 

        One thing that came out of the blog as the book evolved were some new characters.  Some of the early contributors to the blog ended up as players in the story.  (It is possible a publisher could ditch some of them in revisions, though.)  So, y’all speak now or forever hold your peace.  If you don’t want to inspire a book character let me know before it is too late.

        If this book is successful, I have two sequels planned and in development.  (My definition of success:  Artistic satisfaction and enough $$ that my agent’s 15% warrants him putting up with me for a second one.)  So, even if it is too late for book one, you could still show up in a sequel.

        By the way, these contributors inspired certain character traits.  I promise not to directly use your work- I’m against a writer who plagiarizes as much as I would be against a Doctor who cheats.

        So, y’all let me know if you want (or don’t want ) to show up in a Tommy Bibey novel someday.  Either way, I appreciate every comment on the blog.  Y’all are a smart crowd.  As I go on my writer journey, every one of you have been a blessing.

Dr. B

Bluegrass Intellect

July 24, 2008

        I am going to dedicate today’s post to the English Professor for several reasons.  For one, he is a bluegrass intellectual, and that is today’s topic.  Also, I have read some of his thoughts on different types on intelligence I find pertinent to this discussion, and I hope he will chime in with some comments.

        The fist thing I gotta tell you is the stereotypical notion that bluegrass music is restricted to a less educated and rural population is just not accurate.  A number of good studies indicate bluegrass fans, and also the folks involved in the industry as professionals, are more apt to be college educated and upper middle class than the national average.  To those of us who have hung around the music for years, this is no surprise, but it often is to the uninitiated.  Perhaps the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) could comment on the matter.  They know the demographics better than anyone.

        The notion that our music is played by folks of a lower level of sophistication than our pop culture counterparts is not only erroneous, but a bit of an insult to me.  Part of my mission with my blog is to correct that public misconception.  The imagery and symbolism of traditional music run deep, and I have found the players to be sensitive, thoughtful, and intelligent.  Listen to the words of the songs- you’ll see.

        The English Professor likes to talk about the different kinds of intelligence that exist in this world, and I agree with him 100%.  I went to high school with my mechanic.  He got out and went right to work at the Chevrolet dealership, then opened his own shop.  He might not have gone on to as much book learning as me, but I find him deeply intelligent.  He can diagnose my car in ten minutes, and I have often struggled for a week to try and figure out what is wrong.  Just ’cause his training was under a hood of a car, and not as much out of a book does not make him one bit less intelligent.

        The same holds true for music.  I have two favorite mandolinists.  Both of them became professional musicians right out of high school, and they are gifted musicians beyond a level I will ever know or understand.  All I can do is study under them and try to approximate their level of musical intelligence.  I will never be as smart as them in that field.  It isn’t what God intended for me.

        When I run someone in bluegrass who has an exceptional gift in the written word, or a degree in higher education that affords them the opportunity of a platform, I want to be sure they are heard.  So, I’m gonna re-recommend the English Professor’s blog- he’s the best.  And I hope you’ll stick with mine too.  I might be like Avis, but I try hard.  As I try to learn to write, I hope through my words people will come to understand the world of bluegrass and my friends in the industry.

        If you would, tell me about folks you know with different kinds of intelligence.  One of the things I like about my blog is I learn something new from my readers all the time.  After all these years as a Doc, I believe more than ever it takes all of us to make the world go round, and I enjoy hearing from all of you.

Dr. B

Bluegrass Work Note Excuses

July 23, 2008

        You know how folks come up with all kind of excuses when they miss work?  The bluegrass world is no different.  Back in the days before Neuse River’s personnel stabilized and reached our current level of maturity (ie we all done got old) the Moose and I heard every excuse in the world.

        One time Moose went to pick up Raymond, our second fiddler.  Sometimes the boy had a legitimate reason to miss, like when they’d call him in to drive a truck for the local moving company.  This time there warn’t no excuse, ’cause he’d had a DUI and lost his license.  And, Moose was more than willing to pick him up at the house.  Moose got there and the boy came to the door and said, “Sorry, Moose I can’t go tonight.”

        “Whadda ya mean you can’t go?  We’ve got a sound check in an hour!”

        “Naw, man. I’m gonna stay home.  Mama wants to watch rasslin.”  And that was that.  He went back in the house and wouldn’t budge.

        Another time Billy was gonna play bass for a show downtown.  He called the office with three hours to go and told my staff he couldn’t make it- it was an emergency.  I doubted it was medical.  As it turns out they were calling for rain, and he wanted to build a new doghouse.  The old one had a hole in the roof.  It worked out O.K., though ’cause I had Paig call Darrell.  He didn’t own a bass, but he knew where he could borrow one, and showed up on time for the gig.

        Well, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, ’cause that was my first gig with Darrell.  His mom had to bring him- he was only fifteen and didn’t even have a driver’s license.  He was known for his mandolin and guitar work, but did a fine job on the bass.

       I had to ask.  “Darrell, where did you you learn to play bass like that?”

       “Awh, Doc.  We’ve got a man who plays the doghouse in church on Sunday morning.  I’ve been watching him.  Warn’t nothing to it.  That was good material y’all done.  Where didja get it?”

        “Where did we get it?”  I was incredulous.  “Son, that was Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanleys.  Ain’t you ever heard them?”

        “Naw, man.  We listen to III Tyme Out and Doyle Lawson.  Who are them guys?”  Darrell asked.

        I couldn’t believe it.  Here the kid played a perfect gig with no rehearsal on an instrument he didn’t even own, and had never even heard the material.  For once a work note worked out.  Darrell went on to become a great friend and a monster multi-instrumentalist.  We play an occasional show together to this day.

        I’ve heard all the excuses in both of my lines of work.  Guys with five different grandmas dying, prescription eating dogs, you name it.  Often the situation had to do with a woman, either a wife or another one, like the time Franklin, our first fiddle man, took up jogging.  It all went fine till his wife realized he only jogged around the block, then stopped to visit the new neighbor lady.   When he came back and hopped in the shower- well, all I can say he warn’t sweating ’cause of road work. 

        We had to let Franklin go.  One time he came to a gig in with bullet holes in his car ’cause his girl friend’s husband came home early from the night shift and hit him in the head with a shovel.  It was lucky then man didn’t kill the fool boy.  Fiddlin’ Frank’s wife put all his clothes on the porch and locked him out, so he went to stay with his best friend Flakie in S.C. until he ran off to Georgia with Flake’s wife. 

        I was glad we fired Franklin.  Flake’d get drunk and show up at our gigs with a pistol and want to talk to him.  I made sure to wear a different color of shirt than Franklin wore- I even went to the car to change one night-and I’d stand on the opposite side of the stage.  And you can be sure I made certain Flakie knew the difference between a fiddle and a mandolin.  I didn’t want Flake to get confused, and when he’d drink he could get that way.  I knew ’cause I was his doctor.  Even so it was too dangerous to keep Franklin on, so we parted ways.  I hate it though, he could sure play a fiddle.

        All that being said, I have to tell you for the most part my guys are now quite tame, and what wild streak they once had has been pretty well domesticated.  Now we are old and play music so we can pretend we are young.  But along the way, I think I’ve seen about every bluegrass work note excuse there was.

        What kinds of work are y’all in?  I guess people are the same everywhere, and I’d be interested to know what kind of excuses you have run into.  I’ll bet the lawyers, paramedics, nurses and the like who deal with a variety of people have seen it all twice just as I have.

        My only request is please, no real names.  We don’t want any HIPAA violations here. 

        Gotta go back into work first thing in the morning.  In all these years, I ain’t missed but one day, and that was for cataract surgery, so I want to keep the streak alive.

Dr. B

Bibey on the Air/Bluegrass Music Update From WNCW 88.7

July 21, 2008

        Part of today’s post is an update on WNCW 88.7 Bluegrass radio.  Dennis Jones at the station sent me an e-mail, and it is printed below.  Before you get to that, though, I gotta tell you an old Neuse River/WNCW 88.7 bluegrass radio true story.

        One time we had a gig way in the western part of the state, Sparta, N.C. to be exact, and we was riding to the show date in the Neuse River converted school bus.  Like everyone in bluegrass music when you had a show on a Saturday night in that part of the state, you’d tune in a guy named Russ Jordan.  His radio show was the same “Going Across the Mountain” now hosted by Dennis Jones.  (It is a good’un)

        Just before we got into Sparta, Russ came on the air and said, “Folks y’all get out tonight and hear Neuse River- they’re gonna be in Sparta at the Volunteer Fire Hall.  Is Dr. Tommy out there?  We’ve got Miss Molly Tenbrooks down here at the station and she’s sickly.”  (This is bluegrass code talk for someone’s got a fever in their head.)

        Moose got on his car phone and told ‘em we was so too far down the road to turn back now, but I talked to ‘em and told ‘em I knew for a fact that Rebbekker the bass player lady Doc was on call ’cause I’d talked to her when I came through that morning.  They got a hold of her and she took care of the problem.

        Well, that ain’t the end of the story.  Some hospital hired lawyer named Leggett called me in to his office on Monday morning and said he’d heard we was talking patient names over the radio and I’d done a HIPAA violation.  I told him right quick that Molly and Tenbrooks was a couple of dadburn racehorses from a Bill Monroe song for heaven’s sake, and there warn’t nary a thing in the HIPAA book that said folks can’t talk on the radio in bluegrass code about a horse race, so he’d just have to get over it.

        I went on to say just as soon as he found the Federal regulation for that circumstance to fax it over the office, and I’d be happy to look it over.  I never did hear from him.  Shoot, even the Government knows you can’t regulate bluegrass.

        I never did like that little guy ever since he got after Indie anyway.  (I’m gonna tell you more about that in my book.)

        Enough on old war stories, here’s the update on WNCW 88.7.  All the best Dennis, ’cause you guys are.

FROM DENNIS JONES:

Thought Dr.Tommy Bibey would be interested in this……

Starting August 4th, Bluegrass music begins Monday through Friday at 6:00am until 7:00am. The new addition to WNCW programming will be called “Mountain Morning” and is to be hosted by Jerry McNeely. The unbelievable support and astounding ratings show that Traditional and Contemporary Bluegrass is what listeners want. Thanks to all who have made this possible. With this new block, we now have 16 hours of the “real deal” Bluegrass available over an FM signal that covers 5 states….6 on good days. It’s really a thrill to know how important the music we all love so much, is gaining air time on a stations main channel;not regulated to the internet or a side channel that requires buying a new radio. Morning drive time for many is in this hour, or folks getting ready to head out for the day will be able to have another source for Bluegrass music in our listening area…as well as on-line world wide. This truly makes WNCW a Flagship Bluegrass station and we will continue to try our best to deliver the quality programming so many have come to expect.

Dennis Jones
WNCW-FM Technical Director

Oh Tommy Bibey, Where Art Thou You Rascal?

July 19, 2008

        My blog just made a milestone- 15,000 hits.  My agent says this is real good for a fiction blog.  I’ll be honest, I ain’t got no idea.  All I know is I am an over grown doctor country boy who loves to pick bluegrass music and read, and this Internet thing is an endless word candy store.

        The blog has grown to the point that a number of folks have e-mailed and asked where to see Neuse River play, so I’m gonna tell you about that today.  Betwixt doctoring and music, Tommy Bibey has never has gotten around to a  myspace page or such as that.  Bluegrass folks are so dadburn spontaneous it is hard to get ‘em to write down a set list, much less a performance schedule, but I will keep you guys posted on the blog.

        Here ‘s what I mean.  Not long ago the Moose called me.  “Hey Bibey, you on call this week-end?”

        “Nope.  What’s up?”

         “Call Jenny (his wife) and tell her you got us a gig at the Beach,”  he said.

        “I ain’t got us a gig at the beach.  What you talking?”

        “Yeah you do.  We’re gonna open for Chubby Checker at the Pavilion.”  Only the Moose is ingenious enough to convince the Pavilion a bluegrass band needs to open for Chubby Checker.  “I got us the gig, but she’ll be a whole lot more likely to let me go if you call her.”

        And so it goes.  I run interference for the boys all the time.  In a way I understand.  Moose was a bit of a rounder in his day, and Jenny trusts me to keep all the women shooed away from the band.  Not that it is needed.  After the Moose married Jen, he settled into domestic life just fine and is 100% faithful.  I think Jen just wants to be sure if opportunity tries to knock on his door I slam it shut.  By the way, we did great at the gig, but Strober K, who subbed for Simpkins on the bass that night tried to steal the alligator they kept in a cage out front and take it home for a pet, so we didn’t get invited back.

        Yep, you can count on spontenaeity from these boys.  One time we had a show in Virgina, and Stroker got all the way up there and realized he’d left his shoes at home.  How do you get to Virgina and not realize you ain’t got your shoes?  We had to stop at the Walmarks and get him some brogans.  One thing though, he never forgets his guitar- Stroker is a player.

        So, I apologize in advance for not being more organized, but you can see what I deal with here.  Here’s how to find us, though.

        Should you be in Harnett County, stop at the first gas station.  The attendant will be a good old boy wearing a blue shirt with his name, Joe, on a white patch over the left front pocket.  Roll down your window, and act bluegrass.  Say something like, “Y’all pick any bluegrass music in these parts?”

        The man will say, “Yep.”

        Then say, “You know Dr. Tommy Bibey?”

        “He’ll say, “You ain’t from around here, is ya?”

         Then deliver your punch line.  Say, “You know Jack Lawrence what picks with Doc Watson?  He wanted me to bring this here pre-war herringbone for Bibey to check out.”  Point to a guitar case in the back seat.  “It rocks.”

        Then you must be prepared for his next statement.  It will be, “How much ya want fer it?”

        Say, “It ain’t fer sale.  Jack just wanted him to see it.”

         The man will say, “You know where the Burger Barn used to be?  Well, you go there and take a right at the light, go two blocks, then left at the tracks.  Then go right by the cement block factory take a right at the body shop and you’re there.  Can’t miss it.”

        Of course, you’ll have to admit you don’t know where the Burger Barn used to be, and he’ll say, “I knowed you warn’t from around here.”  He’ll take one last look at you, then say, “Awh, hell, just follow me, I gotta go to town.  I drive you right by there.”  Folks around here are very accommodating.

        The best place to see me is at a gig.  I’m the old gray haired guy on the mandolin.  I think I may have seen some of y’all before at my shows.  You remember the gig at KT’s Archery and Radiator?  I think Ms. Amber was there- dark haired slender woman about half my age?  She’s got people in N.C. I know.  And one time we played up near DC at the Birchmere.  I swear there was a lady there who coulda been mrschili- she had a whole little brood of stair step young’uns what favored her.  Was that you?  I know for a fact the English Professor was in our area once, ’cause they told me he was at the Bomb Shelter and I only missed him a week or so.  I don’t think I’ve run into Ms. Pande, but then she lives in dadgum Greenland or somewheres up that way, and we ain’t had a gig that far North.  And we’ve not been out to Oklahoma yet, but if we do I hope Ms. Susan will catch our show. 

        Heck, even right here in N.C. one time the Neuse River converted school bus broke down near a farm, and a dog named Ranger made it clear not to invade his turf.  He realized we were bluegrass folks, though, and led us right down a dusty rutted lane to a farm house where Ms. Cindy let us use the telephone. 

        Maybe the biggest compliment I’ve had to date about my blog was from a bluegrass guy who said Tommy Bibey was the gestalt of bluegrass, almost the durn spirit of it, in that he was everywhere.  I hope to tell a lot of people why we love our music so.  To me, the music is bigger than all of us.  It represents an effort to remain human, all it’s flaws and imperfections non-withstanding, in what can be a mean modern world.

        Y’all watch for me on the circuit.  You’ll know me by the gray hair.  (and the mandolin)

Dr. B


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