Archive for January 2011

Brownie Scott

January 30, 2011

        Brownie Scott might look like a kid, but make no mistake, the child is an expert on the subject of five string banjos. She not only plays as well as any man alive, but her knowledge of prewar Mastertone banjos rivals Jim Mills. I know this is true because I have consulted sources that range from a PhD in education, an aeronautics engineer, and a world-renowned honest five string banjo lawyer. They all confirm the bluegrass truth; Brownie Scott knows banjos. 

        Brownie is world-famous all throughout Harvey County. You’ve seen her play somewhere. Her Daddy nick-named her as soon as he looked into her eyes, which were a doe-like deep fawn-ish hue right from birth. She’s only 5’3″ and maybe 105 pounds, a regular pixie, but a determined young’un. When she was in Little League she’d run right through the outfield wall to catch a fly ball. There was no give up in the child. 

        No boy ever complained about a girl on their team after Brownie Scott came along. She was the lead off hitter for the Harvey Jr. High Mad Hornets every year. Brownie could throw, hit, and bunt with the best of ‘em, and those skinny legs could run like a middle school Bambi. She’d steal second almost every time she got on base which was often.

        But most of all Brownie could play the banjo. She was the most requested sideman in the history of home. Most of the guys who picked music with her were middle-aged men who chewed tobacco and wore Red Camel overalls. One time some fool tried to hit on her, and Snookers Molesby knocked him out cold. When he came to he said, “What made you go and do that, Snook?”

        Snookers said, “I was trying to save your life, ’cause that little girl mighta killed ya, and if she’d decided to spare you every man in Harvey County would have anyway.”

       Brownie went on to Belmont, then to Yale, where she earned a business degree. Now she tours the world. She and her husband own a recording studio; he’s a fine mandolinist and a good friend of mine. They have three children, two are dark-haired like her and one is more tow-headed and favors his Daddy.   

        Brownie was one of the messengers in “Acquisition Syndrome.” Of course the highfalutin’ never suspected her at all. They made an oft-repeated error in history; the under-estimation of country people. It is one thing to under-estimate a country doctor, but better think twice about a young lady who found a way to conquer the banjo world, ’cause that’s a tough ticket.  

        I’m still learning about Brownie, but more will follow as I sift through the back-story for “Acquisition Syndrome.”

Dr. B

Indie Was (and is) Real

January 28, 2011

        I’ve heard from readers all over the world about “The Mandolin Case.” Even in the most cynical quarters folks have to concede you just help but love Indie. 

        One tough bright fellow who I respect very highly said the story wasn’t over the top like so many modern novels, but meandered like a slow river, and that he enjoyed the ride. I liked that.

       However, he couldn’t quite understand how Indie could be so unconcerned about his own personal dilemma. I know it is hard to believe but that was the way Indie was. As with so many other parts of the book journey, my Lit agent predicted many modern readers would have this exact reaction. 

       He’d say, “Son, I like the work, but you have to make it real. No one could be as good as Indie.”

       I’d reply, “But Boss, it’s true, it’s true. I know it’s hard for folks to understand but Indie really was that cool. And you always told me I have to write the truth.”

       He’d shake has head and walk away.

       I knew Indie as well as any Doc on the planet. When I was young, I’d tell him I wanted to be just like him. He’d say, “Now young’un, don’t be like me. I wish I could give up these cigarettes and you better never do something as dumb as I did with that French foreign exchange student.”

       But no one can ever say Indie didn’t care. I only saw him get mad once. We were at a jam session and someone made fun of him and said he shouldn’t have given in and settled with Betty Wilson, and that a real man wouldn’t a done that.

        I don’t know how the guy knew, ’cause we never talked about it. The session came to dead halt. Indie looked him right in the eye and said, “Look here pal. Blinky’s the one who got a bad deal, and I was trying to defend him. The way I see it we’re all here playing music and Blink was gone a decade too early. I never did get over it so why the h@## did you bring it up?”

        Snookers walked up and grabbed the man’s arm. “Buddy, you better leave here now or we’re all gonna kick your a@@.”

         We never saw the man again.

         I guess Indie never had to be mean, ’cause everybody in Harvey County would fight for him in a minute. We didn’t want anyone to change him, and anyone who was gonna try would meet resistence beyond what they could ever anticipate.

        My Lit agent always says, “Son, you have to write the truth; not only what is true today, but what was true before you got here and what will be true long after you’re gone.”

        Indie was, as is, real, and will be for all time. I had to immortalize him just the way I knew him. But I gotta agree with my reader; I never met anyone else like him.

Dr. B

The Bold Balance of Characters and Caution; Mississippi Uniqueness

January 24, 2011

        Whenever I do a book store gig I try to incorporate a visit to a local school. This all started with my Mississippi miracle I’ve told you about before. I enjoy visiting with young people. I guess it’s because except for the gray hair and the age, I’m just a large child myself. If the good Lord hadn’t given me a good grown-up doctor brain and a fine wife and children I guess I might have starved to death. I never got all the kid out of me and in many ways never did learn how to be an adult. I found these kids to be so unspoiled, yet far more sophisticated than I was at the same age. I am certain they realized that part of my writer gig is that it makes me feel younger, and they granted me that privilege.

        After I met with the Jr. English class, several of them wrote to thank me for coming. They picked up on my every idea, and then some.

       One commented as adults their principal and I were bold. We met as total strangers on the golf course in 2007 and took a chance on becoming friends. I thought about that. I’m not sure we were so much bold as old. After three decades of one patient after another before you, a Doc gets a pretty good notion as to who tells you the truth and who doesn’t. Most people are straight up, but you only have about fifteen minutes to sift out any disingenuous motives. So far, I’ve never run into a gray-haired mandolin player who loved the gospel and had it turn out to be a problem. I guess I’d advise my young friends, yes, be bold, but be “old” too. Don’t lose your enthusiasm, but also proceed with caution.

        They made some fine observations about character creation. As a doctor you have to be a perpetual student to survive. I remember the first time I visited Mississippi. We were near Biloxi. My dad saw a man walk across the street and said, “Look at the way he walks, he’s had a stroke.”

        I thought if he could diagnose a man he’d never met from the driver’s seat of the family car he must be the smartest man in the world. It jump-started a life long habit of observation. I still recall how the man walked. He had what I now call an ‘antalgic gait’ (a sway) and his left arm didn’t swing right.

        In the class we talked about character creation. As a writer, and as a doctor, you have to observe and record the smallest of details and burn them into your brain. As one student observed, “every character is somehow derived from the subconscious mind of the writer.” Give that young’un an “A” for the day.

        As I read their feedback, a realization struck me. My daughter has always said I could spot a bad actor and find a legal and ethical way to neutralize them faster than any adult she’d ever meet. After all these years, I am pretty good with that skill, but my radar isn’t perfect. This student understood one aspect of my writing I hadn’t fully considered. It has evolved into a tool for me. My day job depends on an accurate interpretation of situations to avoid trouble for either me or my people. Creation of characters allowed me a safe way to examine human behavior. The student was right. Create your characters in fiction with abandon, but in real life hold your people close and proceed with caution. To be wild and dangerous in art might allow one to be sane and safe in reality.

      Several commented as to the balance in life. I have said I am 80% doc and 20% artist, and that is the right blend for me. For them to understand this and go for it at such a young age was remarkable. I guess I was at least forty years old before I got a good handle on the concept. I was fortunate to have a wife and children who loved me in spite of an 80+ hour work week. The balance is indeed the ticket. A career as a doc is a marathon, and if you die early from overwork you’ve done no one a favor. Several wrote to say they could see in me a way to find the balance. It thrilled me to pass that one on, because I did not learn it easily. 

       One wrote to say they thought the sound of the mandolin was ever prettier than the guitar. Now there’s a kid who is high on my list for all time. (I love the guitar too, but I am a mando guy for the most part) Another planned to be a doctor, but didn’t want to give up their music. In me they saw how it could happen.

       They understood the beauty of their own uniqueness. As one student said, “we are all the ‘only one’ of something.” Tom T. Hall once told me he thought one of the most important things for an artist was to have identity, ie find what makes them unique. And we are all artists, even if we just doodle on a note pad like I used to do on the church bulletin when the Preacher got too long-winded.

        If I can be the world’s best physician bluegrass fiction writer, maybe they can be the best teacher/choir singing mystery writer or whatever else they might choose. They are from rural Mississippi. I grew up in rural N.C. Neither of us have limits on our imagination as to what we can be. 

        I recalled as a junior English student our teacher asked one boy (name changed here) “Jerry, who are you?”

       He said, “I’m Jerry Smith.”

       She replied, “No Jerry, who are you really?”

       Jerry scratched his head and raised an eyebrow. “I’m Jerry Smith,” he blurted out. “I live on Peach Street.”

       We were too naive to understand her point or Mr. Thoreau either for that matter, but I’m certain she wanted us to know the journey to self-actualization is a long road. For that matter, none of us figure it all out. As Indie would say, “We ain’t perfect; we’re only human.” The students seemed to understand this better than I did at their age. It takes time to grow a human being. Transformation to doctor, writer, mandolin player; each one requires the better part of a decade. They wrote to say they were going to renew their efforts and find the patience to give themselves time to grow and find themselves.

       When I was growing up, Coach was the ticket. What he said was the law. One time I forgot my gym shorts and couldn’t work out, and Coach busted my rear end for it. I didn’t forget my gym clothes again though, you can be sure of that. The principal at this school was also a Coach. I always respect Coach, ’cause they are in the biz to help people. I hope I helped inject a little more of that respect in the students too. Guys, to this day if Coach tells me to do push-ups, I drop and try to give him my best, ’cause I trust him to look out for me.

        One student in the class asked how long it took me to learn to play the mandolin. The standard bluegrass answer is “I’m still learning.” And bluegrass is a true art from. In it, we always continue to learn. These school children reinforced the concept to me all over again.

        Mississippi, old Doc can’t help but love ya. I’ll be back. Maybe next time one of you will play a mandolin duet with me. Keep on learning guys; don’t ever stop.

Dr. B

Me ‘n Elvis

January 21, 2011

        We were just in Tupelo at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore. Tupelo is the home town of Elvis, and he still looms large there. In fact he showed up at our gig, and I have the picture to prove it. 

       In some (but not many) ways Elvis and I have a few things in common. We both grew up as country boys who loved mama and music, esp the gospel. I reckon it stops there.

       I never knew him of course, but if I had I’d a loved to play a song on the mandolin and sing some spirituals with him. I promise you though, I’d have let the man go enjoy the movies and not have bothered him. I’ve read where back in the day he’d have rent out the theater late at night so he and his buddies could watch a flick all the way through.

        In some ways I felt a bit silly posing with old Elvis, and thought it showed on my face in this shot. My wife liked the pic, though, and I guess there’s nothing wrong with old people having fun. (Me not my wife)

        Come Monday I’m gonna post some more about my visit with the school kids in Mississippi. I think I learned more from them than they did from me. I know one thing, I always learn a lot from coaches. When I was growing up, Coach carried even more weight than Elvis. 

Dr. B

Blinky’s Grandchild (and Child)

January 19, 2011

        I’ll get back with more on Mississippi soon, but I did want to pass along this story first.

        Bones Robertson was at his desk finishing dictation for the morning when Peg beeped him. “Doc, there’s a young man here to see you, says he’s “Bull” Wilson.”

        “Lord, that’s Blinky’s grandchild, send him on back.”

        The boy was now a grown man with high cheekbones, jet dark hair and eyes, and a smile like a string of pearls.  Bones hugged him around the neck. “My goodness, you’re a grown up young’un. I haven’t seen you since Indie’s funeral. What you up to these days?”

        “I’m V.P. of the lease division for Phipsy Motors, Harvey County’s Honest Used Car Dealer, only the best for the best.”

        “Well I’ll be. So you work for Phipsy now.”

        “Yes sir. I put you down as reference, I hope that was OK.” 

        “Of course. I’ve known ya forever.You come from good stock; old Blink had his troubles, but he was a good man. He sure stuck by your grandmother. So how’s your Dad?”

        “He died of a heart attack in Baton Rouge, only 42.”

        “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear.” Bones paused. “And your mama?”

        “She’s a waitress at The Waffle House down there. I’m gonna buy a house and get her back home someday.” Bull’s eyes flashed. “Grandma Betty made sure no one in Harvey County heard about it when Dad died.” He clenched his fist. “She always called him half-breed.” 

       Bones sat silent.

        Bull was now 6’3″ and about 240. His neck was thicker than Bone’s skinny hamstrings; a tough kid. His eyes welled up. “Doc, there’s something I want to tell you.”

        “Sure. What’s that?”

        “Blink wasn’t my grandfather, at least not my biological grandfather.”

        Bones sat down and twisted his mustache. “Whadda you mean, Bull?”

        “Grandma Betty pretty well kicked Daddy out. He’d a been an orphan, but a Choctaw Indian named Eagle took him in.” He pulled a picture out of his wallet and showed it to Bones.

        Bones studied the photo, then looked back at Bull. “Son, he looks just like you.”

        “I reckon he would. He’s my grandfather.”

        Bones was silent for a moment. “And Blinky?”

        “I’m sure my grandmother never told him.”

        Bones scratched his head. “You mean to tell me when Betty Wilson got pregnant it wasn’t Blinky’s?”

        Bull nodded.

        “Damn.” And put Blink through all that hell? Bones thought. He paused to compose himself. Why’d she do that, pray tell?”

        “Her daddy hated Native Americans. Would have never allowed the marriage to a full-blooded Indian.”

        “But Blink was part Choctaw.”

        “Old man Langhorne said it didn’t show. Said Blinky might look European, but he still didn’t like him.”

        “Dang. Did it not occur to the man the Native Americans were here first?”

        “I guess not.”

        “So Eagle….

        “Yes. He’s Daddy’s real father; my grandfather.”

        “Well, I’ll be.”

        “You know what?” Bull said. “I loved Blink too. He thought he was my grandfather. Dad never knew Blinky Wilson wasn’t his father. Betty did her best to keep us all apart. I couldn’t bear to tell Blinky. I thought it would kill him. Eagle thought so too, so we didn’t tell.”

        “You’re a good young’un, Bull Wilson.”

       Now it all made sense to Bones. Indie made Betty settle with the scholarship so she wouldn’t have any choice. She was forced to be kind. That dadgum Indie was so wise he even figured how to box in Betty Wilson where she had to do right.

        “Bull, let me ask you one more thing.”

        “Yes sir.”

        “Indie always said he and Blink both had some Choctaw blood. You think they were brothers?

        “I dunno, Doc. I always thought they might be too. I know one thing. Indie Jenkins was the wisest man  I ever knew.”

        Bones smiled. “I agree, Bull. I agree.”

        Bones shook the boy’s hand, and Bull left to go to work. He stopped at the door and turned around. “You know what, Doc? It sure is good to be back in Harvey County.”

        “Good to have you back, kid. Tell Phipsy I’ll be over when I need a new truck.”

        “Yes sir.”

       Bones sat his desk for a minute and twirled his stethoscope. Who said you can’t go home again?  He got up and went to see his next patient.

Dr. B

I dedicate this post to lady mandolin player Beth Tibbitts. She is the bluegrass reader who tracked down Bull Wilson and sent him my way. As more people read “The Mandolin Case” I continue to learn more about the story. (I guess we never stop) I am in the debt of my readers for their research, and esp so today to Ms. Tibbitts.

You Might be Ready To Be a Writer When…. (Cuttin’ a Wide Southern Swath)

January 17, 2011

        You might be a writer and a book peddler when you check the Weather Channel and realize a major storm is on the way and it might snow you in and tangle up your gig, so you toss three boxes of books and your mandolin in the car along with your lap-top, stuff a handful of duds in a duffel bag, then rush out and try to beat the storm. You realize in your haste you forgot to pack any pants other than the ones you have on, so you stop a hundred miles down the road at the Walmart for some new threads where you tell the customers they need Tommy Bibey books in the store.

        You’re on towards a high-falutin’ famous author when you’re stranded in Atlanta two days ’cause you miscalculated the exact hour the snow would blow in, and you had stop along the route to pee three times instead of two. You get caught in a blizzard where the MARTA buses swapped ends and blocked “Spaghetti Junction” in the worst storm in twenty years and the 18 wheelers on I-285 are frozen solid to the Interstate and have to be dug out one at a time by the DOT.

        But you, one brave solitary writer that you are, along with your fine wife, slip-slide up the down ramp and snag the last room at the Airport Hilton. You view the situation as one big fortuitous circumstance; as a writer you see it as a book peddler land of opportunity ’cause you and your mandolin are the only entertainment in the lobby.

        Everyone was on edge ’cause of the rush, the weather, and the inconvenience, but the music renders a strange calm to the chaos. Several folks buy your book. You aren’t sure if they really like it, felt sorry for you, or just came over to check it all out because of the music and the fact you were parked right next to the warm fireplace. Maybe they just wanted you to go away. (To be a successful book salesperson you have to calculate at what point your pitch borders on obnoxious and stop just shy of that)

        You’re ready to be a Literature pitchman when they only restaurant open in Atlanta metro area is the Waffle House and they are so over-worked your wife offers to help ‘em bus tables. (The boss wouldn’t allow) You play ‘em a song, leave ‘em a card, thank ‘em for that fine coffee, tell ‘em everyone knows the Waffle House is the bluegrass breakfast of champions, then recommend they read Tommy Bibey when the spring thaw comes. You get in the parking lot, and step back inside. “By the way guys, ask corporate to consider a bluegrass coffee sponsorship for the Tommy Bibey tour.”

       They you wave goodbye, slide back down the off ramp, and escape town while you have a two-hour one degree above freezing window of opportunity.

       When you break into the clear in the sunny Southland a hundred-fifty miles south of Hotlanta you stop at a feed and seed to get a “Big Al’s Strawberry Alligator Ice” and a bag of cashews. It looks like some kinda tropical oasis and reminds you of the Sun Drop Slushies back in Harvey County. If you feel like that’s high cotton and better than an invitation to snorkel with the rich and famous at some exotic beach, you might be a southern writer.

        It’s just like home; a sign out front sports ads for Marvin’s live minnows, Happy Jack dog food, and Bud Light. You leave ‘em a card and tell ‘em the bluegrass people know the truth. In the rearview you watch as they scratch their heads and turn the card over with a curious look that seems to say, “Who was that masked man?”

        You’re a writer when you drive halfway across the South and four states through the snow to have a chance to talk to school kids about books rather than a bunch of rich guys at a some bank ’cause you have this hopeless romantic notion your words will somehow make the world a touch kinder.

        You’re ready to be a writer when you fall head over heels in love with a cool independent book store like Reed’s Gum Tree Book Store in Tupelo, the home bookstore of John Grisham and Elvis for Heaven’s sake. All the best pickers in that neck of the woods, “The Saltillo Circuit Riders” show up in force. It’s not every day the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer is in town, and they want to show support for one of one of their own. Me and Smitty get our picture taken with Elvis; I’ll post it soon.

        You leave behind a dozen signed copies and hope maybe Mr. Reed, the mayor, John Grisham and every good-hearted school teacher in Mississippi will scarf ‘em up. I loved Mississippi. As Pa Smith says, “Come to Mississippi. We have so many ways to treat you good you’re bound to like one of ‘em.”  

         As a writer you dream you might be a small part of something bigger than you; a place where smart people exchange intellectual ideas instead of venom. Reed’s was like that.

        You’re a writer if you sow seeds and plant word trees when you know quite well it’s unlikely you’ll be around long enough to partake of the shade. You do it ’cause you can’t bear for the dream to die when you do.

        You’re a writer when your best little young country music friends like Miss Megan say, “Doc, the reason this gig works is you and Marfar are playing. It ain’t work for you. Have fun; go for it.”

        You do it because that’s what you are. You don’t write for money. You write because when you get home, you say to your tireless life-long sidekick, “Hon, I’m beat. As best as I can figure if you include the royalty check that came in the mail while we were gone we only lost $273.34 on the trip.”

       And she smiles and says, “Yes, dear, but we’re living large. When’s the next gig?”

        “Let’s see. Bluegrass First Class. February, Asheville. Can’t wait. But for now, I gotta jump into a phone booth and turn into a doctor.”

        She shakes her head, laughs, and replies, “Able to leap tall buildings….”

        “Yeah, hide the kryptonite kiddo, Doc ain’t done for yet.”

Dr. B

 

Thanks to All in Mississippi

January 16, 2011

        We’re traveling the highway home, but I did want to stop long enough to thank my Mississippi friends. It was a fun visit. I’ll have much to write about this over the next few posts.

       So, to Marfar, Tommy Jr., Marie, Ken and Cindy Smith, Ma and Pa Smith, Ms. T, all the Saltillo High kids, the Master Sargent, Emily and Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore, Smitty, Julius, Dr. Richard, all the Saltillo Circuit Rider gang including the fiddlin’ Tupelo Beauty Operator (the beauty operators know all in Harvey County) Ms. Paula at the Jameson, Susan, and Elvis, I thank you every one.

        Y’all go visit Mississippi. As Pa Smith says, “Here in Mississippi we have so many ways to treat you good, you’re bound to like one of ‘em.”

       We loved it all. A great state.

       Oh, and Lacy; all the best to you too, almost left you off.

Dr. B

My Reed’s Bookstore Gig Goals

January 14, 2011

        In my last post I promised I’d tell you my hopes for my gig tomorrow at Reed’s. At first glance you might say, “You’re a writer, your goal is to sell books.”

       On the surface, that is true I guess, but it isn’t my number one objective. “The Mandolin Case” has sold well enough that if it keeps this up in another year I’m gonna be on the bottom of the N.Y. Times best seller list and someone up there might just ask, “Who the h#** is Tommy Bibey?”

        I believe a man not satisfied with all that stands even odds God will strike him down to prove a point, and I’ve had the fear of God in me since my mama put it in me as a boy.

        So you might ask; what is my goal?

        I’ll be at Saltillo High School today. I hope some of them will come to Reed’s Bookstore tomorrow. I hope to show the kids that one can find a life of grace and dignity through the arts. If even one decides a life of materialism and celebrity is just too shallow a goal and decides to pursue another route to happiness, I’ve done my job.

        All I’m gonna do is what I did at West Henderson High; ask the kids to consider what folks like their teachers like Mr. Cliff Searcy there or Ms. T. in Saltillo have to say. Every so often an outsider needs to come around to remind folks, but your heroes are right there in your hometown, just like they are here in Harvey County.    

        And that is my goal.

        If I sell enough books to make gas money back home that’s just gravy on the biscuit.

        See you at Reed’s tomorrow. Y’all bring a guitar and come pick a tune.

Dr. B

The Return of Tommy Bibey- Reed’s Bookstore

January 12, 2011

        Well sure enough I wound up going to Mississippi in 2008. I met the school kids in the library and also their English teacher Ms. Turner. Some of the kids dubbed me as an “Honorary Mississippian.” I recall I said to a student named Carrie, “You’re a smart girl and a good writer.”

        Her little pal who stood next to her puffed up with pride and said, “Carrie is real smart; she’s going to Ole Miss next year to study pharmacy.”

        I like people like that. A friend of mine says “true friends are never jealous or envious.” This little girl wanted to make sure some stranger come to town knew she was proud of her friend Carrie.

      We stayed at the Jamison Inn, and I promised Mark the manager I’d play a mandolin tune before I left. April from housekeeping was there when I checked out and we sang “Glory Hallelujah Gonna Lay my Burdens Down.” I think we did it in “E.” The lady was a powerful singer.

        We did a Hee Haw show fundraiser at Smitty’s church and they had a slew of fine pickers there. Since then I’ve run into Marty Stuart. He’s a Mississippi boy; so there’s a lot of music in those parts. That night we went to Smitty’s mama’s house and had that fried chicken and Mississippi Mama’s famous chocolate cobbler. Lordy.

       Smitty and I played golf the next day with Elvis, Conway, and the Preacherman from the Hee Haw show the night before. I called my Lit agent to tell him how much fun I was having.

       He said, “Son, you don’t even know where you are do you?”

       I replied, “Yes sir, I’m right down here in Saltillo. It’s next door to Tupelo, the home of Elvis Presley. I saw his house and the hardware store where his mama bought his first guitar.”

       He laughed. “No, as far as books, you don’t even know where you are.”

       “Sir?”

       “Ask them about Reed’s Bookstore.”

       “OK. Sure.”

      Smitty gave me directions and we drove to Reed’s. We went in to visit. The lady who helped me was named Susan. I noticed a stack of Grisham signed copies on a table and inquired. Susan said when Grisham has a new book release he always debuts it at Reed’s. It’s hard to believe now, but when Grisham started out things were kinda slow an Mr. Reed was kind enough to let him do his book signings there. I guess Mr. Grisham never forgot it.

      I told Susan about my book, and played the staff a song on my mandolin. It was “The Kentucky Waltz.” I looked over at the stack of Grisham books again and said, “Ma’am, I’m no Grisham and never will be, but I think we do have one thing in common. I believe we both know to dance with who brung us.”

      “Yes, he is a very nice man.”

      “Well, let me ask you something. If I ever get my book published would y’all consider having me here for a book signing?”

      “Yes sir. You just call us.”

      “Great! I’ll be back someday, and I’ll bring my mandolin and my book too.”

      When I called last week young lady named Emily answered the phone, and she remembered me from 2008. “You were that tall gray-haired doctor who played the mandolin. I’d just started working here when you came through. Yes, we’d love to have you visit.” 

       And that is how Tommy Bibey, the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer wound up scheduled for a book signing this Saturday Jan 15, 2011 at 1:00PM at Reed’s bookstore, one of John Grisham’s favorite hangouts. Unbelievable.

       In my next post I’m gonna tell you what I hope to get done at the Reed’s Bookstore gig. (Hint: I’m a doctor, but I view part of my job as a teacher) One thing about it, I might as well relax and just be me, ’cause I sure ain’t Grisham. No one’s gonna top that cat, ‘cept maybe Twain. 

       If anyone reading this is from that part of Mississippi I hope you’ll drop by. Go see the home of Elvis Presley while you’re there; he’s really famous. It’s a good exhibit that shows all about his raising. Elvis was just a county boy who loved his mama and the gospel, but man could he sing.

Dr. B

Miss The Mississippi

January 10, 2011

        My song of the day on FaceBook is “Miss The Mississippi and You.” It’s an old Jimmy Rogers tune. I esp like Doc Watson’ version.

        One day a few years back I was gonna play a round of golf with my son here in North Carolina. He had to go to work, and I didn’t have a game, so I asked the pro to pair me up with someone. It didn’t matter who; I liked people and could work out a game with anyone.

       He put me in with a fellow named Smitty who was on vacation. We shook hands on the first tee. You know how it goes in the south. “Hey, my name is Tommy Bibey. Welcome to North Carolina,” I said. 

        Smitty noticed my hat. It read, “The Country Gentlemen.”

        “Are you a bluegrass man?” he asked.

        “Sure. I’m a mandolin player.”

        “Really? Me too. Hey, the Gentlemen were in Mississippi a while back. That kid who plays the mandolin with Charlie is from North Carolina; you know him?”

        “Yeah, man. That’s Darin Aldridge. I’ve learned a bunch from him. He’s a player.”  

        “No kidding. That boy is a hoss.”

        We found out we shared common interests in literature and Mississippi folks like Jerry Clower and Marty Stuart, as well as N.C. music people like Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson. I guess the folks we were paired with thought they’d stumbled into a family reunion. They watched all this for a couple of holes then asked, “You fellows known each other a long time?”

        “No, we just met,” I said.

        They were incredulous. “How can this be?”

        I shrugged my shoulders. “It’s the bluegrass way, I guess.” 

        Or as my friend Dr. Temple would say, “It’s the International language of music.”

        Smitty was a fine player and a true bluegrass gentleman who was also a coach and school principal in Saltillo, Mississippi, just outside of Tupelo. By the sixteenth hole he invited me to come down to Mississippi to play golf, eat his mama’s fried chicken, and pick music with his friends at their church. He didn’t have to ask twice.

       At that time I was early on in development of “The Mandolin Case.” I promised to keep him posted.

        I got home and told my Marfar all this and she asked, “So hon, when are we going to Mississippi?” (She has long since learned to never to discount her crazy physician bluegrass fiction writer husband’s dreams; they seem to always come true, starting with her)

        On a whim, I sent Smitty a short story I was working on called “The Rasslin’ Rangatang.” (It is in my blog archives) He shared it with a Ms. T, a gifted BreadLoaf English teacher at the school, and she assigned it as project for her students. I soon became pen pals with the kids. I still keep up with some of them like Miss Carrie, who is now a pharmacy student at Ole Miss.

       The kids took right to the pen pal gig. I was astounded by their insight and maturity. (I guess part of it was I ain’t nothing but a big kid myself) We traded some ideas back and forth, and I enjoyed the exchange. I recall one child wrote to say, “I can’t believe a famous writer would write us little school kids in Saltillo, Mississippi and care what we had to say.”

        I called my Lit agent (I had just signed with him) and said, “Boss, we gotta straighten this out. I’m not a famous writer.”

        He said “You are now. Any time you touch people with your written words, people far away who you’ve never met, then you by definition are a famous writer.”

        Man I was hooked. I think that was the day I decided for sure I had to keep being a writer. I was just getting started, but I was having way too much fun to quit. (As we say in bluegrass, “We ain’t having any fun at this, but at least we’re making a bunch of money.”)

        I miss the Mississippi, but I’ll be back down there Saturday. I’m gonna dedicate my blog this week to tell you more about how I fell in love with Mississippi, how I came to become an honorary Mississippian, and also the rest of the story, ie “The Return of Dr. Tommy Bibey.”

       For now, though, the Harvey County doc gig awaits, so I gotta go find my stethoscope. Stay tuned.

Dr. B


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