Dr. Bibey Sr.

        Like me, my dad is a country doctor.  Even though he is 79 and holding, he is still the same country doc he has always been and always will be.  Some things never change.

        I learned a lot from my Dad.  No so much about hemachromatosis- I had to go to school for that- but more about how to treat patients with respect and dignity.  For that, I learned at the feet of a master.  I have never met one who was better.

        I had a number of influences in my life.  My mom was an English teacher before she retired to raise me, (they say I was a handful) and she instilled my love of books.  My grandfather the farmer taught me more about hard work than I wanted to know.  It was my Dad, though, who first influenced me to be a Doc.

        Our crowd goes a long way back in the doctor gig.  I remember when Dad wrote Marshall Dillon (of T.V. western “Gunsmoke” fame) to tell him he shouldn’t smoke, especially on television.  It was years before I realized Matt Dillon did not quit smoking because of my father’s advice.  When color T.V. came in and Pa Cartwright on “Bonanza” had a funny skin tint on that early color T.V. set my Dad remarked that he looked jaundiced.  I went to look it up, but it was some time before I realized jaundice was not a diagnosis! 

        I remember going through Mississippi on a family vacation, and an elderly man walked across the street.  My dad observed his gait, and said, “Son that man has had a stroke.”  To a kid, for a man to make such a pronouncement about a stranger- a human being he’d never laid eyes on- was an unbelievable knowledge base.  I had to tap into it.

        Once my cousin Robert got the “side pleurisy” and his folks brought him all the way across the state so we could keep him till he got well.  Dad was the only doc in the extended family.  I bet they passed the offices of fifty good docs on the trip, but my father was the only one they trusted, so we kept the boy a few days till he got well and his people could come back to get him.  I think mama deserved the credit; it seems all the boy did was drink chicken soup and play cops and robbers with me for a few day till his folks came back, but he got well and they were most appreciative.  In those days everybody knew of someone who had died of side pleurisy, and it was a respected foe.

        For a long time in town, if Dr. Bibey Sr. said it, it was the gospel, and we’d go about our merry way glad the issue was resolved.  We were just kids and had no idea how much he struggled to take care of everybody.  Like Tiger hitting a golf ball, he make it look easy.

        Here is one story I never forgot.  Dad was on a ship in WWII.  He told me of a ship mate who went berserk- shell shock.  (I can’t blame the cat, I’m sure it would get to me.)  Dad was a medic (he went to school on the G.I. bill) and called the ship doctor to get the situation under control.

        The Doc was a large man, and it took that and more to wrest control of the situation.  To this day Dad recalls the poor crewman cursing and spitting, and calling the old doc’s mother’s integrity into question while the doc sat on the boy’s chest and gave him some sort of injection to get him down.

        Dad asked the doctor how he could stay so calm in the face of such abusiveness, and the doctor replied he was a professional.  It was his job to save the fellow from himself if humanly possible.  In all the years I have watched my Dad work I have never seen him lose his patience with another human being, regardless of how unreasonable they might be.

        My Dad learned his lessons from that old ship Doctor well.  I learned mine from my Dad.  I wish I could say I’m as good as him, but I’m not- I can get surly if my patience is stretched far enough.  

       My Dad was like Marcus Welby.  In real life, he was that patient.  I’m afraid I am more like Dr. Kiley, the cat that rode around on the motorcycle and had a bit of a wild streak in him.  (I gave up on motorcycles long ago, though.)  I reckon all I can do is keep trying- there ain’t no human on the planet more patient than Bibey Sr.  I’ll just have to do the best I can.  

Dr. B



Explore posts in the same categories: favorite non bluegrassers

10 Comments on “Dr. Bibey Sr.”

  1. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Your Dad seems like a great model. I remember reading Lewis Thomas autobiography. He wrote about med school and the state of medical knowledge when he came into medicine in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It seems to me he emphasized those human qualities that made it possible to treat patients, often because diagnosis was so primitive and the treatment choices so few. Often, as I remember, time was the great healer as well as the calm confidence and human touch of the doc. Nostalgia for an America that never was often provides the basic stuff of bluegrass music. Perhaps David Peterson’s song “1946” is the epitome of this fallacy. I’m not so certain the country doc making house calls and providing calm, measured judgement and confidence isn’t more real than imagined. You learned from the right guy. – Ted

  2. drtombibey Says:


    Dad is a good’un. Tinture of time is often good stuff, though I have been in situations where time was just a wasting.

    Regarding your comments, I am reminded of the advice of a lawyer I knew named Martin Taylor. He was a bad mean-ass plaintiff attorney who I respect (Yes, you heard me right and that is not fiction) who said one should be human first and doctor second. I never forgot the advice, especially from a human being one would think to be an unlikely source. (so much for stereotypes) That was the way my Dad was, too.

    Dr. B

  3. pandemonic Says:

    Okay, now I have a great visual of you as Dr. Kiley (he was my favorite guy!) on the motorcycle.

    It takes a very special person to be a doctor, to be sure. And you know what they say, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Both Dr. Bibeys sound like gems to me.

  4. Billy Says:

    Good fodder for a book if you ever write one.

  5. mrschili Says:

    How wonderful that you have that role model! Having someone to look up to like that must be so empowering, and I really hope that I serve as an example of a good woman to my children and my students.

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    Well like all humans we’s far from perfect, but keep on trying.

    I have a saying I like: Just ’cause I ain’t perfect ain’t gonna keep me from trying to be.

    Dr. B

  7. drtombibey Says:

    Hey Billy,

    Well, I appreciate that ’cause believe it or not I am working on one.

    Right now I am doing a year long doctor study called Core Content Review (Just one of those things I am doing for myself) that has slowed my progress some, but I promised my agent I would have him a rough draft by Jan. 1 2009.

    He tells me after that it will take a year and a half to find the right publisher, but he hopes to see it in Walmart someday. (I think it is going to take so long ’cause I am so dang long-winded and he’s gonna have to chop a lot of cotton.) I’m gonna try to self-edit before I get it to him as best I can.

    Dr. B

  8. drtombibey Says:


    Heck fire I am sure you are, ’cause you are a role model to this big kid and English student. If they ain’t listening to you it’s their own dang fault.

    Dr. B

  9. Lynn O'Carroll Says:

    Every word you have written about your Dad is the absolute truth. I will never forget as long as I live how he comforted my sisters and I when my young Mom lay there on the vent. He gathered us around, gave us a hug, and said we have some decisions to make. He took the cold, hard truth and wrapped it in love and tried to help us with decisions no family ever wants to face. He will always be a hero to me and one of the best employers I have ever had. Lynn O’Carroll

  10. drtombibey Says:

    A class nurse will recognize a class doctor every time.

    I try to be the best I can be, and so is my nurse side kick Lynn O’Carroll. (As is Myrd, too.)

    When I ain’t as patient as my Dad, she will find a way to let me know without embarrassing me.

    Lynn is a pretty good singer too, but not much of a banjo picker.

    Dr. B

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