My Mandolin Case

        Now I know you must wonder what a doctor could possibly find important enough about a musical instrument case to warrant tying up some .00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent of the Internet.  I have several very important reasons.

        If you are observant, you can learn an awful lot about someone if you study their case.  It will tell much about their philosophy.

        Next time you are at a bluegrass festival, check out an instrument case.  I have three, but my favorite is an old Calton fiberglass one.  It does have a cover, which has reduced its exposure, but in spite of the protection, it has been battered, bruised and scuffed up something awful over the years.  Maybe it ain’t a pretty face in the crowd, but it is very strong, and has been quite loyal.  One only has to crack the lid, and the smell of wood glue, barbecue and a tinge of Old Spice wafts out.  The smell floods my brain, and renders me a Pavlovian Dog ready for the show date.  My mandolin rests inside.  Protected by the case, it has only minimal blemishes to show from twenty-five years on stage.

        Almost everyone in bluegrass will place stickers from an assorted variety of venues on their case.  The pros traverse the country, and their cases reflect their wide travels.  A doctor’s life keeps you close to home, and mine is more of a statement of local culture.  You know- bumper stickers that advertise “Live at the Nursing Home” or “4th Annual Liver Mush Festival.”

        There are a couple that mean a lot to me.  One is from the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) that states “Your Family Doctor Cares For You.”  I like that one.  I need to call the Academy and see if they still print it.  Mine has been on my case for twenty-five years, and though it is tattered and worn, it still reflects my philosophy.  Should it wear out, it would have to be replaced.

        That one is my favorite, and the foundation, but others have been layered in a haphazard patchwork fashion over the years, and can partially obscure it if you don’t look real careful.  There is one for Weber, my favorite mandolin builder.  Another recognizes my membership in the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association.)  I stuck my jury duty summons on to remind not to go back until I have to, but go when I am called, and there is one from a show Alison Kraus did in Raleigh when we got invited backstage to visit.  I tell you, the woman is even prettier in person than she appears from the stage, and a very sweet spirit.  Remind me to tell you what she did for a young patient of mine that night.  

        Of course, some of it is whimsical.  It wouldn’t be bluegrass any other way.  I got a nice one from the lab at the hospital.  It sports a skull and crossbones and says, “BioHazard.”  It is fun to watch the adults notice the warning and shoo their children away.  I often wonder.  Do they think I carry a transplant kidney in the thing?  Another one we got from the Nuclear plant.  “CAUTION! RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS.”  That one works even better.  

        There is one that says “I love my Eagle Scout” and another touts “First Place- Weekly Reader Contest.”  I have stickers from a number of touring bands I have gotten to know over the years, and ones to advertise local fund raisers like Relay for Life and the American Heart Association.  (We did the annual chicken picking for them for many years.) 

        My favorite radio stations get some play.  One, ENCW 77.8, played Neuse River for years when  our CD came out.  I never forgot them.  My kids thought it was very cool to have old Dad on the radio. If you can be cool to a middle schooler, you’ve struck a lick, and I couldn’t have done it without bluegrass and ENCW77.8.  Right about the time the Internet got started our little CD was on this stream radio deal, and we were heard around the world.  One month we were number twenty-seven on the Finland Bluegrass Survey.  It was an Andy Warhol moment, I tell you.

        Outside of the AAFP one, perhaps my favorite came from a patient.  He suffered an unfortunte neurological event that took away his ability to speak.  We were devastated- he is a good friend and was a fine singer.  His wife grieved so, and I worried over it too.  He didn’t want me to fret, and would write to reassure ME that he was O.K!  The patient is a bluegrass guy, and one day he showed up with a new bumper sticker for my mandolin case.

       NTW (not to worry) he wrote, as he handed me the latest addition for my case.  The sticker said “What if the Hokey Pokey is What it’s all About?”  He smiled at the thought.

        How can I worry much about trivia when I have brave patients like that? 

        There is much, much, more I am going to tell you about cases, but I am out of time today.  One of my patients, a farmer, said “Dr. Bibey knows something.  He just ain’t telling everything yet.”

        I find old farmers to be perceptive beyond what folks sometimes recognize.  Remind me come the first of the year to fill you in on more details.  I won’t let you down.

Dr. B


P.S. Gotta get some work done on my computer or get a new one- I think I’m about to wear this one out.  Will be back on line soon.    Dr. B



Explore posts in the same categories: Philosophy

10 Comments on “My Mandolin Case”

  1. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Your case sounds like a keeper. You’ve shared lots of cases with us over the months, but this one sort of pulls it all together. Finding you have a bad case of the bluegrass wannabees is almost as bad as having caught any other communicable disease. If you get a chance, why don’t you take a day and case out Merlefest. In case I run into you there, I’m the guy with the camera. One of these days, my banjo case will have a Neuse River sticker on it. – Ted

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Son of a gun Ted, ole Tom Bibey is gonna be there for a day. I will do my best to locate you in that crowd of 60,000. It should not be hard, ’cause you are unique- an English Professor from up North who loves bluegrass music. So much for stereotypes, huh? Part of my purpose with my blog is to draw all us bluegrass folks together, so I need to find you.

    Dr. B

  3. amberfireinus Says:

    Ok….I might just have to take that bumper sticker from your friend and add it to my interview. I love that. How true is that! It almost brings me to tears… silly as that sounds.

    I wonder… for your friend… have you seen the latest research on the electrode stimulation to the brain to improve function? It has been really helping with patients who suffer strokes to regain their speech. I have it bookmarked somewhere if you want me to send you the study.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Yes I have seen some of this. In my line, it is something we leave to the big city or medical center, but I would love to have the link. He is currently seeing some of the med center folks, and we hold to hope.

    Dr. B

  5. amberfireinus Says:

    This is the general one that I have bookmarked… But I have to dig up the one for speech. This has an overall listing of who is doing what where….

    Let me know if you want more…. I have more in my archives.. Neuro is my thing doc… maybe I can be helpful?

  6. drtombibey Says:

    I haver found over the years that the more widely one reads the better, and one can never be too informed. Will check it out.

    Dr. B

  7. mrschili Says:

    I don’t have an instrument case, but I can tell you what clings I’ve got on the back window of my car:
    the pawprint logo from Local University (where I got my degrees)
    a GLBTQ pride flag
    the old logo of the New England Patriots (the patriot in the three-point stance, not the swoopy head thing they’ve got now)
    Gallaudet University (the Deaf college in DC where I attended a summer institute and where I once aspired to attain a degree)
    the Chinese symbol for gratitude (and yes, I checked to make sure that it really meant ‘gratitude’ and didn’t actually say something like ‘idiot’ – Beanie’s little girlfriend’s parents speak Chinese, and I asked the mom to translate the symbol for me)
    I want a “Life is Good” cling, but I’ve only ever been able to find stickers, and I’m not crazy about stickers on my car.

  8. pandemonic Says:

    My case is pretty uninspired. Just some rosin, and the essentials. When I travel to California, I usually bring back shells and sand dollars in the violin case, just because I know the TSA won’t destroy them if I carry them on the plane.

  9. drtombibey Says:


    We shall know folks by their bumper or window stickers, as the case may be. It might make a good post and query for comments- what do your bumper stickers say about you?

    Dr. B

  10. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    I know from your “where I come from” comments, and your blog, you ain’t the least bit boring, you just don’t happen to have a lot of bumper stickers. It is a bluegrass thing though.

    Dr. B

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