Archive for May 2008

Black Widow Spider Bite

May 31, 2008

        When I first started practice, I had a lady in the Emergency Room with a  black widow spider bite.  It was my first case of that.

        I checked her out, got her out of pain first, then found an Emergency Medicine text.  I opened the book to the page on black widow bites, flopped it open on the foot of the bed and commenced to follow a written protocol.

        The lady was groggy from the pain medicine but said, “You reading that book makes me nervous.”

        I replied, “Well, I tell you what ma’am.  I believe you’d be more nervous if I wasn’t reading the book.  This is my first one of these.”

        I think if she hadn’t been loaded up on Morphine she mighta bolted, but she stayed and got better, though I can’t say for sure it was my treatment.  Mostly it was morphine and time.  Half of what I did that day is no longer in evidence based medicine vogue.  (Not that what is in fashion today will be twenty years from now either.)

        She didn’t much want to hear it, but I think patients and Docs both are better off for us to admit up front what we don’t know and do the best we can.

Dr. B


Go Time/Show Time/Sunday on the Square

May 30, 2008

        Our music minster has a saying I like.  When it is time to play the church service, he says, “O.K. folks, five minutes till “Go Time.”

        In bluegrass gigs, when we get ready to play it is called “Show Time.”  The distinction is important.  He does not want the music at church to be viewed as a show, and I agree 100%.  For me, Church music is an attempt to make some spiritual sense out of a crazy world.  The purpose of music should never be to show off, but this is extra true in church.

        Of course at the “Go Time” AFTER the service sometimes we’ll bend the rules a little.  Last Sunday we did “Just a Little Closer Walk to Thee.”  Our minister lets us do it in a jazzy style when the congregation gets ready to leave.  He did hold the line on my lyrics, though.   (They were lifted from Jethro Burns) 

        “Just a bowl of butter beans

         Pass the biscuits if you please

         I don’t care for collard greens

         So pass the bowl of butter beans.”

        Every year we play a gig called Sunday On the Square.  Even though it is a Sunday afternoon we cut loose at show time.  The gig is at 3:00 to give folks time to eat after church.  Everyone spreads out with lawn chairs and blankets, and all the kids run on the lawn.  It is a large time.  We had the gig this past weekend and had our best turnout yet.  It might be ’cause they advertise it on the marquee at the Walmarks, but I think it is ’cause it is free- you get what you pay for.

       Last year after the first set “dark clouds were a rising and a sure sign of rain,” as the Stanleys would say.  We opened the second set with “Cold Sheets of Rain,” and then had to scurry to get our gear put away before the storm hit.

        As a band leader you have three responsibilities in this situation.  The first and most important is to be sure none of your band members get electrocuted, so right off you pull the plug on the power.

        The instruments are second priority.  One of the great ironies of bluegrass is that professional quality instruments are often owned by pickers who play gigs for a few hundred bucks, and acoustic instruments are made of wood, and sensitive to the elements.  The sound equipment is the lowest priority.  Microphones, cords, and even amps and sound boards can be replaced easier than instruments, and there is no emotional attachment to them either.  My wife bought me my mandolin, and it is one of the few material items in my life I consider important.  Like a fine wife, the longer you are blessed with her, the more attached you get.  My mandolin doesn’t mean as much as my family, but it is the next rung down.

        I am glad it didn’t rain this year.  The pollen was bad though.  At one point, the Warbler sneezed right into the microphone and it was the achoo heard round the County.  But, part of the bluegrass gig is you have to brave the elements.  Someones gotta do it and I’m glad it is us.  I’m already looking forward to next year.

Dr. B       

Homemade Musical Instruments

May 28, 2008

Richard Strum/ Dr. Bibey mandolinRichard Strum/Dr. Bibey mandolinWalking Stick Dulcimer

        O.K. if a picture is worth a thousand words, this is worth three posts for me.  Cool, no wonder the English Professor enjoys that photojournalism so much.  All kinda folks come to look at pictures.

        Sorry for the light, I gotta get some photography lessons.  The stick is the walking stick dulcimer I wrote of last week.

        A guy named Richard Strum and ole Dr. B have now built three mandolins, and we have started numbers four and five.  The one pictured was the first and my kids have # 2 and # 3.

        The mandolin on my avatar is a Montana era Gibson my wife bought for me.  If we had a fire, I’d want my wife, the kids, the animals, our pictures, and then my mandolin.  It goes everywhere I go.  (I knew I didn’t need those piano lessons my folks wanted me to take.  It is hard to fit that thing in the car.)

Dr. B

Cabin in the Pines

May 27, 2008

    For years, Indie had a cabin down by the river.  It was named the “Cabin in the Pines” after the Flatt and Scruggs number, but most of the time we just called it the cabin.  It’s gone now- washed down the river in the great flood- but we still have the memories.

        There were two routes to get to the cabin.  The high road was by the blacktop, and then one turn off it onto a dirt road.  It was well maintained, and the way we brought in the visitors, though there were not many.  For the most part, the cabin was like the Bomb Shelter- a bluegrass hangout.  The regulars did not need directions and came in by the low road, a rough trail of ruts that ran right by the river.  It warn’t much more than a pig path.  How in the world a half drunk Indie’d negotiate his motorcycle through there in the dark was beyond me, but he never wrecked even once.  I was always sober but I’d a wound up in the dang ditch had I tried that.

        The cabin was beyond rustic.  The floors were wide wood planks Indie’d gotten out of the mill when they tore it down, and there was no central heat or air.  He did have a fireplace and an out-of-service pot bellied oil heater. 

        It was a place to play music and hang out, but Indie did have a T.V.-  or two that is.  One was an old floor console that had sound but no picture.  On top of it sat a 60’s vintage black and white portable with a picture but no sound.  It had a couple of droopy rabbit ears, and only got two channels, but was servicable ’cause all Indie liked was the horse races and baseball.  Sometimes he’d have the sound on one channel and the picture on the other.  It could confuse you.  If you weren’t careful at times you’d think Seattle Slew had just hit a home run.

        There was a stereo but if it played anything other than Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanleys or John Hartford I don’t recall it.  When we were at the cabin we made the music for the most part anyway.

        Indie had some fine cookouts down there.  The most famous was the “Wild Beast Feast.”  He knew these old boys who’d work the river bank at night and catch snapping turtles.  They cook ’em up with onions and potatoes in a soup called “cooter” or turtle stew.  As for me I stuck to more standard fare.  Cooter and groundhog wasn’t my thing.  We had a German Pathologist come to town, and he and Indie became fast friends.  Dr. Anselm would send for some kinda bratwurst from up North and it was my favorite.  The hickory smoke would waft through the woods and I could tell they were on the grill from way down the river. 

        And the coffee.  Bluegrass folks keep coffee on round the clock and Indie was a true bluegrasser.  His favorite was this Blue Mountain variety he’d get from a buddy who would bring it back to Indie from his mission trips for the church.  Man did it smell good.

        For the most part not many females frequented the cabin.  Not that Indie was against women, in fact he was quite progressive.  I recruited the first lady Doc to the County.  It met some resistance, but Indie was supportive from the get-go.  “I figure she’s got M.D. behind her name as good as I do Bibey.  I’m all for her,” he said. 

        But the cabin was not very feminine.  My Marfar came on occasion and brought her banjo player Geraldine, and when Dr. Lucas came to town Indie held an informal reception for her.  She came right on down there and acted like it was the Hilton too, and had a fine time.  Dr. Lucas is a great sport.

        Indie had a lot of vices but for the most part it wasn’t women trouble.  Well, there was the one French foreign exchange student.  The girl wasn’t much of a student at least as far as academics.  She was enthralled with Indie and bluegrass fiddle though.  Indie’d come through town on that motorcycle, and the little French girl’d wrap those graceful arms around him and hold on for dear life.  The only English phrases she learned  the whole time she was here were “play Sally Good’un” and “Cool Whip, Indie.”  Ms. Jenkins was not impressed.

        The heck with lawsuits, that was the worst fix Indie ever got in.   When the girl got kicked out of the dorm for a curfew violation, Indie thought the only hospitable thing to do was put her up in the cabin.  I wasn’t surprised when Ms. Jenkins didn’t see it that way.

        “GG Indie.  Are you crazy?  If I was to take that girl in my Marfar’d skin me!”  It was one time I had to side with Ms. Jenkins.  She’d been way too loyal to Indie to be treated that a way, and I told him so.   Ms. Jenkins was near a Saint who’d tolerated all manner of Indie’s goings on.  The storm blew over, but I told him if he ever got in that kinda trouble again he was on his own.  I’ve never seen Ms. Jenkins that mad.

        Indie grumbled for a while, but later had to concede it was the right thing.  Years later, he couldn’t remember the girls name, and Ms. Jenkins was still there to stick by him.  I told Indie a man should hold a loyal woman close.  I saw him at the Nursing Home last week, and he still says it was the single best piece of advice I ever gave him.

        Like I said the cabin is gone now, but over the years it served as a meeting place for many a serious discussion.  At night it was very quiet out there.  All you could hear were hoot owls and whippoorwills or the water as it splashed over the river rocks.  I knew winter was over when I’d hear the banjo frogs and spring peeper chorus down at the the river.  It was a good place for a man to think his way through a problem.  Someday I’m gonna tell y’all more about the cabin.  I’ll never forget some of the events that transpired there.

Dr. B

Memorial Day Memories

May 25, 2008

        When I was a kid, we’d go to my grandmother’s church for Memorial Day Sunday every year.

         It was a little country church, and there was no air conditioning.  They had these hand held fans with a picture of Jesus and an advertisement for the funeral home on one side and the football team schedule on the other.

        After the service, there was dinner on the grounds.  A long table was set up outside and the table cloth would blow in the breeze.  I couldn’t wait for the prayer to end to get at it.

        We’d have fried chicken and pickled peaches, mac and cheese and deviled eggs; it was great stuff.  There were all kinda desserts and all the little old ladies with funny hats would come up and ask if you’d tried their cobbler.  I was glad to make ’em all happy and have one of each.

        After church we’d play nine holes of golf with my Dad and uncles.  One time Uncle Dan the farmer went and watched me tee up.  He observed with intent then said, “Boy hand me one of them stobs (a tee) and let me try.”

        One time he played with my set and lost the seven iron, but he went down to Firestone’s and replaced it right away.  I was the only kid in town with a full set of Wilson Arnold Palmer clubs and a Sam Snead Blue Ridge 7-iron.  I still have ’em and cut ’em down years ago for my son to get started with.  (We didn’t know they made special clubs for kids, but he turned out to be a fine player anyway.)

        I saw where Ms. Susan shared some Memorial Day memories and asked folks to share theirs.  (She is on my blogroll)  I too would interested to know how folks around the country celebrate, so drop me a comment if you can, and visit her too- it was her idea first.

Dr. B

Depression, Dementia and a touch of ADD

May 25, 2008

        There is an old saying in medicine.  (I know a bunch of ’em.)  If the  PATIENT says their memory is not as good as it used to be, they often have depression.  If a FAMILY MEMBER brings a patient to the office and says the patient’s memory is not as good as it used to be, the diagnosis is often dementia.  Like all old sayings in the doctor world, it isn’t true every time, but it is a good place to start. 

        Some time back Neuse River did a gig at the school house.  We opened for Mark O’Conner.  The Moose hammered Sally Goodin (some say Sally Good’un) extra good and Mr. O’Conner jumped on the stage and jammed along with us.  Great stuff!

        Moose always does attract a lot of attention.  I’ve played music with him a quarter century and beautiful women follow us everywhere we go.  (His wife are daughters are quite attractive, as are my Marfar and Marie I might add.)

       Let’s see now, where was old Doc?  (This is the ADD part)  Oh yeah, after the show a lady came up and told me she was concerned about her parents.  I had not seen them in some time, but the daughter said the mother had become demented, and the Dad was about to worry himself to death over it.  She thought he was depressed over his wife’s illness.  We talked about it for a while, and I urged her to have them come in first of the week.

        When the couple came in, I asked the husband how things were going.  “Doc,” he said.  “I’m worried to death about my wife.  Her mind just ain’t no good.  She leaves the pots and pans going on the stove and gets lost going to the post office- I’m afraid she’s getting old timer’s.”

       “How are you?”  I asked.

        “I ain’t so good either.  I can’t remember nothing.  I reckon maybe I’m getting it too.”

        You know the rest of the story.  I checked it all out to be sure, but the wife indeed suffered from dementia, and his diagnosis was depression.  We got him lined up with a lot of support, and a little medicine, and he is much better.  She is holding her own, but that dementia is a wicked disease.  

        I am lucky Doc.  Sometimes I think I have a bit of ADD, but the compensatory mechanisms of music and knowing my people have saved me.  As it turns out, the daughter made the diagnosis for both of her parents; all I had to do was listen.

        I guess if you make the right diagnosis, folks will forgive you for the derivation you worked off of to get there.  I sure hope so, cause the only way I know how to figure out what is wrong with my people is to let them tell me. 

        And the only way I don’t forget is to remember the tune I associate them with.  I might be a touch ADD, but I know my people, and the music that goes with ’em.  Once I “learn” ’em, either the song or the patient, I don’t forget- they are too important.

Dr. B       

Walking Stick Dulcimer

May 22, 2008

        I once had an elderly patient, Banjo Joe, who made a variety of homemade mountain-type musical instruments.  They were excellent.  He made ’em from scratch out of wood, animal hides, and gourds.  He liked old-time open back banjos, as well as guitars and mandolins, but his most popular item was the mountain dulcimer.   They were quite good, too.  In fact, one year we had a local player, Willie McBee, place in the top ten at Winfield with one of Banjo Joe’s dulcimers. 

        Joe was so proud he went to Winfield to see it all.  After he wished Willie good luck, he took a seat in the audience to take in the show. 

        There was a lady who sat right in front of him as they watched Willie play Joe’s homemade creation on the big stage.  The woman turned to her friend and said, “Isn’t that wonderful?  You won’t believe it, but I heard that dulcimer he plays was made by some redneck in eastern N.C.” 

       Joe tapped her her on the shoulder and said, “Yeah, it’s the dang truth, and that redneck was me!”

        I liked all of his instruments, but my favorite was the walking stick dulcimer.  It was a functional cane, but Joe had rigged it up with strings and tuners, and you could sit down, put it over you knees and play the thing.  Joe would limp down the street, then stop to rest on a park-bench and play for tips.  When he went home, his hat was full.

        My favorite memory, though, was when he would play with Neuse River.  We’d call him up on the stage to claw-hammer a banjo tune.  Joe would hobble up on that cane, frail (or fram as many around here say) a banjo tune, and then play one on tenor guitar.  We’d tell the crowd ole Joe was so good, he could make a tune out of anything.  He’d play the comb or the saw, and we’d keep raggin’ him till he said he was tired and needed to lean on his cane.  Then he’d sit down and play the fire out of his walking stick!  It was always a crowd pleas-er, and Joe knew how to milk it for all it was worth.

        Joe is now in a nursing home in Raleigh, where his son lives.  He gave me the walking stick dulcimer before he left home, and it still sits in the corner of my study.  Every once in a while I take a break from my medical studies or music, and pull it out and play a tune.   I can coax a little something out of it, but no one could ever play the walking stick dulcimer like Banjo Joe. He was the best.

Dr. B

Neuse River at K.T.’s Archery and Radiator

May 20, 2008

        Last month we played at K.T’s Archery and Radiator.  I guess you might wonder why a doctor would spend his off nights picking bluegrass mandolin in the back of a radiator shop for tips, but I have played these kind of gigs a long time, and it is second nature. 

        K.T.’s is a standard bluegrass venue.  The creaky wood floors need to be refinished, and there is a popcorn machine K.T. bought at auction when they closed the old County Star theatre.  It still has the same logo- “Popcorn- 10 cents,” but K.T. charges a dollar now so as to cover the light bill.  You don’t have to ask him to put on the butter, it comes with it.  A big red rectangular Co-Cola metal cooler sits in the corner.  In it, there are green glass bottle sody-dopes on ice.  The bottle opener is on the side of the box along with a place to put your money in on the honor system.  A ceiling fan wobbles overhead, and in the winter they crank up a wood stove to knock off the chill.  Once all the people get in, it warms up the rest of the way.

        We booked the gig and then Simpkins, our bass player, had to be out of town.  Ed “Lightening” Littlerod is in a gospel band nowadays, and most of his work is on Sundays so we covered the bass easy enough, but then the Warbler’s grandmother died, and he had to miss.  She had been sick while and it was expected.  Warb needed to be with his family but wanted us to go on, so I called Darrell.  He was off that night and agreed to cover as lead singer and guitar man even though the gig was way below his normal pay scale.  God bless the boy, you gotta admire loyalty.  I am sure he came just to bail out ole Dr. B.  Good friends are my number one asset in this old world.

        We warmed up in the front office.  Darrell had gone out to survey the crowd and said he thought this was a group that would dig Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanleys so we’d best not stray too far from tradition.  We scratched out a set list of standards and rehearsed where we thought the trouble spots might be for a half hour, then it was show time.

        Darrell has a sixth sense about bluegrass people and places.  One time we went to a gig in Knoxville, Tennessee.  This was long before the days of GPS.  All we know what the street it was on, but had no address.  I went north, but Darrell said to turn back the other direction; we didn’t seem to be in the bluegrass part of town.  We turned the Scout south and after a while came up on an old church.  Sure enough it had been converted into a bluegrass venue.  I asked how he knew and he said he’d played so many shows in so many towns it looked like the right place.

        Darrell was right about this crowd, too.  They dug it.  The highlight for me was our twin mandolin work on “Daybreak in Dixie,” even if it did demonstrate why Darrell is a pro and I need to go back to the office come Monday morning.  Man is he a clean player.  Harmony work with him and Lightening was a breeze for this old part singer, too.  Much like singing in the shower as the stars blare away on the stereo, these boys make you sound better than what you are.

        The ever reliable Moose put in his usual fine banjo performance, as did Stroker on the guitar.  All in all it was a fine show.  Like Warb said, the show must go on, and I thought the boys saved the day for Neuse River.  I was most appreciative.

        We took Darrell out to supper and caught up on his latest projects and still got home in time to catch a few hours sleep before our Sunday morning church gig.  It might sound like a strange life to ya’ll but it is standard fare for us, and what we do.

Dr. B

No Argument From Me

May 19, 2008

        To be a country Doc you need to be fluent in several languages.

        I had a patient today who said they gave him some Aurgumintin (Augmentin) at the ‘mergency room and it give him the back door trots.  (diarrhea)

        He got no argument from me.  I’ve seen it cause that before.  I just hope he doesn’t have see difficult super memory co-itis dysentery.  (C. difficile pseudomembranous colitis.)

Dr. B

Music Mandolins and Mules

May 18, 2008

        We had a fine night of music this weekend.  It started out with the McCurry brothers mule team plow.  This was a demonstration of old time field work, and a fund raiser for the Boy Scouts.  The farmers came from all over, and the teams plowed up eight acres in a day.  It don’t take long on the south end of a mule to convince a fellow he should cherish the ability God gave him to read and study to be the best Doc he can.  Tough work it is.

        Afterward they had a big cookout.  Chickens on the grill, ribs, a pig picking, whisky skillet beans, apple pie.  Oh my.  These boys travel and play blues music around the country, and said the ribs were on par with anywhere.  They rated Kansas City very high, but their favorite was a place called the “Rendezvous” in Memphis.  

        After supper, we broke out the instruments.  “Big” grabbed a mandolin and I did some flat pick guitar, then we got warmed up and threw hands.  I enjoyed it all, but my favorite was when Preacher McCurry sang a bass part on “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud, Loud Music, a Flatt and Scruggs number that was an early honky tonk song.  (“I’m Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open” was banned from the radio for a short period of time.  It might have been the first.)  The quartet singing on “Angel Band” was extra good too.

        I did find time to study some doctoring.  I memorized Wells Prediction Rules for pulmonary emboli.  I ain’t missed one yet that I know of, at least if I had opportunity to make the diagnosis, and I want to get all the way to the finish line and keep that record.  At this age, I don’t need any trouble, and I don’t want to change professions and wind up behind one of those mules.  It’s hard work and those rascals are even more stubborn than I am.

Dr. B