Archive for June 2008

Medicine and Money/A Doctor Guy/Be What You Is

June 29, 2008

        I was a doctor guy, not a money guy.  I made a decent enough living, and never worried about my reputation as a businessman.  I guess it showed.  One time a consultant was in the office, and told me the reason I was in the 25th percentile for earnings was because I spent too much time thinking about my patients and not enough ordering tests.  That didn’t offend me.  I was happier that I’d made the 94th percentile on my Boards, and even more proud of how I got along with my patients.  I had a few I couldn’t talk turkey with, but for the most part we were a good team.  I feel like on a given day the odds for me to guide them through this complex modern medical system were as good as anybody’s.

        In spite of not being a financial home run hitter, I hope my doctor life was a success from the other aspects.  I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  Maybe it is un-American, but I never saw it that way.  I drove the same old Scout for a quarter million miles.  It was a reliable old horse, and got me back and forth to the hospital at night without fail.  I didn’t see any need to change.  I made enough to educate my children and we got our house paid off five years ago, so I think I did O.K. 

        Besides, the way I see it, I never went to work for a living.  All I do is walk around and be Dr. Bibey, and at the end of the month someone sends a check.  My wife says I’m gonna get all the way to the finish line and never go to work. That’s true- except for those summer jobs on the paving crew or in the cardboard box factory I didn’t.  I don’t go to work, I just live the doctor gig.  It is what I am.  I see my folks at church and go over their treadmill or x-ray report, and I’ve hit many a practice ball while I listened to a golf pal’s troubles.  I ain’t complaining.  At my age I’m just glad someone wants my opinion.  Without the doctor gig, I’m a second rate mandolin player and a third rate golfer, so I better hang onto it.  It was the only thing I was ever any good at.

        Once I heard someone ask the great Sam Bush about the pay scale in bluegrass music (it ain’t what it oughta be) and Sam just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m a music guy, not a money guy- I don’t know.”  I thought it was a great line, so I borrowed it from Sam.  “I’m a doctor guy, not a money guy, so I don’t know much about it.”  I figure as long as there are people on earth who can’t afford food, and my old buddies at the plant have to spend a huge chunk of their wage just to get to work, and as long as this society undervalues major contributors like teachers as much as we do, it would border on sinful for me not to be satisfied with my lot in life.

        I think Bill Monroe would say it something like this, “Be what you is, ’cause if you ain’t what you is you ain’t nothing.”  I appreciate you guys visiting me, ’cause the blog gig is only my attempt as an ordinary doctor guy to leave behind some of my thought process.  I figure the Internet is as good a place as any to record it.  All I could be was what I was, and if it helps anyone after I’m gone that’s all the better.

Dr. B 


Exact Transcription

June 27, 2008

        Except for patient and institution name changes this is an exact transcription of a patient encounter.  It was from a month ago, though, ’cause I did not want to take any chances with a violation of her privacy.   

        “Ms. Smith, What’s your trouble?”

        “Lordy, Lordy, Dr. Bibey.  It’s my old bladder.  I went up there to Tobacco Triangle and they say they can’t operate no more.  They knowed you.  They said you’s a good doctor, and you’d know what to do.”

        “O.K.  Let me see if I got a letter.”

        “He said he’s gonna call you.  Did he not call?  He said he knowd you.”

          “Thank you ma’am.  No, I don’t think he called.”

        “He said he knowd you.”

        “I understand.”  I flipped through the chart.  “So how’s your bladder?”

        “Oh, I’s up all night.  Could you give me that white pill you gave me whenever your kids came out to the farm and looked at the donkeys?”  (My kids are now grown.)

        “Gee Ms. Smith, that was a long time ago.”  I remembered the donkeys, but I could not recall the name of the medicine.  “What was the name of it?”

        “Oh I don’t know, ain’t you got a list?  It was that white one.  Hmm.  Maybe it was pink.”  She turned to the lady who brought her.  “Was it white or pink, honey?”  Her friend shrugged her shoulders.  She didn’t know.  “Oh, Dr. Bibey.  You know.  That little bitty pill.  It was my when my cousin came in from Greensboro.  The one that died.  What was her name?”

        “I ain’t sure Ms. Smith.”

        “Well, It don’t matter, it think it was pink.”

        Did it start with a “D?”  I asked.

         “Yes sir, I think so.”

         “Well, let me check a specimen.  We’ll see.”

        I checked her and a urine specimen, too.  The diagnosis was bladder infection.  (I think.)  It is now a month later and she is fine, so I guess I was right.

        I tell you guys all that to make sure you know I am in a glamorous business.  It is just like on T.V. huh?  I guess I have job security; few want my job.  It does take a strange sort of personality to sort through all this for decades and not fall asleep at the wheel and miss an aneurysm when it surfaces.  To do it, you’d have to be some cat who wanted to live in the country and pick bluegrass music for a second job.  Sometimes I’m not sure there are enough of them out there, but I persevere on ’cause I think that is what I was put here to do, and I don’t question it.  And I didn’t have it too bad.  To paraphrase John Hartford, at least I didn’t spend my life working in tall buildings- it woulda never done for me.

Dr. B 

Gig at the Park

June 25, 2008

        The City Park decided to revive their tradition of local entertainment.  Before T.V. got so big, and long before the days of the Internet, all we had was the radio, the local movie house, and the Park as our sources of entertainment.  I remember when Dolly Parton came through and stood on a short stack of Co-Cola crates to sing into the mic.  We had groups like the Tams and the Shakers, and Jimmy Dean sung one called “Big Bad John.”

        So, when they contacted us start up the shows again, we were enthusiastic in spite of the fact the place still has a faint odor of musty sweat socks and gym shorts.  We are old gym rats anyway, so we didn’t care.  Besides, how often do you get to warm in old rasslin’ star Haystack Calhoun’s dressing room?  And it ain’t every day you get to grace the stage of an early Billy Graham crusade.  We were honored.

        Even though the Warbler (our lead singer) is just a young’un, he is a history major, and he understood the significance. It put him in the mind of old school, so we did a number of standards mixed in with some of our original material.  He got on a Larry Sparks kick and we did a few we had not rehearsed like “Blue Virgina Blue” and “John Deere Tractor.”  We did “Richmond” right off the top of our heads, and I threw in some trick mandolin licks I’d picked up from my teacher Ben.  The boys took notice and Moose told the audience I’d been back to school.  In music, like doctoring, you have to if you want to stay current.

        We only got tangled up once.  Warb told the crowd we were gonna do “Memphis” and I didn’t hear him.  I turned and asked him what we were gonna do next, and he said, “Poet With Wings.”  Then he told the crowd we were gonna do a Tom T. Hall number.  I was confused ’cause Pete Goble wrote “Poet.”  Anyway, I kicked it off and the boys expected “Memphis,” but they fell right in and no one knew the difference.  You gotta think on your feet in bluegrass.

        All in all, it was a fine gig, and at four bucks a ticket we drew quite a crowd.  You get what you pay for.  The Park only lost eighty-seven bucks, which was good for a first time festival, and they went ahead and booked us for next year.  It is good to add a few new ones on the schedule; Doc has to get out and play to be satisfied.

        And if history is any guide, maybe someday the kids who came to our show will say, “I remember when we used to have those shows at the Park.  Old Doc Bibey was there with Neuse River and…..”

Dr. B

Indian Summer/A Visit From Tag

June 23, 2008

        I was at the office and Indie called me from the Nursing Home.  “Hey, Bibey.  You ain’t gonna believe who came to visit me today.”

        “Who was that, Indie?”

        “Little Orphan Annie.”  Indie had a nickname for everyone, at least the folks he liked.

        “Tag?  What’s Tag doing in town?”  I asked.

        “I reckon some poor bloke’s in trouble.  It ain’t you is it?”

        “Not me, thank the Lord.  I don’t think there is even a case on deck in the County right now.”  Lucille Taggert, or Tag as I called her, was the rep for Physician’s Liability, the malpractice insurance carrier for about 80% of the docs in the State.  She was a big mover and shaker in that industry.  When Tag came to visit, it was most often a sign of a doc in trouble. 

        “Well, Indie, at least I know you ain’t in any trouble, unless you’re breaking curfew at the Home,”  I said.

        “Shut up, Bibey.  Nah, man.  I think she just came to pay a visit to an old warrior.”

        “Probably so, Indie.”  It was likely- I had e-mailed and told her I doubted Indie’d see his way through another winter. 

        I’ll never forget when Indie first met Tag.  It was in the Blinky Wallendorf case I’m gonna show you about in my book.  (I have Indie’s full permission.)  No doubt, Indie was in a world of trouble.  Betty Wallendorf was some kinda mad and hell-bent on revenge.  When Indie’s insurance company sent in the cavalry, and it was Tag and Mac, I thought he was gonna balk.

        “Bibey,” Indie whispered into the phone.  “They’ve done sent me two little ole college girls.  They ain’t gonna understand me at all.”

        “C’mon, Indie.  Give ’em a chance.  I’ve seen ’em work several cases.  Trust me, they are reliable gumshoes.  They’ll do everything they can to help you.”

        “Well they better, I’m in trouble.”

        “I know Indie, just calm down.  Didja see the article in Newsweek on whether or not women should be allowed in combat?”


        “Well, some wag wrote in and said he’d survived three divorces in California and he thought women were well suited to combat.  They’s them kinda women.  Tough as old sea salts.”

        You wouldn’t know it to look at ’em,”  Indie grumbled.

        I guess I could understand Indie’s concerns.  After all, Tag looked like a little red-haired school girl.  Indie said she coulda been Little Orphan Annie is the school play, and that’s where he came up with the nickname.  I called her Tag cause she was there every time you turned around, like a tag-along.

        And her sidekick Mac looked like she had escaped out of a sorority house from Meredith College.  Dark haired, young, quiet, she was almost shy.  It was hard to imagine how she she could be aggressive enough- until you got her in a courtroom, then it was dang ‘Beauty and the Beast’ I tell ya.  Indie had nothing to fear, but on that day, his first encounter, it took some reassurance.

        Those days were long gone though, and now they were old pals.  “So, what did she have to say?”

        “Oh, she wanted to talk about the old days.  You know what Bibey?  She said I was a better Doctor than what people knew, that I just good at hiding it from folks at times.”

       “Well, you were, Indie.  You were real good.  You’re the only Doc I know who memorized all his patient’s home phone numbers.  They loved you.  You were good to ’em.”

        “You don’t think she said it to make an old man feel better, do you?”

        “Come on, Indie.  Tag was never one for false praise.”

        “I guess you are right Bibey.  Hey, she clued me in on next year’s thoroughbreds.  Said to put my money on Bob-Tail Bobbie.”

        “How does she know that?”

         “She’s been into horses as long as we’ve played music.  Knows a fellow in Goldsboro who breeds ’em.  He says this is the best one he’s ever had- a direct descendant of Seattle Slew.”

        “Slew always was your favorite, Indie.  Just don’t get carried away with the bets.”  I worried over Indie’s addictive personality.

        “Hell, you think I’m gonna save it and will it all to you, Bibey?  I’m living large over here at the nursing home.  I’ll be dead before Christmas anyway.”

        “GG, Indie.”

        “Hey, little ole Annie even picked Barney’s brain.  (Barney was the skeleton Indie brought from his office- he kept Jim Beam stashed in the cranium.)  Smoked a cigar with me, too.  We placed some bets on the ponies, and then she left for Raleigh.

        “Dang, Indie, that’s not proper.  Tag’s young enough to be your daughter.”  (Picture a freckled Rene Zellweger sipping Jim Beam out of a paper cup with Indie at the Nursing Home and you have the image.)  “Besides, I wouldn’t bet against Tag on anything.”

        “Don’t matter, Bibey.  If I’ve miscalculated, I ain’t gonna have to pay up.  I’m gonna be outta here by Christmas, and I didn’t tell her that.”  Indie laughed.

        “GG, Indie.  Hey, what was that filly’s name again?  I’m gonna watch for her in the Derby.”

         “Bob-Tail Bobbie.  You do that Bibey, just don’t tell anyone, and if I ain’t here, collect my bets for me.  If I lose, you didn’t know nothing about it.”

        “Sure enough Indie; keep the faith.  I’ll be by to visit this weekend.  The boys are wanting to come over and pick some music.  I thought we might throw a few burgers on the grill and……”

Dr. B

You Grew up in the Country (or City) If…

June 21, 2008

         An old friend of mine named Tag sent me an e-mail that set me to thinking.  She has given me permission to show her her story in my book.  Tag was a big help to my friend Indie Jenkins when he was down and out, and any friend of Indian’s is a friend of mine.

        Tag is a character I know my readers are gonna love.  Her real name is Lucille Taggert, but in bluegrass a nickname is a sure sign of acceptance, and her nickname is Tag.  It came from Tag along.  Bless her heart, when Indie was in trouble she was there for him every step of the way.  Indie pretends to be a gruff sort, and he’d never say it, but I think he thinks of her like a little sister, or maybe even a daughter- she is a lot younger than Indie.

        If there was ever a modern women, Tag is the one.  She’s feminine enough, but you talk about one more tough nosed negotiator.  I can’t wait to tell you what all she did for Indie.

        In her e-mail, I was struck by how similar her background was to mine.  Nowadays, Tag is a business woman.  She wears business clothes, carries a briefcase, and is involved in high level negotiations.  She has not just succeeded in a man’s world, she’s dang near conquered it.

        However, when you look at some of her thoughts about growing up in the country, at one time she was just a barefoot little freckled young’un going down to the swimming hole.

        So, I decided this would make a good post.  “You know you grew up in the country if….”  I hope some of y’all will post some of your own.

        I don’t want my city people to feel left out though.  So as the mirror image to the headline, if you grew up in the city how ’bout posting on your experience.  “You Grew up in the City if…..”  That aspect would be more educational for me, ’cause I know very little of city life.  As always, I am interested in people and how they came about their unique perspectives.  

        So, here are Tag’s thoughts.  And by the way, she’s gonna  visit Indie at the Nursing Home soon.  When she does I’ll post about that, too.
Tag and Growing up in the Country

1.  Did you have one mom in your pack of friends who made the best 
     Kool-Aid (because she used a lot of sugar)?
2. If someone asked your favorite flavor of homemade ice cream, did 
    you really have a favorite?  Was the favorite, “any kind”?
3.  Was the sign of a good day playing indicated by the number of
    dirt rings on your neck & arms?
4.  How much did you like “innertubin”?

        I liked these, and I ain’t gonna add to ’em for now, but I hope you guys will.  And tell me about the city too- can’t leave out my blog pals there.

Dr. B

A Great Day For Golf

June 18, 2008

        It was a great day for golf here in the South.  Instead of a mid 90s blaze it was 85 with a light breeze, and it seemed like the wind was at our back all day.

        I knew we were in for a good day of it.  I drew “Doc” as my “A” player today.  Doc is not a real Doc, except he wanted to be a gynecologist until he flunked Organic Chemistry, but got his name ’cause his father was a Doc Watson fan. 

        Doc is a genuine “A” man who only missed the sectionals for the Senior Open by a shot two years ago, so he can play.  As good as he is, he never complains if you foul up.  When I missed a five footer for birdie on one hole, he said  “It ain’t nuttin’ but a thing Doc, there was a lot of chicken left on that bone,” which means no one makes ’em all and five feet is long enough you can’t feel too bad about it.  I wished I’d made it, but Doc knows how to keep the team’s spirits up.

        Doc was a house a fire today- shot 68- and I was my usual 78.  I play golf like I doctor- boring, predictable, few mistakes, no drama.  I guess I just wasn’t born to be a spectacular kinda guy.

        Our “C” man was Jean Claude, who turned 75 over the winter, so he got to move up to the gold tees this year.  Jean Claude moved here from France after the War, and still says “Merci” when you say, “Good shot.”  He might have a bit of age on him, but anyone who spent their summer vacations outwitting the Nazis is tough by definition.  He has a lot of great stories to tell about how they’d put sand in the German tanks at night to gum up the engines.  I’m glad they didn’t catch the little fellow.

        Jean Claude was a little upset today- he missed a putt on the last hole and shot 76.  It wasn’t so much he coulda shot his age, but if it’d gone in we woulda won the back nine bet, too.  Jean Claude is a team player from way back to his days with the French Resistance.  Doc shot 31 on the front, so we won the front and the overall.  I told Jean Claude not to worry.  It was just a thing, and there was a lot of chicken left on the bone- it seemed to make him feel better.

        As per family custom (for those of you new to the blog) I put the golf money I won at Marfar’s place at the table.  She wanted to take me out to eat and rent a chick flick.  I ain’t that much for chick flicks, but it’s her money, so I’m all about it.  If your wife wants to take you out to eat with her mad money, I figure a fellow is obliged to go and watch whatever she wants to see.

        After the match, I went to my eye appointment.  I was sure I was O.K. ’cause I saw everyone’s shots land all day.  I noticed Doc missed several of the right breakers- he coulda shot 65 easy.  I wonder if he has a cataract in his dominant eye.  I better call him when I get home.  Come to think of it, it’ll have to wait till tomorrow.  I’ve gotta catch a chick flick.

Dr. B

Weber, Weber, and Weber (A Tale of Three Mandolins)

June 17, 2008

        No, this is not a post on a law firm.  (Most Docs are scared of lawyers, but I have several good friends in that profession.)  This Weber is a luthier, and in particular is Bruce Weber, a mandolin specialist.  He also builds mandolas, arch top guitars, and a variety of related instruments.  I have three of his mandolins from three different eras.  After a quarter century as a semiprofessional performer I know mandolins almost as well as know anti-hypertensives.

        I own one of his 2008 Weber Yellowstone “F” style mandolins.  It is as fine an example of the instrument I have ever played, and I have had the good fortune to try quite a few over the years.  Mine is the honey colored one with tortoise binding.  (It is imitation tortoise for the environmentalists out there.)  I have looked it over a number of times and there is not a single flaw in the craftsmanship. 

        Of course how it sounds and plays is far more important than how it looks.  It has a crisp, clear tone, and notes with ease.  The old joke about mandolin as Italian for “out of tune” does not apply here.  The intonation is perfect all the way up the neck, and the slight radius to the neck makes it easier to play for old Docs with arthritic hands, though radius is a personal preference thing- he also makes plenty of them with a flat fret board. 

        As far as professional quality mandolins go, the Yellowstone is moderate in price.  I find it equal to or better than instruments that cost tens of thousands of dollars more.  This mandolin was closure for me- cure of a disease known as mandolin acquisition syndrome- the endless search for the holy grail.  I have given up even my old daily habit of perusal of the classified ads.  The hunt is over.

        I have another Bruce Weber instrument from the 1990s, and I have even more emotional attachment to it, because my wife gave it to me.  It does not say Weber on the headstock, but it was also built by Bruce Weber.  It is from a famous company, but for legal reasons I do not wish to disclose the name.  I have several lawyer friends, but I have no interest to test their skills in any legal battles.  Back in those days even though Mr. Weber was building for another company, the mandolins were also excellent.  My daughter is learning to play and has this one right now.

        Then from the 1980s, I have yet another one from yet another company, but again built by the same Mr. Bruce Weber.  Again I cannot name the company.  This mandolin is an “A” style, and was retrofitted with a McIntyre pick-up.  At this time, it is out on loan to Darrell for a series of gospel performances.  I believe Mr. Weber uses McIntyre as his standard pick-up when he installs one at the factory.

        Mr. Weber has built fine mandolins for several decades, but as he says, now that his name is on them they are better than ever.  It is unsolicited, and I am a doctor, not a touring mandolinist, but IMHO (bluegrass for in my humble opinion) there are none better.  As far as my mandolin, I don’t leave home without it.

        If some of you mandolin aficionados out there want to guess the name of the corporations I will tell you if you are correct, but I won’t print the full names of the companies he built for before he started Weber Mandolins.  I have been successful to avoid legal trouble for all these years as a Doc, and I sure ain’t gonna get in trouble over my little mandolin.  But it is sure enough a good’un- the best in my book.  Y’all go check out Mr. Weber’s web site- Weber Fine Acoustic Instruments.  I think I’ll go practice, his mandolins sure are fun to play.

Dr. B