Archive for October 2008

Bluegrass Pick of the Week- Kristin Scott Benson, “Second Season”

October 31, 2008

        O.K.  For you folks outside the bluegrass world, I’m gonna let you in on a secret.  Kristin Scott Benson might be a young lady, but chuck the stereotypes.  This woman can play a banjo.  But don’t just take my word for it.  If J.D. Crowe and Sonny Osborne (‘Rocky Top’) say someone is a player, you can count on the fact they are.  Neither has ever been known for false praise, and both have attested to her abilities.  Indeed, she was the 2008 IBMA banjo player of the year, so I am not telling you a thing her colleagues don’t know.

        Kristen’s new CD, ‘Second Season,’ is a mixture of up-tempo banjo pieces, fiddle tunes, and Irish numbers.  It is mostly instrumentals (great road music) but there are four vocal numbers with lead singing by band leaders Larry Stevenson and Larry Cordle.  (of Highway Forty Blues fame)  Kristin and her bluegrass pal Sally Jones add nice harmony work.  The banjo numbers are the highlight, though.  Kristin can burn up a breakdown or play with a woman’s soft touch few men can duplicate.  Check out her composition, ‘Far Enough Away.’ 

        She hired the best too.  I especially like David Grier’s guitar work.  He is a favorite.  And Wayne Benson was the only logical choice on the mandolin.  Not only is he a great player with multiple awards, but he happens to be Ms. Benson’s spouse.  (He once joked from the stage his fee was based on ‘the husband rate.’ )

        Maybe I am a bit prejudiced, but I always like to see a young lady who can break through in a man’s world.  Maybe it is ’cause I am so proud of my daughter.  Sonny Osborne had similar sentiments, and said in the liner notes if he had a daughter, he’d want her to be like Kristin.  I agree.  She is talent, a fine wife and mother, and one hell of a banjo man.  Y’all pick up her CD.  You’ll dig it.

Dr. B


My Perfect Day

October 29, 2008

        Maybe there is something wrong with me, but I am a very simple man.  I hear folks talk about snorkel dives in Aruba, Vegas slot machines, or fancy cars, and I have to admit I’m too busy at home to take all that in.

        I read one time that Arnold Palmer had a golf game with a guest at his home club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  It was a one of those early fall days- crisp sweater weather but not too cold.  Arnold turned to the fellow and said, (paraphrased) “You know, I’ve been all around the world, but I’m just as happy to be here at Latrobe as anywhere.  This is a perfect day for golf.”  One thing about Arnie- he was world class, but didn’t get above his raising and forget his roots.  I admire that.

        I’ll never amount to what Arnie did, but I can identify with his sentiment.  My perfect day would be to see my favorite patients till lunch, play golf in the afternoon with Jacob and the choose-up boys, then eat supper with my family.   I’d say grace and be thankful for the good fortune that my people live in peace the way we do. Then I’d check in with my blog pals and write a few words about my day.  After that, I’d get together with Darrell and Summer, Moose and Warbler and all the gang and pick bluegrass music till two o’clock in the morning.  The next day I’d get up and do the same thing again.  I guess I am boring, but that is what I’d do if had to walk the green mile tomorrow.

        What would y’all do on your perfect day?  Write and let me know.

Dr. B


October 27, 2008

        Tag was the lawyer assigned to Indie’s case.  Her real name was Lucille Taggert, but Indie nicknamed her Tag, and it stuck.  When she first showed up at his office Indie did a double take, excused himself, and called me.

        “God almighty, Bibey.  They’ve done sent me one of the Bobsie twins.  I’m doomed.”  Tag was indeed young.  With her freckles and red hair she coulda passed for Little Orphan Annie in the school play.  All she lacked was to pull her hair back in pig-tails, but she wore a modern cut like what you’d see on cover of the Ladies magazines at the office.

        It was a no-nonsense look that fit.  When Tag opened up her briefcase and went to work, she was no kid, but a serious woman.  At the same time, she had grown up in the country and understood Indie better than most city folks. 

        When Indie’d get mad and cuss Tag would say, “Now Indie, I know you feel that way, but you gotta talk like your mama’d want you to.”  She knew horses and Indie won a few bets in the Derby based on her advice.

         Indie could be an emotional sort, and it worked out best to have a lady lawyer.  I think some high powered man mighta laughed at him.  Then all those bluegrass boys in Harvey County woulda beaten the guy up and Indie’d been in worse trouble than what he was to start with.  

        Tag could be be emotional too, though not as much as Indie.  She kept it in check most of the time.  When she did get mad though, she could send those male lawyers running for cover.  Jackson Leggett, the lawyer for Harvey Memorial made some comments about Indie’s character as to his relationship with little Molly, and it was a lie.  Well, Tag went right over to their headquarters and cussed ’em out.   They issued a formal statement of apology in a half hour. 

         Poor Indie spent a lot days just plum pissed off, and it was Tag who could get him outside the case.  “It’s just a thing, Indie,” she’d say.  “Something to work through.”  Tag knew all the bluegrass sayings, and could talk turkey with Indie ’cause of it.  Sure, it was a business to her, but she understood even though Indie was a rough sort, the Mandolin Case hurt his feelings.  After all, Blinky was his best friend, and in his heart he never believed he had done wrong.

        All you lady readers are gonna dig Tag.  She was plenty feminine, but she made her way in the world on toughness.  Who said women couldn’t fight?  In a war of ideas and words, I’d want Tag on my team any day.  Indie later went back and apologized to her for his first impression.  “Young lady, you’re tougher than a pine knot.  My hat’s off to you.”

        “For heaven’s sake Indie, don’t take off that cap.  The reflection of the sun’ll hurt my eyes,”  she said.

        “Shut the hell up, Tag.”  They both laughed.

        She and Indie talked like that to each other.  Folks who didn’t know them thought they were disrespectful.  I’m sure my readers know better.  

        Tag busted right through the glass ceiling and went to the top of the heap, and it was all on merit- she was Physician’s Liability’s top gun, and the first woman to be an ace for the company.  At first Indie thought she was a rookie cause of her youth, but he apologized.  Tag laughed and said it wouldn’t be the last time.  Besides, in her line of work she found it best to be underestimated, and to look young and innocent was a strategic advantage. 

        When we looked back, we were sure Physician’s Liability sent her ’cause she was a seasoned veteran.  Tag was the one they’s send when they were worried.  They knew the Mandolin Case would be a long slog right from the get go.

        Freckled, red haired, Tag was 5’9″ and 125 pounds.  She had hazel eyes and a smile ’bout like Mona Lisa when she had the goods on someone.  Picture Renee Zellweger with freckles and you’ve got it.  She was educated at Chapel Hill, both undergrad and law school, and did medical/legal defense work throughout her career.

        Her favorite T.V. show was Andy, so me and her got along good.  She loved Indie’s version of the fiddle tune ‘Rag Time Annie’- Indie said she looked like a little rag doll- but she was woman enough not to take offense.  Tag was a Southern girl, and loved ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Steel Magnolias.”  She’d cry in the same places every time and warn’t ashamed of it.  And she shouldn’t a been – Tag was one more tough young-un. 

        She grew up around horses and still knew how to ride, so it was easy for her to get to know Molly Tenbrooks in a hurry.  By the end of the Mandolin Case, she and Indie bet on the ponies on a regular basis.  Half the time they gave each other IOUs, and at the end Indie owed her $57.23.  He paid up right away.  Said it was the best investment he ever made.

        Tag loved the Beatles, and also Doc Watson.  She came to love Bill Monroe too after she got to know me and Indie.  After hanging out in Harvey County for a few years, she was just one of the guys, and won our eternal respect.

        Tag is one of the great stories of the Mandolin Case.  Old men should never be prejudiced.  A young woman can teach ’em a few things about the world if they’ll listen.  Indie could be stubborn, but he respected Tag.  When she spoke he paid attention.

        It’s a good thing he did.  In the Mandolin Case, Indie needed all the help he could get.

Dr. B

Wheatie Wallenburg

October 25, 2008

        Wheatie Wallenburg was a junkie.  At the time of the Mandolin Case he was middle aged, and on towards elderly.  Demerol was his drug of choice, and all the Docs in town knew it.  Wheatie got his name ’cause he loved the Breakfast of Champions cereal.  His usual breakfast was a bowl of Wheaties, a bag of barbecued potato chips, and a cigar.  Indie told him it was too many browns, but he couldn’t get Wheatie to change.

        Indie was his Doc, and I took care of Wheatie what little bit of time Indie was gone.  Wheatie was a house painter and yard man, and took pride in his work.  No one trimmed shrubs as neat as Wheatie Wallenburg.

        I don’t know how Wheatie got hooked on Demerol.  It was a long time ago.  I do know he was an ex-Marine and was in the first wave to land on Iwo Jima.  He didn’t talk about it much, but one night I made rounds at the hospital and some old war movie was on.  Wheatie just sat there and cried. 

        He only opened up to me on the subject once.  When you hear a man talk about how he’d spread sand on a boat deck in anticipation of combat so he wouldn’t slip on the blood of his buddies…..  well after those stories I never could find it in me to be too judgemental of Wheatie.  He lived through hell so I could live in peace the way I saw it.

        One time the State Board got after Indie and insisted he send Wheatie to rehab.  Indie thought it was a mistake to do that, and I agreed, but the Board threatened to yank Indie’s license so he complied.

        The second night there Wheatie asked for his Demerol.  And the way he told me, he was polite about it.  When the attendant refused, Wheatie hit the man over the head with a Thunderbird wine bottle.  The guy had to have stitches, and filed assault charges.  Ted David got it reduced to probation.

        We knew rehab was a mistake from the get go.  Wheatie had flash-backs and thought he was in a brig.  When you’ve been stabbed in the shins with a machete for begging for water, I can see how a man would think that way.  

        Wheatie in rehab was a wild animal in a cage, and both Indie and I knew it’d be that way.  It is hard for a guy who wears a suit and issues periodic pontifications to understand a cat like Wheatie Wallenburg.

        Wheatie came home and life returned to normal.  He’d check in the hospital twice a month for his Demerol, and Indie’d give it to him.  At first the Medical Board complained every so often, but at Christmas Indie’d write and tell them of Wheatie’s troubles.  He’d close and ask if any of them would kindly look after him.  After a couple of years the letters were returned to sender. 

        Even though Wheatie drank cheap wine he couldn’t be bought for any price.  He said me and Indie were the only folks from that side of town who paid him any mind, and he never forgot it.  Mason Marley was on a fixed income but paid him for his yard work upon completion.  At the end of the month, Indie’d find an odd job for Wheatie whether he needed it done or not.  Wheat worked one day for Jim Olden years ago, but he stiffed him, so Wheatie didn’t go back.  Olden was lucky Wheatie didn’t break his knees.

        One time Wheatie saw they were gonna have a ballet at Sandhills.  He begged me and Marfar to drive him over there, and we did.  He sat in the back seat on the way home and never spoke till I pulled up in the driveway.  “Thanks, Doc.  That’s the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life.”  At first I though Wheatie was just taken by the picture of the girl in the paper- she had quite a set of legs- but I’m sure he was touched by the performance.  Poor Wheatie.  I wonder how his life would have been if he’d grown up picking the mandolin intead of picking out machine gun nests full of young men to blow up.

        Wheatie was 5’8″ and 165 pounds.  I told him he would put on some weight if he quit smoking, but he didn’t buy into the idea.  He wore 10 1/2 DD shoes.  He lost a couple toes from frostbite one winter, and his feet were flat.  He said they had been all his life, but somehow he hid it from the recruiters when he volunteered.

         Indie taught Wheatie enough bass guitar to where he could get by, and he sat in on some jam sessions at the Cabin.  His favorite was ‘That Good Old Mountain Dew,” and he was proud he could play or sing it in any key.  He did not read much.  His T.V show was ‘Mr. Ed.’  He thought a talking  horse was hilarious.  When someone said it was too silly Wheatie scowled and said he’d had all the serious he wanted in the Pacific.  They didn’t bring it up again.  He liked ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’  He would leave the room if someone turned the channel to a war movie.

        Indie said we should accept Wheatie for what he was, and besides that Wheatie left his life on Iwo Jima.  Indie respected everyone for what they were, and I tried my best to be like Indie on that.  

        You will enjoy more on Wheatie in the Mandolin Case.  He might only be a yard man and a Demerol junkie with no education, but he was a big help.  I need to take him back to the Ballet.  He liked that.

Dr. B

Bluegrass CD Pick of the Week- Darin Aldridge/Brooke Justice

October 24, 2008

        A reader named Billy suggested I begin to compile a list of favorite discs.  I thought it was a great idea and it inspired a new category- bluegrass pick of the week.  I would love the input of my readers on this one.  Tell me about your favorite bluegrass CDs and why you like them.  Rate it on a five star system, with five being tops.  I look forward to hearing of your personal favorites.  They do not have to be nationally known groups, but it is fine if they are too.

        Here is  my first pick of the week.  The Darin Aldridge/Brooke Justice Quintet played at the Art of Sound festival last weekend.  I recommend their CD, ‘I’ll Go With You,’ at five stars in the bluegrass gospel category.

        Brooke’s voice is clear and pre-protools perfect.  She enunciates every word with clarity and sings with emotion.  Darin is a great singer too, and his harmonies are blended and phrased with her vocals to perfection .  Aldridge is a mando tone monster.  The instrumentation is flawless- they are bluegrass virtuosos.   

        Pinecastle Records struck a lick with this one.  I suspect the project will be nominated for Bluegrass gospel recording of the year and female vocalist of the year at the IBMA awards in Nashville in 2009.

        Y’all tell me of your favorites, both new and old.  I’ll list ’em all here, and feature some every week.

Dr. B.

Molly Tenbrooks

October 22, 2008

        Other than her Mom and Dad, I’ve known Molly longer than anyone in the world.  I was her doctor in the newborn nursery, and about half raised the child.  I saw her through grade school, cheer-leading and college.  She married Johnathan, her high school sweetheart.  I wasn’t as close as her Dad- he gave her away, but if she’d had a best man I guess I’d been it after her father.  We went to the wedding, and my wife bought them a real nice little silver platter at Belk’s.

        At the time of the Mandolin Case, Molly was in her twenties, but she looked like a teenager.  She was 5’2″ and 118 pounds, a tousle-haired brunette with dark eyes and olive skin.  I thought she was almost as pretty as my wife was in our engagement picture.

        Molly loved motorcycles.  She and Johnny used to ride Indie’s Indian Motorbike when they were in High School.  Some folks tried to make out like the relationship between Molly and Indie wasn’t right.  That was not just a lie, but a damn lie.  I was beyond angry when they tried to advance that argument.  In the Mandolin Case,  Molly turned out to be very important to Indie.  He said it was most unusual for such a young woman to help save an old man, but she sure did.

          Molly was just a kid, and an unlikely heroine, but she was determined.  There is a part of the story that hurts.  She suffered some abusive behavior from one person- you’ll understand when you read the book- but she was able to overcome.  Whenever she bowed up to help Indie it was part of how she healed.  She might be just a young’un, but I have all admiration for her.  She was strong beyond her years.

        Molly’s favorite actress was Julia Roberts, but her movie choice was ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’  Her favorite song was Molly and Tenbrooks (no surprise there) and she would ask Indie to do a fiddle kick-off every time we played it.  A lady named Tag got her hooked on the Beatles and classic rock ‘n roll.  Her favorite T.V. show was ‘C.S.I.’ and she liked ‘House’ too.  House reminded her a little of Indie, but she thought he took the character a bit too far.

         Tough as the child was, her taste in books was young and feminine.  She liked ‘Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables.’  Her favorite blog is The Lit Connection.  It is on my blogroll.

        Molly loved horses, bluegrass and Bill Monroe, so her name was quite appropriate.  The song her parents named her for, Molly and Tenbrooks, was about a turn of the last century horse race.  (I think in Kentucky)  She was athletic too, and played basketball and ran track in high school.

        Molly moved up North after high school, and returned there after the Mandolin Case was over.  As I began to write up the story, I realized she hasn’t been back to Harvey County for the last four or five years.  I’d love to see her again; she was a favorite patient.

        I’ll close with the words to Bill Monroe’s song, and send the words out to my little friend Molly Tenbrooks.  All the best to ya, kid.

        ‘Run ole Molly Run, Run ole Molly run.”

        “Tenbrooks gonna beat you you in the bright shining sun.”

        Ain’t no one ever gonna beat you, Molly.  You’re as tough a young lady as I ever ran into and I’m proud to have known you.

Dr. B

Art of Sound Part Three- Mike Marshall

October 20, 2008

        On Sunday afternoon, Mike Marshall put on a concert with the Shelby High School Orchestra.  Schools used to do these things.  In fact, at the turn of the century, (the 20th that is) there were even mandolin orchestras all over the country. 

        It was an interesting mix.  Marshall grew up in bluegrass, but had a teacher early on who insisted on formal music theory and the ability to read music.  Because of that, he was able to teach these kids from both perspectives.  They not only did a Vivaldi Concerto, and a Concert Piece in G composed by Mr. Marshall, but learned to improvise and play bluegrass and other traditional music. 

        As Mike put it, music is like the wind.  It knows no borders or divisions, and blows freely across any artificial boundaries.   I liked the concept.  And I was moved not only by his virtuoso performance, but his ability to communicate with these high school kids and bring out the best in them.  If you have a child in high school orchestra, give consideration to a weekend with Mike Marshall.  For the kids I talked to it was an experience they’ll never forget.

        I was touched by his performance and went to speak to him.

        “Hi, I’m Tommy Bibey.”  We shook hands.

        “Yeah, we met the other night.  Good to see you.”  He looked me in the eye.  “You do have one blue eye and one green one.”

        “Yep.  It’s me.  Blue and green for bluegrass, I guess.  Thanks for working with these kids.  I’m an old mandolin guy.  I sense before you are done our favorite instrument is gonna make a comeback.”  I envisioned mandolin orchestra in my hometown.  “I hope you get there.”  

        “Thanks, Bibey.  I’m gonna try.”

        “My agent says there are only a few truths that have stood the test of time.  To me music is one of ’em, and the mandolin is at the top of my list.”

        “Me too, Bibey.  Good luck in your travels.”

        “Same to you, Mike.”  We shook hands and parted ways, but I am sure we have not seen the last of each other.  It is always good to make a new mandolin friend, and Mike Marshall is talented beyond my understanding.  There is much I can learn from him in my quest.

Dr. B

Art of Sound Part Two

October 19, 2008

        Saturday the skies cleared and it turned colder.  Perfect weather for the Art of Sound festival.

        A hot regional band kicked it off.  A fellow from Rock Hill, S.C. wore out the guitar, and a Dr. Dean Jenks blistered the banjo.  The lead singer was from Pumpkin Center.  It was a solid bluegrass band, FlintHill.

        There was Old Time and Cajun and gospel singers.  You know the festival is eclectic when you have Scottish guys in kilts who play rock ‘n roll bagpipes.  

        Nashville songwriters Rick Bowles and Phoenix Mendoza put on a songwriter workshop that drew a big crowd, and the Methodist Church hosted a mandolin workshop with four of the world’s top players.  Darin Aldridge, the melodic tonemaster, and Wayne Benson of iii Tyme Out, the definition of the second generation, represented bluegrass mandolin.  Young Thile style wizard Josh Pinkham and master mandolinist Mike Marshall delved into jazz, Brazilian, swing and chord melody work.  These four artists put on a clinic that both entertained and informed.

        Marshall and Pinkham also did a duo set that ranged from classic fiddle tunes to Bach.  Pinkham dubbed it country counterpoint. The spontaneous description was better than any I could think of overnight. 

        Country Counterpoint.  Ask Mike Marshall and Josh to play it next time you see them.  Josh is a precocious young man, but success and talent have not spoiled his kind spirit.  Mike has been on the road a long time but remains a humble mandolin genius, and not the least bit cynical.  Maybe some day music will change the world after all.  Like you, Mike, I hold to the dream.

        There was Jim Lauderdale, Jack Lawrence, Michael Reno Harrell, and the Harris Brothers from Lenoir, N.C.  You ain’t lived till you’ve seen Reggie Harris play slide guitar and the electric suitcase while his brother Ryan wails out the blues.  Reggie plays like Doc Watson, with a touch and soul few can duplicate.  Seek them out and hear them play.

        We grabbed a quick bite then went to the Farmer’s Market stage where the day had started out.  There the Darin Aldridge/Brooke Justice Quintet sang some of the best bluegrass gospel I’ve ever heard.  They just released a new Pinecastle CD, “I’ll Go with You,” that will be nominated for gospel project of the year.

          The Carolinas are lucky to have iii Tyme Out.  They are one of the premier bands in the business and there they were in little downtown Shelby.  They rocked the crowd with their trademark tight harmonies and the soulful lead singing of Russell Moore.  And I gotta say Wayne Benson, along with Darin Aldridge, is one of my favorite bluegrass mandolinists on the planet.  I’m gonna recommend they get my cousin from Pecan Grove one year too, ’cause he’s right there with them.

        It was a lot of fine music packed into one day.  I got home and realized I hadn’t typed out a word on my novel.  I gotta e-mail my agent and get back on it. I still have a deadline of Jan 1, 2009.

        And come Monday, I’ll go back to he office and be a Doc.  As much as I love to play, I ain’t on the planet as gifted as this crowd.  Y’all go support ’em wherever they play.  For me, the music makes me a better Doc.  I’ll be better prepared to sift through all the human troubles we have.  Because of music, I find myself energized and more thankful for my blessings.  Somehow it makes me more empathetic to my fellow human beings and gets me through another week in a tough business.  Someone said it takes a mandolin community to raise a doctor.  I like that, and I thank all the music and arts folks for your inspiration.

       So till the next gig- back to work.  I look forward to the next session, though, and I’m gonna practice more too.  I’m getting older and it’s gonna get harder to keep up with young’uns like Darin and Josh.  I better get at it.

Dr. B

Art of Sound Part One

October 18, 2008

        I’ve never been afraid to hop in the car and go to a festival.  Someone recommended one called the Art of Sound, so I took a break from doctoring and the novel, and went to check it out.

        We got there on a Friday night.  It seemed a quiet Southern Town.  A silent Confederate solider on the Square stood watch over the local bank.  A lady sat under a tent that served as shelter from the drizzle.

        “Where are they playing music?” I asked.

         “1st National Bank.”  She pointed to a light in the window.  “Take the back steps.”

        When we got to the second floor, we went back in time.  A big band was swinging through the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.  They rendered expert interpretations of Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington.  All of them were decked out in dark suits, except the band leader, a Mr. Frank Love, who wore a white jacket.  They had the little band stands like I used to see on the Lawrence Welk Show.  Man, this was a class act.  My foot was just a tapping.  There was ‘Mood Indigo,’ some light rock ‘n roll like ‘Locomotion,’ and then they did ‘Ain’t Misbehaving.”  I loved the cha-cha version of ‘Love Letters in the Sand.”  It was one of Marfar’s favorites when we were courting.  A Broadway kinda girl singer belted several strong vocals.  Where did this little town find these folks?

           I reached over to a table and picked up a schedule.  There was something for everyone in this gig.  Big band, Cajun, jam bands, old time, plenty of bluegrass.  Wow.

        After the Orchestra I went back down the stairs, and a fellow stopped me in the lobby.

        “Ain’t you Tommy Bibey?”


         He handed me a phone number.  “John said to call if you got here.  Mike Marshall is gonna jam at his house tonight.”

        I wasn’t about to pass up a chance to play with Marshall.  If David Grisman chooses a man to play mandolin along side him in his Quintet, and Chris Thile does duets with you, there can be no doubt about a man’s qualifications.  I had heard Marshall play and knew he was great, but I’d never had the opportunity to sit in with him.

        When we got there I was greeted by John and a young man named Josh Pinkham.  I had seen Josh around at festivals and knew he was a player, but I was unprepared for the level of expertise.  He handed me his mandolin, a very nice Red Diamond varnish model.  I played a few notes.  Sweet.  I got out mine.  We swapped mandos for a moment and traded licks.

         This kid could REALLY play.  Thile ain’t got nothing on this boy.  Josh might be young, but he is an old soul on the mandolin.  After supper, Mike and Josh went through some duet numbers for their show the next day.  Effortless work.  They communicated with their mandolins, and had to speak but a few words to convey their emotions.

        Mike pulled out a mandocello, and we all sat down and jammed in the living room.  It was one of those magical opportunities- a chance jam session you don’t wander into every day.   When he did ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ on that thing, I thought I’d died and gone to mandolin heaven.  I played along, but preferred to listen.  Mike Marshall is a mandolin genius.  If you get the opportunity to hear him, GO!  He is playing the festival today, Saturday, Oct 18th.  You can be sure I’m gonna stick around.

        After the Marshall session, we went back by the bank and down the street to the Farmer’s Market.  The Fire Marshall checked his clicker, and said we were the last ones he could let in.       

        Inside a band called Acoustic Syndicate was a house a fire.  (To the Fire Marshall- not literally)  It was rock ‘n roll bluegrass at it’s best.  The lead singer Steve McMurray was soaked in sweat and all the kids danced in the aisle.  They played two encores.  

        It was midnight.  We found a room, and I tapped into the wireless.  I couldn’t sleep and had to report to you.  I am going back first thing Saturday morning, and will let you know.  But, don’t wait on me.  If you live in Western N.C., get in the car and go to Shelby, N.C.  I believe I’d go see for myself.  This one is extra good.

        The schedule for the festival is on the Net at:

Dr. B

Snookers Molesby

October 17, 2008

        Snookers Molesby was instrumental in the Mandolin Case.  I’m sure if you went over to the Nursing Home and asked Indie to name the three people that meant the most to him in the ordeal, Snook would be one of ’em.

        I first met Snook in Junior High.  We were in P.E. together, and he was the only guy in the class who could hit a softball into the pasture across the street.  When we were in the ninth grade he smoked cigars and went out with older girls who wore short skirts.  Snookers would ride off every day with some high school girl who drove a convertible.  We waited on our moms to carpool us home and wondered just how he got away with all that.  Our moms hated Snook.  His folks were split, and his Dad drank a lot and didn’t care where he was.

        I am proud to say I got Snookers started in golf.  My dad bought me a set of clubs, and Snook and I would go to the Park and play out of the same bag.  We could play all day for fifty cents.  It was only a nine hole layout but Snook and I would hoof around as many as 54 holes in a day.  He was shooting in the 70’s within a year, and became our star player in High School.

        They had a bowling alley at the Park back then, and Snook taught me how to bowl and shoot pool.  But when the sharks came around and wanted to gamble, Snook said I was off limits.

        “Come on Snook, I’m good enough to play,” I’d complain.

        “Yeah Bibey, but you don’t need to get mixed up with them boys.  You’ve got a brain in your head, and your Daddy will send you to school.”  Snook was protective like that.

        I tried to help Snook, too.  He got in a fight with his girl friend the night before the State Golf Championship, got drunk, and wound up in jail overnight.  Coach gave me the money, made a few calls, and sent me to bail him out.  Even in those days, folks seemed to think Tommy Bibey was a respectable kid.  I guess they figured I could make his case as good as anyone. 

          Anyway, I told the Sheriff we had to have Snook to win.  “Sir, you know I’m telling the truth.  We need Snook.  Look at it this way.  If you let him out to play it’s gonna bump me off the roster, so you know I’m in it for the team.  Besides that, Snook’s gonna remember this tournament for the rest of his life.  You gotta let him play.  He’s a better golfer hung over than I am sober.”

         I think they were gonna let him out anyway.  Snook shot 68 and won his second state Championship.  It was the only time I ever got mad at him.  “Dang it Snook,” I said.  “Most guys would kill to have as much game as you.  I can’t stand to see you throw it away.”  Snook didn’t quit, but I never saw him drink too much again.  Maybe he did, but he wouldn’t let me know of it.

         Another time he almost flunked History.  He had to make an ‘A’ on the final to get a ‘C’ in the course.  I crammed every fact in his brain I could that last night.  The next day, the test was all true/false type questions.  Mr. Biggers had copied it out of a work book, and every false question had the erroneous part underlined.  I didn’t take but one look, and went up front to see Mr. Biggers.

        “Mr. Biggers, I hate to tell you, but all the false parts are underlined.  The ones that are true ain’t marked.  This is gonna be an easy test.”

         Mr Biggers studied the paper a moment and wrinkled his brow.  “Son,” he said.  “Just don’t tell anyone.”

        I didn’t tell, but Snook and I were the only kids in the class to make 100 on the test.  Snook was upset.  “If I’d known he was gonna do that, I wouldn’t a wasted all that time studying, Bibey.”

        After high school, I went off to school.  Snook went to Florida and played the J.C Goosie Space Coast Tour.  He was a PGA rabbit and qualified for a few events in the big show, but without any financial backers couldn’t make a go of it and had to come home. 

        He went to work in maintenance at Harley Memorial.  Snook ruled the Hospital.  He had a weekly card game in Central Supply, where he fleeced CEO Jim Olden’s nephew Jerry on a regular basis.  That’s where he first met Indie. 

            Jerry never told Olden about the Central Supply poker game.  He was afraid he’d get fired.  Plus Snooker’s people said they’d go to the Board and tell the trustees how Jerry and Olden skimmed supplies.  They said they went to charity but we all knew they sold some of ’em and the rest wound up at Dr. Blake’s office.  Blake was the only doctor in town whose exam sheets were stamped ‘Harley Memorial.’      

        After I came back home, me and Snook were closer than ever.  As we got older, he saw me and Indie about like brother and father figures.  He had almost no opportunity for higher education, but began to study my old college texts.  I guess Snook was the only maintenance guy I knew who read Thoreau.  He was a bright guy, and almost memorized ‘Walden Pond.’

        It took a long time for Snook to settle down, but he married Amy when he was thirty, and was faithful to her.  One day Amy came to see me at the office.  I remember it well cause I had a med student with me, and I told him I was sure she was very ill.  He asked me how I knew and I said, “She says she’s tired.  Amy ain’t never been tired a day in her life.  She’s the only woman in Harley County who can keep up with Snookers Molesby.  Plus she’s pale.”

         “What do you think she has?” he asked.

        “I hope she’s about to bleed to death from an ulcer ’cause I can fix that.  Unless we’re lucky, this is gonna be bad.”  We drew a stat blood count.  She had acute leukemia.  I sent her to my favorite oncologist at Sandhills, but she was dead in eight months.  Snookers never went out with a woman again.  He said he was too old, but we all knew there could never be another Amy for him.

         After Amy was gone we about adopted Snook, and he’d come over to the house for Thanksgiving when he wasn’t off playing golf.

        Snook and I both rated ‘Andy’ as our favorite T.V. show, and he liked the movies ‘Cool Hand Luke” and the ‘Sting.’  His favorite restaurant was Harley Billiard and Bowl, and we played golf together at River Run.  Snook not only knew the rule book, he played by it.  Once a year Olden would invite him to the Country Club to play the one day Member/Guest, and Snookers would clean house for the boss.  It was the only day of the year Olden paid any attention to Snookers, though.  

         In addition to his weekly card game at the Hospital Snookers kept an eye on other activities.  He flew under the radar with ease.  Olden had no idea that a man with a broom could understand all those big words, so Snook was the ultimate plant in the Mandolin Case.  I can’t wait to show you how he did it.

        Olden shoulda known, but then a middle aged man who tries to date girls half his age would never understand a guy like Snook.  I bet in Junior high those girls who drove those convertible cars didn’t pick Olden up after school either. 

        I knew who those girls were, but Snook made sure I didn’t go out with them.  “Them’s not the kind of girls you need to bring home to mama Bibey,” he’d say.

        I figured Snookers wouldn’t steer me wrong.  I played a lot of golf with him, and never saw him cheat once.  I bet back in Junior High Snook wouldn’t have helped a fellow like Jim Olden find his way in the world.  Snook would say a man like that deserves whatever happens to him, and it ain’t nobody’s fault but his own.

        But Indie- Snookers wanted to help him any way he could, and he did so in the Mandolin Case.  We felt the same way about Snook.  When he was out of insurance a while me and Indie were the only Docs who would see him and cut him a break on his bill.  

        You could trust Snookers.  Shoot, I’d let him drive my daughter all the way to California, but I wouldn’t let Jim Olden take her across town.  As far as women, Snook had been there and done that before any of the rest of us knew what that was.  Olden, though, was like a testosterone poisoned little boy who couldn’t think straight half the time.  When you know folks as long as I knew Snook, you know who you can trust and why.

         Olden was a relative newcomer in town, but Snook swiped his old year book and tracked down his people.  He took a couple of Olden’s old girlfriends to lunch, but it was for surveillance reasons only.  It turns out our intuition as to Olden was on the money.  Even all these years later they remembered him as a geek, and they weren’t surprised he wore Speedos in middle age.  You can’t fool anyone you went to Junior High School with.

Dr. B