Archive for November 2008

I Spent my Life as a Pack Mule

November 30, 2008

        Someone blogged they were a thoroughbred.  I thought about that, and decided I spent my life as a plow horse, or maybe a pack mule.  I guess I was like a ‘King Wilkie’ (Bill Monroe’s horse) or maybe a wheel hoss.  (that single minded beast who spent a whole lifetime going in circles.)  I like dogs too, ’cause mine have always been loyal.

        What kinda animal were y’all while here on earth?  For example, I would assume Ms. Cindy was a loyal canine and spent her days running with Ranger.

       I’m trying to get my MS done by Jan 1- still on track, but might run a week or so past goal.  How y’all cranked out a whole novel in one month is beyond me.  I am just too slow.

Dr. B


Golf and Music- The Ties That Bind

November 29, 2008

        Now I know you might wonder.  What could be the common threads of  golf and music?  Before the Mandolin Case comes out in 2009, I wanted you guys to have a leg up on the rest of the world.  

        One time I had a case of the hooks.  There is a guy on the East Coast who is a very serious amateur golfer who got them straightened out.  He was not only a golfer, but knew a little music too, so I thought he might be able to get inside my head and solve the problem.  Here’s how it went.

        “Say you got a hitch in your swing?”

        “Yeah.  I’m fighting the hooks.”

        “Hmn.  Better learn a fade.  Like Trevino said, you can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.”

        “He’s right.”

        “Tell me about your music, Doc.”

        “We play bluegrass.”

        “A lot of that is pretty fast isn’t it?”


        “There’s a reason they call ’em breakdowns.”

        “Sure.  Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Bonnie and Clyde.”

        “Oh even beyond that.  You see, if you get too quick your swing will break down.  Let me see your set-up.”

       I stood over the ball.

       “Hmn.  Not too bad.  Grip’s a bit strong though.  Turn your left hand to where only one knuckle shows.”

        “Like this?”

        “Yeah, that’s better.  And you’re too tight, too.  Sam Snead said hold the club like a small bird you want to return to the nest.  You’re gonna strangle the sumbitch.”

        I flopped my wrists in a lazy way.  “How’s that?”

        “Much better.  Now, take a back-swing.” 

        I took it back as near parallel as my old back would allow. 

        “Ah there’s part of it.  You need to finish your back-swing.  If you don’t you’ll get too quick and come over the top.  From there either you’ll hit a wild slice or trap hook it and go left.”

          “Trap hook- that’s it.  I never slice.”  I swung again.  “I guess I’m impatient.”

         “Golf’s like all the good things in life Bibey.  You have to be patient and give it some time.  Wait on it.”  He took the club out of my hand and demonstrated.  “See how I let the club lag?  Patience, my boy.”  He handed it back.  “You don’t double cross do you?”

        “Heck no.  I ain’t that bad.”    

         “Good.  Now about setting it to music.  Snead said he would think in terms of Waltz time- three quarters.  You know any waltzes?”

        “Sure. Tennesse Waltz, Kentucky Waltz, I know a bunch of old ones.

        “Older than that.  Think Lawrence Welk.  A one and a two..and a…”

        “Man if I think Lawrence Welk I won’t hit it 200 yards.  I’ll be like those old guys at the Club I used to make fun of as a kid.”

        “You wanta beat the hooks or not?”

        “O.K.  A one and a two… and a….”  I drew the club back.  Pow.  240 with a gentle draw.  Wow. 

        “See, told you.”

        He cured my hooks.  And as it turned out this guy knew a lot about medicine too, and was very influential in the Mandolin Case.  As to how golf and music intersect with medicine, well that’s anther story.  But it’s in the book, and it is real.  I’ll get to it another post soon.

Dr. B

Kindred Spirits/Country Docs

November 27, 2008

        Hey guys, remember how I told y’all about Dr. Zink’s Country Doctor Compilation?  I heard from a fellow contributor today, and linked him up on my blogroll.  We both have an article in Dr. Zink’s 2009 publication. 
        I only have one request.  Just because he’s younger and better looking don’t ditch me.  Read us both.  If you have interest in the reality of the Doctor world, his perspective is worth your time.

Dr. B

Country Doc Says:

November 27, 2008 at 9:32 am e

Dr. Bibey–

I am that fellow country doctor that wrote for Dr. Tzink’s books with his office right next to the liquor store in Elma, WA! Wonderful to see a kindred spirit here. Would love it you would consider reading my blog, The Country Doc Report ( , and even posting from time to time as I try to expand the number of contributors. At any rate, look forward to seeing our work in print some time next year.

Country Doc Says:

November 27, 2008 at 9:32 am e

Y’all make him welcome.  His link is:

Cowboys and Indians and Redemption

November 26, 2008

        When I was a little boy we all played Cowboys and Indians.  My mom has a picture of me as a kid sitting on the back of horse.  I’ve got on a big ole Indian headdress and the girl next door- we called her Dale Evans- sits right behind me in some kinda fake sequined outfit brandishing a pistol.  Lord knows what kind of stereotypical roles we mighta all played- this was long before I knew what the word meant.  Heck it was before stereos, at least in our household.

       I am 100% nonviolent guy, but sometimes I wonder how.   Back then I had a toy gun and holster set.  I’d put them on first thing every morning, and each night I’d take ’em off and hang ’em on the bed post.  Maybe I got it all out of my system before kindergarten. 

        I have ALL respect for our service people, but I know I’d be a terrible front lines solider.  If a man asked me to charge across an open field waving a gun and start shooting a bunch of folks I don’t know, I am confident I’d say, “Hmn.  I don’t know boss.  Why don’t we radio one of those cats and see if he wants to have a cup of coffee and talk this thing over?  I wonder what kind music he likes?”  I guess I’d wind up in the brig.

        I thought a lot about Indie after our visit the other day, and why he has meant so much to me.  I guess the biggest reason is Indie always led me to the truth.  My agent always says there are only a few truths that have stood the test of time, and my job as a writer is to find them.  I wasn’t able to find them alone, but through Indie I at least found enough to make a little sense out of a crazy world.

        Early on my agent asked, “Son, do you read the King James?”

        “Yes sir, I ain’t as good as my wife, but yeah, I do.”

        “Well, don’t forget the King James is the bedrock of Southern Literature.”  Then he’d say he had to go, and leave me to my own devices to figure it out.  I guess he figured if he told me instead of showed me it wouldn’t be as powerful.

        He also knew I’d get it after a while.  He understood me right off.  I wasn’t the quickest one around, but I was relentless, and couldn’t stand not to find it.    

        As Docs, trouble is our business.  That’s all we see.  And to make sure we know we are human, our first pal in medicine is the cadaver.  Even the slowest student gets it after a while.  We are mortal, and in the end we will fail. 

        And here’s the thing about Indie- he got it, and better than any Doc I know.  As Buck Owens would say, he came by it naturally, too.  Indie didn’t have to go to a refresher course on honesty in disclosure.  He was just Indie.  He didn’t claim to be anything but human, and made no apologies for it. That’s why I loved him so.

        And to go back to the King James, I think Indie was all about redemption.  Plenty goes wrong in medicine on a regular basis, and the problems could add up over the years if you didn’t find a way to deal with it all.  Indie wasn’t as good as Jesus of course, but for a human being he had that forgiveness thing down pretty good.  Poor Indie will sit on some dusty library book shelf for eternity and carry all those burdens for me.  Little Tommy Bibey gets to unload it all on poor Indie’s shoulders and enjoy life.  Then after I get to heaven Jesus will look after me.  Pretty simple huh?

       I’m sure my agent will read this and say, “Yeah, and it took you two years to get there, son.  How’d I ever get roped into this?”

       My response would be, “Sir, it’s in the King James.  I reckon Jesus sent you.”

        My guess is I’ll get my book published.  If nothing else it is the only way my agent is ever gonna get any peace.  Right now this pesky doctor e-mails him a question every few days.

          Sometimes he’ll get exasperated and reply, “Son, it’s in the King James.  You gotta find it yourself- I can’t just tell you, that wouldn’t do you any good.”

        I’m lucky.  I have the best agent in the world.  He’s right.

        Well, again, y’all have a fine Holiday.  I’m thankful for all of you.

Dr. B

Indie at Thanksgiving

November 25, 2008

        I went by to check on Indie before Thanksgiving.  I’d gotten so busy I hadn’t been by in a while.

        “Bibey, old boy.  How ya been?  Me and Barney (his skeleton) were gonna put out an all points bulletin for you.”

        “I’m sorry Indie.  I should been by- eight days a week you know.”

        “Hell, you don’t have to tell me- I did it forty years.”

        “And you were the best.  How you been?”

        “You mean is that goon ball in my chest giving me a fit- hell, I don’t think about it much.  In Europe they treat cancer as a chronic illness- like arthritis or something.  In American we treat it like a damn football game.  If you ain’t number one you’re a loser- nutty, huh?  It’s just a thing- something to live with.”  Indie hooked Barney in the ribs with his cane and pulled him to his side.  He opened up the skull cap.  “Care for a drink?” 

        “No thanks, Indie.  Gotta work.”

        “Suit yourself.  Don’t forget to smell the roses, though.  You look tired.”

        Ain’t that just like Indie?  There is is with cancer, and he’s worried about me.  “I will Indie.”

        “You been down to check on the cabin?”  he asked.

        “Yeah, she’s all good.  No worries there.”

        “Come spring I want you to get me out of here a day and go down to the river.  I might just go for a swim.  The river’ll cure what ails you, you know.”

        “Will do.”  We visited for a while.  “I guess I better get on to the house.  The kids are coming in and Marfar’s fixing persimmon pudding.”

       “Mm.  That pudding is the best.  Save some for me.  I’ll see you next week.”

        I massaged his neck muscles like Ms. Jenkins used to do.  “Sure enough.  See you then.”

        On the way home I thought about how much ole Indie has meant to me.  Next to family, he was one of the most important people in my life.  Man I was gonna miss him when he was gone.  Better go hug all my people and hold ’em close.  That sure is what Indie would do.

        Y’all have a good Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for my wife and kids, my office staff and my bluegrass friends and golf pals, but I am thankful for all you blog buddies too.  One of these fine days, I’m gonna go on my little tour and meet you guys.

Dr. B

The Ultimate Music Fake-out Mandolin Method

November 23, 2008

        O.K. here it is in one easy lesson.  How to play the mandolin and fake out the world.  I know- I’m an expert!

        Now before we go any further, this will not work for doctoring.  In fact, if your doctor gestalts his way around his right brain like this to prescribe your medical treatment, RUN!

        First of all, as we have discussed, don’t forget the mandolin is tuned in fifths.  Do not confuse this with corn liquor quantities, and whatever you do don’t partake of Galax strawberries.  (That is another lesson- they are soaked in moonshine)  Smell ’em if you aren’t sure – it’ll remind you of lighter fluid.  Don’t go to a doctor who’d eat them by the way.

        Now that you know the thing is tuned in 5ths, you have it made.  Unlike how that ‘B’ string on a guitar runs me crazy, the whole dang mandolin fretboard has geometric symmetry.  (It don’t change)  So, once you learn a chord all you gotta do is move it up two frets and lo and behold you are in a brand new key- ex. ‘G’ to ‘A’.)  It is so easy Bill Monroe made it against mandolin law to use a capo.)

        So find a “G” chord, then if you can count from one to seven you got it, at least if remember the phrase one major, two minor, three minor, four major, five major, six minor (relative minor- important there) and 7 is a diminished deal us bluegrassers don’t use much except for guys like Mike Marshall, and probably that Thile guy too.

        The modes are another lesson.  My daughter knows all of ’em , but here’s how to get by.  Think Ionian (ie start on the 1st note of the scale) for most of your western music like bluegrass and fiddle tunes, and the 5th note, or mixolydian, for your darker songs.  Tim Stafford of Blue Highway says most bluegrass bands have at least one murder tune per set to get all that traveling out of their system.  Use you mix mode there, and use a lot of Monroe down strokes.  Shawn Lane does the style very well- musta come from hanging out with Stafford.  Alan Bibey is great on those too.

        And if you get lost just learn to use the Penatonic scales (Five notes, not five sides as in Pentagon for heaven’s sake) and hang out with David Grisman or the Grateful Dead crowd, too.  Gris is an all time expert on the method and will point you in the right direction. 

         If your goal is for a bunch of women to chase you play those big rock n roll Barred Power chords.  They work best if you let out your mandolin strap a few notches so the thing hangs around your knees- a bluegrass Mick Jagger like Sam Bush comes to mind- he rocks.

        Only problem is that doesn’t work so well for gray haired doctors who wear pagers and shirt pocket pencil protectors.  Somehow it doesn’t come out sounding the same- better not give up my day job.

        The only thing I’ve found tough is to get my fingers to walk the talk- that has taken some practice, and is gonna take some more.  As they say about the PGA tour- those guys are good.

        More theory later.  Sorry to cut the lesson short, but my lovely daughter is here to visit and I don’t get to see her enough.  Talk to you soon.

Dr. B

Harvey Billiard and Bowl

November 22, 2008

        If you guys are gonna read “The Mandolin Case,” I want you to be on the inside of local culture.  Now that y’all are my friends, you need to know where to find people in town you can count on in case you were to get in a jam. 

        So, here’s how to get to Harvey Billiard and Bowl, or the B and B as we call it.  From downtown Croatan, the County seat for Harvey County, go east on Main St.  When you get to Bibey Drive (named for my grandfather) hang a right.  That will take you by the old Hospital.  It has been renovated as office space for most of the Docs is town. 

        Follow that to the outskirts of town. You’ll pass a huge old pin oak that lightening splintered last year.  Just past it is Lee Highway.  Take a left there, and the B and B is a mile on the right.

        You can’t miss it.  There is a gravel parking lot and a front end loader sits there most days.  There will be a few used cars for sale, and there is a trailer park out back, where Lou manages thirty units.  We play music there one Saturday night a month.  A sign out front says “Triditional Bluegrass Music.”  Lou realized it was misspelled, but he’d already paid for it.  He said he’d change it next time.

        Lou Bedford is the owner.  He has the best cheeseburgers in town.  A Mina bird named Minne is at the cash register.  Minnie can mimic anything so don’t say anything you don’t want folks to know.  That bird can do the best ambulance siren imitation you’ve ever heard.  The paramedics taught it to her.  By the way, if you want to know where to eat in the South always look for law enforcement or EMS vehicles- they know the local landscape better than anyone.

        In the back Lou has a pool hall and a couple of duck pin bowling lanes.  There is a regular card game there every Friday night.  Indie played every week, but after Blinky died, he didn’t go for a month.  After that he played, but not as regular.

        It’s a dry county, but folks know they can get a Pabst Blue Ribbon at the B and B.  All you have to do is put in a few extra coins in the Coke machine, and press the Tab button.  It’ll spit out a PBR- just don’t tell anyone.

        The B and B is a regular hangout for bluegrass boys, golf hustlers, card sharks, and assorted ne’re do wells.  Most society folks wouldn’t be seen there.  You could count on a fair deal at the B and B.

          From time to time I go to the B and B to conduct important business.  Just don’t tell my mama- it would worry her.

Dr. B

Maria Diosas (Colombian Green Card)

November 19, 2008

        Back at the time of the Mandolin Case, there was a girl who worked at Harvey Memorial named Maria Diaoas.  She came here when they started the green card visas.   Nowadays the term ‘Green Card’ is one you hear a lot, but back then it was unusual.  And I want you to know I am not making fun of anyone just because they weren’t born in this country.  Indie always said if your people weren’t Native American you came here from somewhere else.   Indie got along with most everybody, and I agreed with his views on treating people fair.

        This child stood out in the crowd as different.  Well, she wasn’t exactly a child, but more of a child in a woman’s body.  Back then most of us in Harvey County were either black or white, but her skin tones was some kinda nutmeg complexion.  She looked like one of those women on the cover of a travel magazines where Docs go to study about high blood pressure.  I never did understand why a fellow’d have to go to some faraway beach to study high blood- I bet we had a thousand folks with hypertension right here in Harvey County.

        Maria made an L.P.N while she was here, but worked as a secretary for Jim Olden, our hospital administrator.  She didn’t like to work nights and he got her a day job.

        I didn’t know the girl, but Snookers went out with her a few times.  He said she liked vodka and fancy cars and was too high maintenance for him to get along with.  Jim Olden said Snookers wasn’t kind enough to Maria, and saw to it she had a better apartment.  She bought Mr. Olden a music box that played the Dr. Zhivago theme.  One time Indie said Mr. Olden’s office was like a magical music box.  To demonstrate, he opened and closed the door a couple times over a few minutes.  Each time he cracked it open “Somewhere My Love” would come to abrupt halt.  It made Olden mad.  Indie just laughed.

        The girl was beyond mysterious, as exotic as an Italian pizza would have been in Harvey County back in the 60’s.  We were sure she came from Colombia, and her jet black hair and dark eyes fit the background.  But she also has some kinda Russian connection.  Snookers said her grandparents still lived there.  They’re gone now, I guess, that was about two decades ago.  She said her middle name was Kay.  I thought that was quite Americanized, but she would sign her name as Maria K. Diosas, instead of Kay.  Snookers said it stood for Katalina, but the cold war was winding down and she didn’t want to make that fact public.

        I think Snookers was right- she must have had some sort of Russian ancestry.  Not only did she like Dr. Zhivago (she pronounced it Doctor ‘Shee-KA- GO”- sort of like Chicago with a Spanish accent) and vodka, but she dug James Bond and “From Russia with Love.”  She liked “Goldfinger” too.  She said she preferred American men.  Snookers tried to tell her Bond was British.  She didn’t like that.  It was part of why they split after a few dates.

        I’ve got some age on me, but I ain’t so old I can’t pick a pretty girl out of a line-up, and Maria was a pretty girl.  In fact, she looked dangerous.  I could spot that in a line up too.  My ladies at the office have excellent intuition and they understood it on first glance.  Her skin was somewhere in between nutmeg and honey colored.  She was 5’6″ and 113 pounds.  Dark eyed, black haired, she was a long legged lanky Latino who looked like an SI girl.  Striking would not do her justice.  I guess she might perspire but she didn’t sweat- made a lot of men sweat though.  I kept my distance from her, but Snook said she smelled like a tropical flower, and Olden wrote lousy poetry on the subject for a decade after she left Harvey County.         

        I’m not sure if I spelled her last name right, or what it meant.  Mr. Olden lives just outside of Atlanta now.  Snookers went down there to try and find out more about her, but Olden sent word he didn’t feel up to visitors that day.  If any of y’all know what it means, let me in on it.  I’m still finishing up some last minute research for the Mandolin Case, and it would help me out.

Dr. B

Blog Power

November 16, 2008

        I am always surprised to see where my blog takes me.  The Internet is so powerful.  I found out the other day I had a Power Rating of 31.  My agent said it put me in the top 205,000 and that was very good for for a fiction blog.

        It set me to thinking.  How in the world did so many people come to read about a country doctor in a little town?  After all, my life style isn’t exactly of the rich and famous.  

        As I pondered it, I began to realize how many folks were involved in making that happen.  I read all kinda other blogs and find them most helpful.  There were folks like chili, who’d gently correct me when I fractured my syntax.  I’ve read folks like Ms. Kim who is a writing instructor.  I got a lot of good ideas from her.  I learned so much over there that when she wrote her golf game had gone south I felt I should send her some advice professional courtesy.  I can’t leave off Ms. Amber, either- she sent some cool pictures of country Docs I plan to use on the website.  I need to get back to work on it.

        And the English Professor- he was from way up North and knew more about bluegrass than I did.  Any sterotypes of “Yankee pickers” that might linger in my subconscious were put to rest by Ted and Irene forever.  

        I’ve heard from mandolin players all over the country, and have a place to play almost anywhere I go nowadays.

        When Ms. Pande writes of her office, it makes me want to pull my own hair out for her- you have a job, ma’am.  There were mystery writers like Meg, and Romance specialists like Ms. Susan.  Men can get a lot of good pointers over there.  Ms. Cindy wrote country stories I could identify with.  She made me wish my dog was as cool as Ranger.

        I’ve heard from Docs in Scotland (Dr. Bob) who invited me to visit when I get that way.  And when Ms. Karen writes of Australia, you know someday you’ll have to go there, too.

        And then there’s Smitty.  I went to visit him, and they made feel like I was a native.  His school kids made me an honorary Mississippian.  It was my proudest day as a writer, and even ranked above that first paycheck from the Laurel.  (Bless your heart Paul for taking a chance on me.)

        As I thought it over I realized the blog has shown me what I set out to do with my book- it proves we are all in it together.

        I appreciate every one of the 23K+ folks who have taken the time to read what I have to say.  I’ve enjoy your comments, too.

          I read other folks blogs for the insight into ways of life that are different than my own.  But in spite of that fact we are all from different places, and have different problems, I find us more alike than not.  Perhaps some of it is all of us are book worms, and on a constant search for like minded human beings. 

       I am on track to finish my final MS revision in January.  My agent says a couple of publishers have shown some interest.  If they have it is because of you guys.  If you hadn’t come over here for a look see, they would have never given me consideration, and I know it.  It’s like a Doc.  If you aren’t good to your patients what good are you?  If I don’t dig deep for some insight into the worlds of medicine and music that might make your day better, then I should quit.  You inspire to type another day, and I thank you for it. 

        Tell me, what is it you look for in a blog?  What is it about mine you read, and what others do you frequent on a regular basis and why?

        Hey good luck to all of y’all in NaNoWriMo.  I would have tried but I type way to slow to do a novel in a month. 

Dr. B

Wayne Benson

November 14, 2008

        While I’m on a mandolin player kick, let me tell you about Wayne Benson.  I’ll get back to my book next week.

        Most bluegrass folks know of Wayne.  He has been the mandolin mainstay for Russell Moore and iii Tyme Out for years.  Both Wayne and the group have more more awards than I can list.  If you are not familiar with the bluegrass genre iii Tyme Out is a good place to start.

        Not long ago, I saw on the Mandolin Cafe that Wayne had scheduled a few lessons.  I signed up for one.  He lives in upstate S.C. so it was a bit of a drive for me, but it was worth it.  Before you get confused and think these guys are ‘just bluegrassers,’ let me clue you in.  Wayne Benson is not only a master bluegrass mandolinist, but is deeply immersed in many styles of music.  As he says, “If you follow this road long enough, it’ll take you all the way to Bach- it is all music.”  

        (I told that to one of my buddies who said, “Did he write carry me bach to old Virginia?”)

        I signed up for my lesson in hopes I might get a few ideas that would bleed into my playing.  I thought my work in the key of ‘B’ had become stale.  Man, did he inject some life back into this old Doc’s style.

        The first thing we worked on was improvisation out of the “B” blues scale, then he moved into chord scales and arpeggios in ‘B’ and then the key of ‘G.’  I’ve always been a busy Doc and never studied my instrument like I should have, but in one lesson he unlocked the middle part of the fret board wide open.  What music theory I knew began to crystallize as we explored the concepts.   I was so impressed by the lesson that I urged him to write it up and promote it on the Net.  I found it fundamental to an understanding of the mandolin, or for that matter music in general.

       I think it was Charlie Parker who said this-  if I am wrong I hope someone from the Cafe will correct me-  “First you learn your instrument, then you learn your genre, then you just play music.

        Wayne has done just that.  Like all the best ones he makes it look easy.  In reality, he unlocked the keys via years of sweat and solitude.  He is willing to share his secrets for a very reasonable fee- I recommend him highly.

        And if you want to hear some fine traditional bluegrass, go see iii Tyme Out.  Modern bluegrass is a very sophisticated art form and often poorly understood by pop culture.  But as Wayne says, “We’re bluegrass and we aren’t going away.”  Tell ’em Dr. Bibey sent you and buy all their CDs, too.  Of all the bands of the second generation I find them to be a classic you do not need to miss on your journey.

         Chet Atkins used to say the man who thinks he knows it all from the bridge to the nut of the guitar is a fool.  That is true, but as far as the mandolin Wayne is getting close.  Check him out- ask some arpeggio questions- I assure you the cat knows his business.

        You can reach him via the band’s website or his myspace page as below:

Dr. B