That Cat’s a Doctor
Not long ago Neuse River played a gig at a Community College several counties over. It was a fund raiser for them, and we had a rocking good time. We were the third act, and came on just before a very talented group named the Cockman Family. We stayed around after the show and jammed for a while, so it was a late start to go back to the house.
I had about an hour and a half drive back home, so I stopped in a convenience store for a cup of coffee. This was one of those old general store type places that carries everything from dog food to sunglasses, where old men in Pointer overalls sit around a pot bellied wood stove and play checkers at noon on Tuesdays. When I walked in, I heard music. I followed the strains to the back where a group of men were picking bluegrass music. For the most part it was elderly gentlemen, though there was one young fellow who played dobro, and a teen-aged girl held down the bass. I listened for a minute.
“Mind if I join in? I’ve got my mandolin out in the car.”
“Sure, go get it. ”
We jammed a while, then one of them recognized me. “Hey, didn’t you play mandolin with Neuse River at the Community College tonight?”
“Yep, that was me.”
“Man, we enjoyed the show. Joey here is learning the baritone part. How about leaning into that mic and singing?” They had one of those old-timey mics strung from the ceiling that plugged into a house sound system. He pulled Joey in by the collar and four of us crowded around the mic. “What did you say your name was again?”
“Pleased to meet you. Now Joey, you just follow Tommy’s part.” We sang some old bluegrass three parts and some country numbers too. There were fiddle tunes and breakdowns, waltzes and Irish tunes. It was all good, and the fiddler was extra special. The bass player sang lyrics to “Day Break in Dixie.” Old Doc hadn’t heard it sung in years. I wondered where such a young’un learned the words.
At one point someone said, “Hey, that cat’s a doctor.” The music stopped for a second. The fiddle man looked me over, and checked out my mandolin. The truss rod cover is genuine mother of toilet seat, and engraved with my name, “Dr. B.”
“You a Doctor?”
“One time we played a church in Harvey County. There was a nurse there who said her boss was a doctor who played the mandolin. Said he’d take a break between patients and pick on slow days.”
“Really? What was her name?”
“Don’t remember. She was red-haired.”
“Man, that had to be Lynn O’Carroll. She’s my nurse. That doctor was me.”
“Naw, this was a real doctor; one who gave shots and stuff like that.”
I didn’t protest long. There was no convincing him anyway. Besides, after all these years, I am used to a dual persona. It reminds me of another story. One time a friend of mine was at a convention in Raleigh. Someone saw his name tag and asked if he was from Harvey County. He confirmed he was.
“Do you know Tommy Bibey?”
“Sure, he’s my doctor.”
The man had a puzzled look. “Hmn, must be a different one. The one I know is a bluegrass picker.”
Oh well, at times it has been strange to have two personas in one life. My daughter says I am so simple it’s complicated to some people. I guess if one persona is to try to help people and one is to try to make folks happy, then it ain’t too bad. I’m not exactly sure which one is which, but I guess it doesn’t matter.
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