You Know Your Doc is Country If…..

        If your Doc drives a truck to work on a summer day and rolls down the window so he can listen to the crickets sing along with Hank Williams on his CD player while he eats a cold piece of last night’s fried chicken for breakfast ’cause he didn’t have want to stop studying Wayne Benson mandolin at dawn he might be a country Doc.

          And when his med student is gonna be an intensivist, but has already promised to bring the boss Nip Chee crackers and Co-Cola and put Bill Monroe is his ear and coffee down his NG tube at he Nursing Home to keep him mollified in his old age, then that boy is a Country Doc in training.  Country Docs feel sorry for folks who have ‘Bill Monroe Deficiency.’  (A life with no fun)

        His coffee is black and his socks would be be white if it weren’t for his country girl wife’s gentle diplomacy.  And speaking of sugar, even though it’s sweet, he doesn’t put sugar (or cream) in his coffee, and always orders high test.  (with caffeine)  

        If the office staff can order a take out and know to get fried chicken, hominy, fried okra, and field peas, and if the local cafe knows it’s for Doc without asking, that guy is country.  If his day was crazy and he feels bad that he held up his 90 year patient he’ll invite her to lunch to share some chicken.  

          He might have to eat fast so he can have enough time to work up a mandolin break for ‘So Lonesome I Could Cry’ before afternoon patients, and if he can reach deep inside and make it sound like a tear-jerker when the boy hasn’t had a lonely night in a half century, well he’s a country Doc.  

         He plays his golf at the local muni with guys like Rocky or Jake or Crash instead of the bank president at the Club.  But he is just as at home to play Don Gibson’s ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’  for the Country Club crowd when they want a country show as he is picking the ‘Clinch Mountain Backstep’ at Fat Boy’s Barbecue.

        If his idea of a fancy vacation is to jam all night at Galax and eat streaky meat sandwiches or ‘maters on light bread with Duke’s mayonnaise and plenty of salt and pepper, he’s country.

        He’s the kind of fellow who makes himself memorize his American Academy monthly home study program before he’ll allow himself to listen to his favorite bluegrass band CDs, but isn’t disciplined enough to practice his mandolin the way he should.  He’s the only cat in town who reads both the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ and ‘Bluegrass Unlimited.’

        Doc knows his people on a first name basis but out of respect calls them by their last until they tell them otherwise.  Most everyone is ma’am or sir and if they object he’ll forget and call ’em that anyway ’cause that is what his mama taught him.  You never go against your mama.  He gets a haircut ’cause he afraid she’ll think he is ‘looking woolly.’

        He goes to funerals but waits to shed any tears until he is on the way home listening to some sad bluegrass song.  It wouldn’t be right to cry at the funeral home; the situation is much harder on the family than it is for him.  Besides, he tries to do all his crying ahead of time.  When somebody lays down for the last time ain’t when this Country Doc is gonna start to think what he might do.  By then he’s run the table on every option he can think of, at least if he had any shot to figure it out.

        He sees his folks not only as patients but his people and intends to do his best for them.  He’s that way ’cause he’s the best true Country Doc he knows how to be, and doesn’t know any other way.

Dr. B

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16 Comments on “You Know Your Doc is Country If…..”

  1. Mrs. Chili Says:

    Doc, this is a top-notch piece of writing. You’ve created a real feel for your subject, and even I, who has never really set foot out of New England and, as such, think the kind of country doctors you describe exist only in the abstract, would recognize one if I met one.

    This bit, especially, is a beautiful example of the craft:

    He might have to eat fast so he can have enough time to work up a mandolin break for ‘So Lonesome I Could Cry’ before afternoon patients, and if he can reach deep inside and make it sound like a tear-jerker when the boy hasn’t had a lonely night in a half century, well he’s a country Doc.

    Well done.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Bless your heart. My mama was an English teacher, as was my mother-in-law. The opinion of an English teacher is extra special to me.

      I spent twenty-two years as a full tilt 24 hour a day Doc, and lived to write about it. Now I am office based and have time to reflect. I think a man can only write once he knows himself. My daughter says I am so simple I am complicated to many people, but I am sure she would agree I came to know myself well enough to begin to write.

      My prayers are with you and your people.

      Dr. B

  2. Carmen Says:

    Reminds me of so many wonderful folks I knew for so many years when I lived in Savannah, GA. I’m adding you to my list of Southern writers, Lewis Grizzard, Rick Bragg…and waiting for the book.

    • drtombibey Says:


      The South had some issues I am glad we have begun to put behind us, but it also had some charms we should not forget.

      Man, I ain’t in the same league as those guys, but I at least hope to make my bluegrass friends proud and bring our music to some folks who did not know of it’s beauty.

      I am working with Jenny Lynn (my editor) on the final revision of ‘The Mandolin Case.’ One way or another we will have it out there in 2010.

      Dr. B

  3. Keith White Says:

    If he/she calls for help, and he/she IS the help!

  4. A beautiful and heart-warming entry today, Doc. I don’t know why, but I feel a melancholy overtone to the whole thing, as if maybe you’ve just gone through something rough. It may be my imagination, but the part about the funeral sounded very present, as if it’s something current or very recent.

    • drtombibey Says:


      You are a perceptive young lady. One hard part of being a local Doc is is hurts hard when the horse throws you, but then, like Dr. White says, you gotta get back on and ride ’cause no one else is gonna (or even allowed to) do it for you.

      You ride hurt a lot ’cause there’s little choice in the matter.

      Dr. B

    • Julius Says:

      Ms. Slightly,
      One of the first things this Ole Doc talked with me about was the hard hits from some of his patients (or should I say friends) passing. He said it’s best to get those tears out of the way before he meets with the family. This way, one is more prepared to help the family get through this hard time. Truthfully, I don’t know if it’s a recent encounter, but from what I’ve learned from Dr. B thus far, all his encounters have been recent to him–he remembers them just like it happened yesterday.


      • drtombibey Says:


        You are paying attention and gonna get an A+ for sure.

        The one I had on my mind was an Alzheimer’s patient who passed not long before you came on board for this rotation. She used to look after me some when I was a kid.

        Dr. B

      • Julius and Dr. B, I had a feeling this was about the loss of patients as well as family or friends. I guess part of being a country doc, as you say Dr. B, is that your patients are also your friends, people you know well. It’s a mixed blessing, I can imagine, because a doctor in a big city hospital can get to know his patients only so much, and if they’re cured, they might not come back and the doc won’t see them again. You, on the other hand, might meet them at the next bluegrass festival or at your favorite restaurant. These are people you know and know well. On one hand, that means that the whole doctor-patient relationship can be much more intimate, they’ll trust you more and thus you can help more. But then you also have to deal with the losses. I can’t imagine just how tough it must feel. I salute you, both of you, for doing what you do.

  5. drtombibey Says:


    You have it. We live with our people. As I get older, my patients do too. It is tough when they are old but much worse when they are young.

    Years ago a baby of a family I was very close to died suddenly. I wasn’t the Doc but it was the worst day of all.

    Dr. B

    • Keith White Says:

      I had that happen 2 years ago. However, I was the doc.

      6 months later, the mom was killed in a snowmobile accident.


      • drtombibey Says:

        Dr. White,

        Someone asked me a while back if cases ever haunt me. Some of them never go away at least while I am on duty. Your comment shows it is that way for many (if not most) of us Docs.

        On the stage I can get past it for a while.
        That, my family, and prayer gets me by.

        Dr. B

  6. Smitty Pres. of Neuse River Fan Club Mississippi Says:

    Doc, slightlyign is a very perceptive person to draw a conclusion like that. I just want to let you know that Mrs. Eudora W. would be proud of the way you are writing-you are painting the actual picture with words. Have a wonderful day, we are only a few days away from starting school.

    • drtombibey Says:


      slightly is perceptive way beyond her tender years. You are a Coach, and I’m certain when I was in high school I was the kind you would have had running laps. At the same time I guess my people just shook their heads in amusement and figured I’d settle down someday.

      I appreciate the words of encouragement. Tell her I took the Bread Loaf advice and found the perfect editor. We are now in that last deep revision she recommended, and my editor is very pleased and has no doubt we are gonna get there.

      And as far as my first book signing I promised Reed’s, and I am good for my word if they’ll still have me.

      Dr. B

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