Wild Bill

        There is a bluegrass song called ‘Wild Bill Jones.’  I didn’t know the man, but it could just as easily been Wild Bill Smith.  Wild Bill lives at a place called the Bomb Shelter and seldom gets out.

        God gave everybody one gift, and Wild Bill’s is a backhoe.  They say Bill could lift a baby off a sidewalk and deliver the child into his mama’s arms and not leave a scratch on its butt.  Bill specializes in heavy machinery.  He can run a BobCat or a forklift better drunk than I could sober, and does so every day. 

        Bill loves his music.  He’s in charge of stoking the fire at the Bomb Shelter.  He might sit there all night and not say a word.  Sometimes when you play a torrid tempo breakdown Bill listens real close and then hollers, ‘Play something peppy!”  Every so often he’ll sing one, and he’s not  a bad tenor.   

        One Sunday after church my daughter and her friends were at Walmart.  Marie was a proper upper middle class suburbanite kid, but after years of hanging out with me, she knew the rest of the world, too.  She was still in her Sunday best that day; a little pink dress her mama made for her.  Lord, she was a cute young’un.

        All of a sudden there was a commotion.  Marie!  Marie!!!

        It was Wild Bill.  He had spotted her from the grocery section, and came charging her way.  Bill’s four teeth look like he’s been gnawing on walnuts, and his greasy black hair and gray-ish beard are both forever unkempt.

        His blood-shot eyes are; uh… let’s just say I always thought he got his name from the way those tiny specks of coal dart around.  They are jet black except for the gray rim around the outer part of the iris the old folks at home sometimes get  (arcus senilis) and they beat back and forth in a constant rhythm.  Doctors call it nystagmus.   

        Bill rushed over.  “Marie, so good to see you!”  Her little friends were terrified.  When he reached to hug her, one of them wanted to call security, but was frozen in fear.

        “Why Bill, how in the world are you?”  She bear-hugged Bill like  a long-lost uncle.  They exchanges pleasantries and a few music stories and then Bill was on his way.

        “Make ’em play it peppy,” she said.

        “Yes ma’am, Miss Marie.  You tell your daddy hello.”

        “I will.”

        The girls were all the way to the check out line before one spoke up.  “How in the world do a you know a man like that?”

        “Bill?  Oh, he looks rough but he’s harmless.  Sometimes he sings with Daddy.”

        They didn’t ask any more questions.  It might as well have been a visit from a Martian to them, but to us Bill is just a regular guy.  We’re all a little odd, just in different ways.  He’s a heck of a backhoe man if you ever need someone to dig a septic tank for you, and his rates are reasonable too.

        My Marie has now moved to a big city in the Tobacco Triangle.  The girl went to Chapel Hill and took ’bout everything they had before she began to teach what she’d learned.  I’d loved to have kept her at home, but I understand.  These are hard economic times, and there isn’t any work for her here in Harvey County. 

        But she’s still the same. Sometimes when her friends are over for dinner she’ll tell ’em stories about her childhood. Every so often she’ll call me and tell me of their looks of disbelief.  Much like some of the publishers who have read my book, they think she’s making it all up.  What they don’t know is except for the fiction part it is all true.

        One of these days I’m gonna run into a publisher who wants to take a chance on physician bluegrass fiction.  One declined ’cause he feared bluegrass people didn’t read.  I started to tell him about Bill, but I decided to let it go. Like Marie’s little friends, I was afraid his world view was a tad too sheltered to understand.

        You see, Shakespeare is Bill’s favorite.  (“We got the same damn name, don’t we Doc?”)  Oh well, one day someone is gonna understand what I’m trying to say, and then we’ll see if bluegrass people read or not.  My agent always says to show, not tell.  I can’t wait till there is a picture of me and Bill with a signed copy.  That’ll show ’em.

        I bet if they got to know Bill and needed a good backhoe man they’d hire him in a heart beat.

Dr. B

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14 Comments on “Wild Bill”

  1. Rye Says:

    Nice one Doc. Wild Bill is as much an institution as the Bomb Shelter.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Amen brother. You gotta be a North Carolina boy. In fact, I remember you from a session. Rock on Rye.

    Dr. B

  3. Cindy Carter Says:

    Looks can be deceiving can’t they Doctor B? Always knew that from an early age. I have known some people like Bill. They can be really good to know and to have on your side in a pinch.

    • drtombibey Says:


      It is so true.

      I’d trust Wild Bill to drive my precious daughter across the state, at least if he was sober. I’ve known some mighty upstanding citizens I wouldn’t let drive her across town.

      Dr. B

  4. Billy Says:

    I struck up a conversation with a man in the bookstore, The Novel Idea in Chattanooga some years ago. Said he was a publisher in New York. He was in the South trying to understand whay so many excellent writers come out of the South. He just couldn’t understand it. I looked him straight in the eye and told him: “It’s cuz we still know how to show the truth when we tell a story.”

    He looked at my shoes and my faded jeans, shook his head and walked out. The clerk behind the counter looked at me and said; “Billy, he’ll never learn.”

    • drtombibey Says:


      There’s been many a good story teller to come out of the country and leave some more sophisticated people scratching their heads.

      Dr. B

  5. I suspect that Shakespeare himself was probably a bit like Wild Bill – he drank and wasn’t respected some of the time, too. Judging books by their covers is something that one really shouldn’t do outside of a bookstore – and even then, it’s better to read the back cover or some pages inside before deciding that a book ain’t for you.
    I think that you have a huge advantage that as a doctor, you get to meet people from all walks of life and have learned to respect people for who they are and not what they look like or what background they come from. You passing that acceptance and tolerance along to your kids is a marvelous gift.

    • drtombibey Says:


      I’ll bet you’re right. From now on I’m gonna refer to Shakespeare as Wild Bill.

      It has been a blessing to be a doc. I take of every one from the bank president to the janitor, and we are all the same.

      Dr. B

  6. eleanorerose Says:

    🙂 We all are a little odd, aren’t we?

    • drtombibey Says:


      Especially all us artist types. We all march to a different drummer. Appreciate you dropping by. Come back and visit again.

      Dr. B

  7. Val Says:

    First Dr.B, HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and your family and friends in Harvey County. Secondly, I fully understand your story telling situation. I’ve had similar reactions when I tell my stories, people don’t think I’m telling the truth, but these people are real and perhaps that is the problem. They are ‘real’ characters, not plastic Hollywood manufactured one dimensional creatures. Keep writing, keep telling and something tells me that the time for these stories is now. People are hungry for something real to bite into.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Bless your heart. From one writer and artist to another, I also wish you all the best in 2010 and onward.

      One of my favorite quotes (I think I came up with this one) is, “Except for the fiction part my stories are all true.” All I did was change the names and enough dates and facts so as to protect the guilty.

      Dr. B

  8. Hey Doc,

    I’m going to have to call you on this line: “What they don’t know is except for the fiction part it is all true.”

    If fiction is “a literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact”, I can’t tell if these stories are true or not. I’m going to guess that your stories are true because your writing voice sounds so darn right decent.

    I love how you write because I feel like I’m listening to real people’s stories. Keep up the good work. Happy New Year.

    • drtombibey Says:


      There is a story behind the story. As a doctor, it is imperative I protect confidentiality. At the same time I saw a lot of things along the way I thought folks who were not doctors would want to hear about, so I began to write.

      I debated how to do it for a long time, and decided it had to be fiction. I always changed names, dates and facts. The human dynamics remained the same, though. In my story the truth was found via music, so that is how physician bluegrass fiction came to be. (I think I’m the only one in the genre.)

      I had no formal training as a writer and no idea what I was doing, but I was having a lot of fun writing up all these wild stories. It came to the attention of my agent. I think he saw me as akin to an inner city basketball kid; some talent but very raw. He wondered if I would respond to coaching and sent some assignments my way. By the grace of God, good luck (or both) a few of my articles were published.

      My agent says he’d rather have a good writer with a great story than a great writer with a lousy story. I guess he saw me that way.

      Anyway, he said early on, “Son, everyone knows you write fiction, but you must show the truth. You can never lie to your reader.” That had always worked well with patients so I was off and writing.

      Where it will lead I do not know, but I sure am having fun, and have met the coolest people.

      I appreciate your perceptive comment, and wish you a Happy New Year too. I thank you for being in my blog community. Slowly but surely my agent, editor and readers are gonna teach old Doc how to write.

      Dr. B

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