Archive for December 2009

Redemption Awaits

December 15, 2009

        I have a saying I like:  “If you want to do some good in the world you can count on resistance.  If you want to do wrong you can count on being granted significant latitude.”

        I once remarked to a friend I couldn’t understand why people were persecuting someone; it seemed to me he was doing his best to do right.

        My buddy said, “I don’t know Doc, they did it to Jesus didn’t they?”

       I never forgot that.  This was a simple country man, but he had a lot of wisdom.  One can expect a hard time for doing right.

        One of the themes of my book is redemption.  My Lit agent always says the King James is the backbone of Southern Literature.  The longer I know him the smarter he gets.

        This morning on FaceBook my friend Cliff Searcy posted on this subject.  Go check it out.  After I read over his thoughts these words came to me.  If Jesus can rise from the dead, there is hope for redemption for all of us.

‘Redemption Awaits’  

Just as sure as He
Rose from the dead
The spirit can rise in you
Just when you think
All in lost
And don’t know what to do
Turn to Him
And let your soul within
Give you life anew

I hope all of you have a blessed day.

Dr. B


Serendipity Strikes Again

December 14, 2009

        Yesterday in the Sunday paper someone wrote a nostalgic article on serendipity.  Their concern was that the days might have passed us by when one flips though bins of vinyl in obscure record stores and to read liner notes of LPs in search of undiscovered treasures.  In an instant access virtual world, they saw no reason to hang out at book stores and comb through shelves to find a new author you’ve never read.  They feared for the loss of serendipity and spontaneous discovery.

        The article was well written and they have a point, but I don’t feel like all is lost.  I do understand how they feel, though.  When I was a kid everything was so new.  There isn’t but one first trip to the beach to have the sand squish up through your toes and scamper away squealing to your mom when the waves crash around you.  You only have one first real love.  (I got lucky and married mine.)  Bill Monroe’s mandolin and bluegrass music can only be a new experience one time.

         At my age sometimes I feel like I’ve seen it all twice, but I still search for the new.  Sometimes I find it.  For an old guy I still had a decent child-like imagination anyway, but with the Internet my sense of wonder has only been enhanced.   To me the trick to modern life is to take full advantage of the new, but also never forget the old values. 

        Every human invention can be used for good or bad, and the Internet might be the all-time number one example.  The network has allowed me to communicate with like-minded folks all over the world, and I am grateful for it.  I want to find the tens of thousands of folks in the world who seek a life of grace and dignity, and don’t worry too much about the mean-spirited ones out there I can’t do anything about.  I figure if people who write from a perspective of hate can be famous, old Doc can at least get published to speak for some of us simple folks who only set out to lead a decent though not perfect life.

        For me the last few years have been serendipity at it’s best.  I’ve had the good fortune to get to know a lot of people whose address is not in Harvey County but still live here is spirit.  What could be better luck than that? 

        Take yesterday.  I ran across a lady named Val who writes a very cool blog.  She lives a thousand miles from Harvey County and yet with her post titled ‘the blog as a legacy’ she showed she understood my motivation to write as well as an old friend.  She’s on my blogroll now.  Y’all check out her site.  (Cindy in particular, I think you would enjoy her thoughts.)   

       Next weekend I believe I’ll take my wife to the book store and browse around.  Who knows?  One of these days it might just be ‘The Mandolin Case’ on the shelf.  When it is I want to take a copy to my mom.  I’m also gonna look for books from folks like Val and Cindy.  I know they have books in ’em too.  When all that happens I’ll get on the blog and let folks know.  We all gotta stick together.

        I believe there is still plenty of serendipity left if we don’t forget to keep an eye out for it.  What do you guys think?

Dr. B

We Live in Two Different Worlds Dear

December 12, 2009

        For those of you not familiar with bluegrass music, pick up an old LP by Jim and Jesse McReynolds and give it a listen.  Jesse is world-famous for his cross-picking mandolin style, and their harmony work is as tight as it gets.

        Their songs always tell a story too.  Like books, songs can have different messages for different folks.  ‘Two Different Worlds, Dear’ had a special connotation for me, and it’s unlikely it’d be in the way you might think. 

       Year ago we had an employee who didn’t see eye to eye with me.  She wasn’t a bad person; we were just different.  She wanted to upgrade our ‘image’ at the office.  Once a salesman convinced her we needed some background music.  She chose some awful canned music, and was quite unhappy when I nixed the deal.  I sure wasn’t gonna pay all that money if the man didn’t have anything by the Stanley Brothers.  She didn’t like the Stanleys, a bad sign. Her idea of lunch was to close the office and all go eat at some fancy restaurant to improve morale.  I favored a take-out bucket of chicken to share with the patients. 

         Over the years we don’t have many former employees.  Most have been with us for decades.  The few who have left always parted due to some variation of a theme, though.  They all believed the organization should be about them.  I believe it should be about the patient.  She aspired to be our PR person and wanted a ‘corporate’ membership at the club so she could spend the day over there and be our public representative to bring more ‘money’ people into the practice.  My perspective was if we took good care of our patients that was all the PR we needed.

        When she left she said she just didn’t understand why we couldn’t get along.  I felt bad ’cause she cried about it, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  I told her the answer was in Jim and Jesse and she asked who they were.

        She  has been very successful since then and now runs the lingerie department in an upscale ladies store.  We don’t cross paths.  I guess it’s ’cause we live in two different worlds.  

        From what I hear my old colleague is a pretty good sales lady.  I thought about trying to get her to sell a few tickets for the next big show in town, but decided it was best to leave it be.  I can’t be anything but what I am and I guess she couldn’t either.  Some folks just don’t see the world the same way and that is okay.         

Dr. B

The Christmas Party

December 11, 2009

        At lunch today I’m gonna play my mandolin with the Harvey County Christmas Pickers at Ted Davidson’s annual Christmas party.  My mandolin gets me an invite to all the best parties.

         I like Ted.  He invites the whole county to his party.  You might see the Judge there eating a bowl of Ted’s famous gumbo while he talks over old times with the cat who is out on parole, or the doctor playing music for a family who was sore last year when mama died.  He invites the cops and the thugs and society folks and the have-nots.  The thing I like about Ted is he treats everyone like a human being. 

        I figure the least I can do is play my mandolin to help him out.  For a lawyer, Ted ain’t a bad guy.

Dr. B

1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ and “Cool Whip, Indie!”

December 9, 2009

        Every time I hear the Del McCoury song ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ I think of my old pal Indie.  He loved motorcycles.  His favorite was a ’47 Indian Chief former Nevada Highway Patrol bike that he and his buddy Blinky restored one winter.

        When Indie was a young doc there was a little French foreign exchange student in town who loved that bike, and was enthralled with Indie too.  She’d hop on the back, grab Indie by the waist, and sing some French song as they buzzed down the back roads.  She wasn’t much of a student.  The whole time she was here she only learned two American phrases.  “Motorcycle ride” was one and “Cool whip, Indie!” was the other. 

        Mrs. Jenkins was not amused.  Indie might have gotten into the Jim Beam too much at times, and he could fiddle all night long, but he was harmless.  Other than what happened in ‘The Mandolin Case’ that girl was the only time Indie ever got in any real trouble. 

        I hate it happened, but in a way you could see how it might.  Even though I was just a boy at the time, you couldn’t miss the fact this was some kinda good-looking woman.  That girl wore a sweater in a quite memorable way; she had better curves than a slope shoulder guitar.  No man in town ever forgot her, and I’m sure Mrs. Jenkins didn’t either.

        ‘The Mandolin Case’ was quite an ordeal, and put a hurting on Indie, but I always thought that one mistake with the French foreign exchange student weighed much heavier on him.  When he got old he told me it was the one thing he wished he could change in his life.  Mrs. Jenkins forgave him, and Indie finally made peace with it before he went to his maker, but it was hard on him.

        I forgave him too.  None of us are perfect, but at least Indie was truly sorry, and he was faithful to Mrs. Jenkins the rest of the way.  All we can do is our best, and after that girl I always thought Indie did that. 

Dr. B

Book Cover Contest ‘The Mandolin Case’

December 7, 2009

        As the book draws closer, we have begun to think about a cover for ‘The Mandolin Case.’  I have ideas, and my agent and editor also have theirs.  I’m certain the publisher will have yet another vision in mind.  Before all that gets too far, I thought it would be fun to get your input, too. 

        I guess it isn’t fair to call it a contest per se,  ’cause I have been around editors and agents enough to know it is unlikely anyone will take a concept and apply it without some revision.  Still, if someone goes up with an idea that dominates the theme for the cover I’ll credit that on the jacket.  If there is more than one we will acknowledge that, too.

        Of all you who’ve read my blog a while are pretty far inside my head, but I thought it might be a good idea to stimulate your imagination.  To do so, I need to let you in on the major symbols in the story.  First off, the cover design obviously has to involve mandolins.  The instrument is credited in the title because the mandolin stands for the truth.  Also, my editor wanted to include some roses, as they are important in the story.

        There are other symbols with significant meaning, too.  The river is a major one.  While the novel is not strictly a religious book, that symbolism runs through it.  The river is quite redemptive.  Indie loved the river. 

        Native American themes are prominent too.  Like Marty Stuart and Tony Williamson, I have a deep respect for our Native Americans.  I never thought they were done right, and part of the symbolism speaks to those injustices.  Besides, Indie was part Choctaw, and he was the best friend I ever had in the doctor world.  And of course there was the Navajo, and…well…. uh, …I guess you’ll have to read the book for that part.

        You remember the mandolin case I had Marty Stuart sign?  It now has the signatures not only of Marty Stuart, but my old pal and mandolin young’un Darin Aldridge, my mandolin brother Wayne Benson, and Rebecca Lovell.  I don’t know Rebecca near as well as Darin and Wayne, but I’m as proud of her as if she was my mandolin granddaughter; the young woman is already a very fine professional.

        Folks like Alan Bibey (Cuz), Tony Williamson, and Mike Marshall know about the book, and I’m sure they will sign the case next time I see them.  I plan to secure the signatures of as many great players as I can.  There are some, like Norman Blake, who I have heard play but never met, and I hope to get them to sign it someday. That way as I travel around I can tell my readers why our music is so important; it is about our people who play it. 

        Anyway, I’ve saved one spot on the ‘Mandolin Case’ case where my friends know not to sign.  Whatever we come up for a book cover with will grace the headstock area as a decal right above the IBMA logo.   Wherever I go it will not only represent the book, but all my friends who have contributed in some way. 

        After all, not only is Ranger Dog is still in the mix, but there’s a beauty operator named after a Missouri bluegrass girl, a lawyer who goes by Ted Davidson, and a number of other characters who were inspired by my electronic friends. I hope the publisher will see fit to leave ’em all in, ’cause they are all important.  Someday I’m gonna see all of y’all in my book store travels and thank you in person.

        So let me know what you think.  The greatest pleasure of this journey has been all the friends I have made, so I might as well continue to involve you in each step of the process. 

        If by chance the publisher decided to use a cover design exactly as submitted, my agent said he would insist on compensation in line with industry standards.  If I believe any submission was influential in the thought process but not used exactly as submitted, I’ll at least be sure the artist is credited.

        I know this:  I appreciate all of you.  It takes a community to raise a doctor and my art friends in the bluegrass and writer worlds deserve a lot of credit.  After all, my wife couldn’t be expected to do it all alone, and this overgrown boy was quite a project.  

Dr. B

For Your Sunday Afternoon Listening Pleasure

December 6, 2009

        Y’all go over to my blogroll and click on Darin and Brooke Aldridge’s site.  They have a new CD due out soon and some free clips to preview the release. I’m sure they will make your Sunday afternoon very pleasant.  I plan to follow-up and tell you more about them soon.  Remember old Doc got the scoop for you on this one, ’cause more news will break soon.

Dr. B

Mississippi Momma’s Famous Chocolate Cobbler (Laps in Seven)

December 5, 2009

        Some time back Smitty from Mississippi sent a chocolate cobbler recipe.  One of my readers, Ms. Cindy, couldn’t find it and asked that I re-post it.  It was a hit with her Sunday School class (and also Ranger Dog; see below) so I got Smitty to send it to me again.  I call it ‘Mississppi Momma’s Chocolate Cobbler,’ but in the interest of full disclosure she got it from the piano player at church.  Smitty not only sent it, but remembered he posted it in the comments around July 4th, and found it in my archives.

        Here it is.  Oh and after the recipe; the rest of the story. 

2 sticks of margarine placed in the pan the cobbler is going to be made in, melt the margarine in the oven

Mix all of this stuff in a bowl
1 1/2 cups of self rising flour( got to be Martha White ain’t it?)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Mix all this good and pour into the pan with the margarine

Next Bowl of real good stuff
1 cup of sugar
5 tablespoons of cocoa( now we are talking)
mix together
sprinkle over the flour mixture you have in the margarine pan

Then 1 1/2 cups of water over the whole thing

Time to bake, I love this
350 degrees for 30 minutes
or if you have a hot oven, according to Momma, 325 for 35 minutes, that’s what makes her momma.

        Now for the rest of the story:  Keep in mind this is a physician bluegrass fiction blog. The above is a real recipe.  And even though the following is fiction, it is a true story.

        Last year Ms. Cindy had some folks over to dinner and served up the cobbler for dessert.  All the guests loved it.  After everyone left, Ranger Dog leaped up on the counter, snatched the bowl in his jaws, and took off to the rec room to watch Rin Tin Tin re-runs.  He was getting ready to do his best imitation of ‘Laps in Seven.’  Now that is a bluegrass dog, ’cause as all my friends know Sam Bush was inspired to write the number when he heard his dog lapping up water in perfect time.  (Was it 7/8?) 

        Well, Ms. Cindy took the bowl away from him right away even though there was only a little bit of chocolate left.  (The guests had all but licked the bowl clean themselves.)  She called the vet to be sure, and they confirmed that not only is chocolate bad for dogs, but once they get a hold of it, they tend to crave more.  

        The vet’s office was so impressed with Ms. Cindy’s concern for her dog they hired her!  Everyone came out good except Ranger Dog is still trying to figure out how to get into that chocolate, but Ms. Cindy’s quick action saved his life.  

        Anyway, y’all try the chocolate cobbler.  I had some when I was in Mississippi and it was excellent, so I can recommend it from experience.  Just keep it away from the family dog; they’ll snarf it up if you aren’t careful.

Dr. B

Sam Bush- Part One. ‘Circles Around Me’

December 2, 2009

        Sam Bush is one more rocking right hand mando man. In fact, if you know anyone in the world who lays it down better than Sam please let me know so I can buy all their CDs and study them too. If Doc Watson calls you to cut the mando tracks for your project that shows it all.

        Sam’s new CD, ‘Circles Around Me’ speaks to coming full circle.  It is Bill Monroe, New Grass, side-man and front-man all wrapped into one disc; a must record for anyone with even the slightest interest in what traditional music is all about.  I know it isn’t what Sam meant by the title, ’cause he is not a bragging sort of fellow, but it also hit me that Sam can pick circles around all of us.

        When Sam hits the stage he gives it his all.  Pretty soon he is drenched in sweat and red-faced.  He just ain’t gonna let you show up at his gig and have a bad time.  His band is the same way.  Sometimes I wonder what drives a man like that, but then I don’t have to look too far.  I could never be the kind of mandolin player Sam is (few on the planet are) but as a doc and even in my humble efforts as an artist I always want to give my best.  Sam seems to be motivated to do the same.

        Writer Larry Nager wrote up an article on Sam in the latest issue of  ‘Bluegrass Unlimited.’  If you don’t get BU at least go buy a copy of this one and read this article.  I love Sam’s quote at the end.

        “It’s interesting, ’cause at age 57, I’m just trying to improve as a player and a singer. And I hope on this new record, it sounds that way to the listener. I’m not satisfied. You hear so many people, especially in this town of Nashville- they just want to be famous; that don’t mean it’s a good thing. I just want to play and sing better, and I don’t think I’m there yet. I’m still searching.” -Sam Bush BU Dec 2009

        As good as the cat is, and he is the best, he’s still digging to try and be better.  Isn’t that what should drive us all?  I think as a doc what I did yesterday doesn’t make a bit of difference if I don’t give my all for my people today.  To me that is why the work of an artist like Sam inspires me.  It’s also why I worked so hard on my book.  I wanted to give it my best effort to show what I believed to be true.  Sam does that with his mandolin.  I don’t think fame has got a d@^^ thing to do with any of it and I admire him for it. 

        There’s more I want to tell you, but I gotta go to the doc gig.  I’ll edit and publish this in the morning, and I plan one more post on Sam this week.  Y’all go take in a Sam Bush show.  Take it from this doc; he’s good medicine.

Dr. B