The Banjo Barter System

        Long before I played mandolin I knew a little banjo. I was in residency and had little time for formal lessons, so I learned most of it in a hodgepodge fashion I dubbed the banjo barter system.

        I never was one to resent folks asking me medical things when I was out in public. Medicine is all I know, so I might as well make myself useful. At first they were reluctant and didn’t want to bother me. I fixed that right away. Whenever a banjo player came up to me at the lunch counter to ask a question they soon came to learn what was gonna follow. I was happy to answer, but in return they had to teach me one banjo lick.

        I remember one fellow who pulled off his hat and showed me a gash on his head.

        “What in the world happened to you?” I asked.

        “Ah, my girlfriend’s husband hit me in the head with a shovel.”

          It was a great teaching moment. I gave the guy some pointers on safe sex, sewed up a laceration, and learned “The Arab Bounce” all in one patient encounter.

       Most were more general questions, but over the years I added an ace inhibitor kick-off, a kidney stone blues run, endorphin enhancement Irish flavored passages, and a cool gout tag lick.

        I kinda miss some of that, and think I’ll revive the tradition. I’m still husband, father, and Doc first, then mandolin player/writer, so I’m not gonna try to go too deep on the banjo; for the first time in my life I’m gonna accept I’ve got some limitations. But if you know the banjo and want to trade out ideas let me know.

        It’s a fair trade. I can only give general answers (no specifics allowed without an established doctor/patient relationship) and no one can teach me how to play the banjo in one easy lesson. (that would require a more formal commitment of lessons) Even so, both parties could learn something.

       But in fairness and full disclosure, I gotta tell you I’ve got the better end of the deal. You can look all that doc stuff up in a book, but not everyone gets a chance to learn some banjo, and the truth is in the music.

Dr. B

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4 Comments on “The Banjo Barter System”

  1. Cindy Newton Says:

    Wow, Dr. B, Where I came from the Doctor might get paid in produce or fresh chicken, beef or pork. Not once did I ever hear of trading for anthing else. But, it sounds like a good system. And, it aparently worked!

  2. Ah, Dr. B, you’re a good man. It’s true that info can be found in books, but not everyone has access or thinks of doing that. Some people need the personal touch, and if there’s one thing that’s always present in your writing, your music and I’m sure that in your doctoring, it’s that personal touch.

    • drtombibey Says:


      If there ever was a fellow who invested in a sense of community it was me. I learned from folks as I went. I viewed them as valuable human beings and friends, and I guess that is one secret to any success I’ve had.

      Dr. B

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