Archive for February 2011

Loyalty- A Slamming Sammy Snead story

February 27, 2011

        This story was from a long time ago. (you’ll know by the dollar figures) It may be paraphrased some, but it still makes the point. 

         Sam Snead played Wilson golf clubs as long as I can remember, maybe all his adult life. When I was a kid we all used Wilson clubs. I had a set of Arnold Palmers, but I had a Sam Snead Blue Ridge 7-iron ’cause my uncle lost the one with Arnie’s name on it, and the local hardware store didn’t have a match.

       To cut down on expenses Snead often traveled with another pro. I think his name was Johnny Revolta. Revolta was a fine player, but not quite the marquee name of Sam Snead.

        So the story goes, one of the executives called Snead into his office one day and said, “Sam, we don’t think you ought to be on the road with a pro who isn’t on the Wilson Staff.”

        Sam said, (paraphrased) “Well sir, I always represent Wilson to the best of my ability, and I sure appreciate that five thousand dollars a year you send me to do so. But I have to tell you I can’t let you choose my friends for me.”

        They decided they didn’t want to lose Sam, and let it drop.

        I was impressed. If a fellow that would stand by his friends like that and take a chance on losing such an enormous sum of money he must be a good man. I always have admired loyalty.

        I’ve tried to conduct my life that way too. A few times I got pretty far out on a limb, but never got it sawed off behind me so it’s all worked out okay so far. Ever so often they’d hack a little, but they always stopped sawing after they were given a chance to think on it. Maybe they figured if they caused old Dr. B to break a leg and anyone found out it’d be bad PR.

        I know this. I still think of Sam when I see a set of Wilson golf clubs and dream maybe somehow I could ever swing like him on the right day. I don’t know who that executive was but I’ll give even odds he couldn’t break 90. Every so often I run across those clubs in the basement, and I always think how lucky Wilson was to have Sam Snead on their staff. 

        And if they were still alive I wouldn’t bet against a team of Sam Snead and Johnny Revolta; those cats could play.

        I bet a hundred years from now folks will still remember the graceful golf swing of Slamming Sammy Snead, but my guess is that mid level executive’s name is lost to history, and I’m certain no one cares how much money he piled up, either.

Dr. B


Quote For The Day

February 23, 2011

        I think this came from the Army Corp of Engineers. Sometimes it applies to the doctor gig.

        “The difficult we can do immediately; the impossible will take a day or two.”

        I’m off today. The quote applies to golf too, but there it makes no difference. I’ve never understood guys who curse and throw clubs. To me it’s just a walk in the park. When I have folks dying of cancer, I can’t take the game seriously.

        With a grandchild on the way I hope to teach ’em a little golf, but I don’t want them to be too worked up over it.

Dr. B

Bluegrass First Class 2011

February 20, 2011

        As always Bluegrass First Class was a lot of fun. It was family and great bands and jam sessions and books and food. “The Mandolin Case” continues to bring new readers and friends. The bluegrass crowd understands what is important as well as any group of people I’ve ever known.

      And while I’m on the concept of important, I must reiterate that the notion of Grandpa is still a shock and awe deal to me. I looked at my wife and said, “Heck, we just got married. Are they old enough to have kids?”

       “Yes dear.”

       I’ll be back soon. Right now I just want to think about it all for a few days.

Dr. B


February 19, 2011

        My son announced his wife is due in October. My goodness.

        I once read men did much of what they do in subconscious recognition that none of it ever can measure up to the creativity of birth.  I gotta agree with that.

        My respect for women goes back to Mom. I recall at age twelve or so I realized my feet had gotten bigger than the old loafers she wore around the house. It didn’t seem right. Still doesn’t.

        I have tried to my best in life. I remember when my boy came along. I thought “Lord help me. This is a whole lot more important than Organic Chemistry, and there’s no book to memorize so you can just fill in the right bubbles on a test.”

       But we did fine. Every so often me and him would get in trouble, but between his Mama and his baby sister (my daughter) they’d straighten us out.

       The world seems so much complicated these days, though. I hope I can be a good grandfather. I’d like to be able to show another generation life ain’t really that complicated. All you gotta do is pray hard and hold your people close. I’m gonna keep doing that and see how it works out.

        I gotta tell you though, I’m in awe, and can only pray I’ll be worthy of the role.

Dr. B

The Rejection Business

February 18, 2011

        You can’t get in the book biz if rejection bothers you. I recall early on one Lit agent turned me down because they wanted a “writer of romantic fiction with a chick-litty voice.” They said there were all kinda old guys who’d get into some sort of mid-life crisis and then decided they were an author, and none of them made it to the finish line. 

        I just laughed. I told my wife, “Honey, they don’t think I’ll finish the project.”

        She looked up from her coffee, smiled, and said, “They need to talk to me.”

        The girl knows me well. I don’t fail on promises.

        After it hit the market the reviews on “The Mandolin Case” have been good; better than what I deserve. One fellow warned me before his review he was a cynic and I had to be prepared; he was gonna write the truth. I said, “Well sir, my mama and my wife and kids love me no matter what you say, so I can stand the truth.”

        As it turned out he liked the book a lot, but couldn’t quite understand why. I like to believe it’s ’cause deep down inside we all hold to hope you don’t have to be hateful to be strong.   

        I recall years ago in college when a boy decided he was gonna go get a date. He put on his best suit and took some flowers and a basket of candy to the girls dorm. He parked at the door, and spoke to everyone who came by. He didn’t get a date. He even came back with all his flowers and candy; couldn’t even give it away. My goodness, I felt sorry for that boy. I don’t know what ever happened to him, but I hope life went okay. 

        I have a book gig at Bluegrass First Class in Asheville tomorrow AM around ten. As usual I’ve worked like a wild man doctor until the last minute and will screech in with no organized plan other than to remember to bring a box of books, my mandolin, and my straw hat. One of these days my failure to plan ahead is gonna have an outcome like that poor kid back in college and no one’s gonna show up.

        Oh well, rejection happens. Sometimes art is a matter of tossing your heart out there and seeing how many people might stomp on it. One time a reporter asked the great golfer Cary Middlecoff if he worried over short putts. He said if he missed a four footer, “my wife still loves me and we’ll eat steak tonight.” Dr. Middlecoff (he was a dentist) knew it was only golf; just a thing.

        As long as no one threatens to sue me or shoot me, I don’t worry too much about rejection, although I’m honest and admit I do a little even at an age where I ought to know better. I guess its ’cause I used to sing to my wife and bless her heart she married me anyway. If you’re that lucky you just have to take it all in stride. As my buddy Cliff says, “They say love is blind, it’s a good thing it’s deaf too.”

        See ya in Asheville. (I hope)

Dr. B

Shawshank- Hope and Redemption

February 17, 2011

        Shawshank is all about hope. Never give that up.

        You remember when the kid came to prison and Andy befriended him? After a while the kid realized Andy sure enough was innocent. He’d heard the truth about Andy’s wife’s murder from an inmate in another prison.

        Andy Dufresne only made one tactical error in prison. He shared his new knowledge with the warden before he’d laid the proper groundwork to protect himself, and his friend. The boy lost his life over it. I knew he was a dead man the first time I saw him step out in that night air.

        Andy learned from the experience. I expect then he realized if he was gonna ever see freedom again, he would have to be very meticulous with his plans. 

        Y’all, I’m what I seem, a decent but not perfect man. I find Andy’s situation parallel to some aspects of the doctor life. Every so often you have to deal with people of bad intentions. Force is usually not the factor that prevails over them, either. Some of these dynamics are shown in “The Mandolin Case.” More will follow in “Acquisition Syndrome.”  

       Think like a matador. He knows that bull is stronger than him, so he has to out-think him. He is lucky; bulls have small brains. In my book  “Acquisition Syndrome” you will see Bones stand in front of a metaphorical wall, wave the cape and say, “Now don’t go through there. ”

         When Riley Harper crashes and complains, Bones just shrugs his shoulders.

        “Why’d ya go and do that?” Harper asked.

        “I dunno.”

        Andy also realized his even bigger error, though. He loved his wife, but didn’t show her. As he pointed out, even though he didn’t pull the trigger it cost her life too.

        So my message for the day is from Indie’s ‘Uncle Billy.’ “Trust few, confide to less, do wrong to none.” Learn how to hold your cards close, but at the same time, find the people you trust and hold them even closer; give them your heart.

         I was lucky. I have a wife who understood all that in me and stayed loyal the whole way. When I was young I almost thought if I read enough books and cared enough none of my patients would ever die. She pointed out the obvious truth; we’d better have some fun along the  way too.

        She’s a very smart girl; she even figured me out, and I love her for it.

Dr. B

Bluegrass First Class 2011

February 13, 2011

        This weekend, Feb. 18-20 is Bluegrass First Class, Asheville, N.C. BGFC is the official first sign that spring will sure enough get here.

        I’ve been to every one of ’em, and the talent is excellent without fail. Here’s the link:

       Saturday AM 10:00 AM I’ll have a one hour session in one of the conference rooms. (exact location TBA) Don’t worry, Doc is never late. (Ha!) As always my gigs are equal parts book signing, impromptu jam session, and a forum to answer questions about the genre of physician bluegrass fiction. In spite of the best efforts of the Lit world to reform me, I don’t guess I’ll ever change. I’m as country as grits ‘n gravy, and at any bluegrass gathering I’m as happy as a pig in mud. 

        It’ll be at ten o’clock ’cause I figured that’s as early as old Docs and musicians could tolerate on the weekend. You are welcome to buy a book, but don’t have to. No fear, much to the chagrin of my Lit agent, publisher etc. I’ll often get to meeting people and forget to sell books. So, this is zero pressure situation. I look at books the same way I look at the doctor gig, you can’t get rich and you can’t starve to death, so you might as well just live and enjoy the ride.

        I am reminded of the Tim O’Brien joke I adapted to the Lit world:

        Q: “How do you make a small fortune writing fiction?”

        A: “Start with a large one.”

        My publisher hates that joke, but you gotta hand it to ’em. In a world where small publishers fold every day they keep on going. I told ’em it was ’cause they had faith in bluegrass. They just roll their eyes, but you can’t argue with success.

       For the first 8,000 people who attend the book signing, or if I run out, whichever comes first, I’m gonna give away a free official “Case of the Mandolin Case” bumper sticker. (See below: No S&H, this offer not available in stores) These stickers are a first run issue, as TKL has talked to me about a mandolin case they plan to bring to market soon. It looks like I’ll represent the mandolin case division of the company when I’m out and about, and my guess is their logo will likely be on future runs of the case stickers.

        They approached me at IBMA after they read “The Mandolin Case.” I looked around the conference center and said, “Man, there’s forty eleven mandolin pickers in this hotel better than old Doc. You sure you’re looking for me?”


        “You need to talk to Darin, Wayne,  or ‘Cuz.’ They’re out there all the time. I’m still Doc; always will be. At best I might do a dozen shows a year.”  

        “We’d love to talk to you about it. We think you are unique.”


        They’ve sent me some early prototype pics and drawings, and it is a very cool item. The case is the strong silent type. It holds the secrets inside close, snug, and secure. I’d like to say they saw that integrity in my fiction writing. But in reality it’s more likely I got the nod because the mandolin case they are gonna send out with me is all that, but also is white and almost matches my hair. Maybe they wanted Marcus Welby, but he was retired and also he couldn’t play the mandolin. I like the white because it reflects the heat, but it will come in different colors for my friends like Uncle Ted and Joe Zauner the honest banjo picking lawyer, who both live in cooler climates. However, the case was designed with thermal issues in mind, and I believe the color will not be a significant issue as to heat concerns.

        If you don’t catch me at the Saturday AM session look for me anyway. I’m the tall gray-haired doc in the straw hat with one green eye and one blue one. (for bluegrass) Have mandolin will jam. I always take in at least one session with Cane Creek, the South Carolina stalwart stars of the upstate S.C. bluegrass scene. Here’s their website:  But, I’ll jam with anyone who promises not to shoot me if I miss a note.  After all, music ain’t a matter of life and death, it’s a whole lot more important than that.

       If you see me with a young pretty woman don’t gossip; that’s my wife. And if the girl is real, real, young that’s my daughter. And the tough looking little pine knot with a close-cropped crew cut and a neck like an oak tree; that’s my boy.

        Y’all come visit. See you there.

Dr. B

“The Mandolin Case” Contest

February 12, 2011

        The publisher of “The Mandolin Case” just started a You-tube video clip contest. The details and contest rules are on the official Mandolin Case FaceBook Page.  

         Of course, I realize they hope to promo my book, but at the same time one of my dreams was that the book might draw new folks to our genre, as I believe bluegrass music is the last great relatively undiscovered American art form. Nothing would tickle me more than for some as of yet not well-known band to go viral.

        You don’t have to be seasoned musician to give it a try. If a small child played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and said their parents started them on the mandolin after they read the book, that will thrill me even more than if an established band got some more well-deserved publicity. 

        Keep in mind much of the Internet world is still somewhat new to the genre, and you will want to appeal to them as well as people like me who have been around this music all their life.  

        Good luck and have fun. If a North or South Carolina crowd wins, me and Marfar might just join you for a plate of barbecue.

Dr. B

And You Are The Lucky Winner!

February 9, 2011

        Years ago my son and I were at a mall, and he spotted a contest. To enter all you had to do was write a short essay on why you should win, and complete a brief demographic data sheet. The winner got a free weekend at a fancy resort.

        I helped him fill his out. We said he was a thirty-seven year old married executive who made 500 thousand dollars a years. He drove a Porsche car, loved to travel, visited Europe once a year, and enjoyed fine wine. He owned some beach property in S.C.

       I filled mine out and said I really hoped I could win this vacation. I had a bad back and was on disability. I was on the verge of bankruptcy and in poor heath. I’d always wanted to go to the beach but never could afford to go.

          My boy was only about thirteen at the time. “Why’d you lie to ’em Dad? Ain’t nothing wrong with you. And I’m not rich like the way you filled that out.”

        “I wanted to see who’d win.”

        I know you’re not surprised he won the contest. I never heard a word from them. He declined to accept. “They’re just trying to sell me something aren’t they, Dad ?”

        “Son, when a perfect stranger offers to give you something for free, beware.”

        He’s a fine young man who learned his lessons very well before he left the nest. I’m proud of the boy. A lot of young’uns think their parents are dumb. Ours never did.

Dr. B

Simmons Ruppert

February 6, 2011

        Simmons Ruppert of Bluegrass Motors is Raleigh’s finest new and pre-owned automotive dealer. He plays mandolin and some banjo. His head is usually shaved so his perpetual straw hat won’t blow off. (Below is a rare image sans hat drawn from memory) Simmons can see out of his right eye but wears a patch as a distraction in order to better discern a man’s integrity. He prefers bow ties or string ties, but will wear a necktie to church because both his wife and his mama think he should do so on Sundays.

        Most of his people descended from Outer Banks Ocracoke Spanish horse traders. Some of them migrated to Missouri and then later returned to North Carolina and settled down in the Raleigh area. He still has some family and bluegrass connections in Missouri.

        Simmons is world-class expert on International Harvester Scouts. His great-Uncle Bentley hobnobbed with Cyrus McCormick. They belonged to the Huron Mountain Club and had a cabin on Lake Superior. Simmons spent many summers there as a kid. 

        Rumor has it Simmons was involved in the acquisition of the famous Harvester Scout that belonged to a Mr. Piercy, who was Earl Scruggs’ agriculture teacher in high school. They raised a lot of money for the local FFA with that vehicle.

        Simmons is an important bluegrass confidant in central N.C. He’s an honest car dealer. He’ll tell you right up front he wants to make enough money on the deal to stay in business, but not enough to retire off you. He says, “Think of me like a sheep. It’s okay to shear me; just don’t skin me.”

        Simmons had important background information in “Acquisition Syndrome.” He had some dirt on Riley Harper, too. You can always trust the true bluegrass people.

        Bones followed his advice.

Dr. B