Well sure enough I wound up going to Mississippi in 2008. I met the school kids in the library and also their English teacher Ms. Turner. Some of the kids dubbed me as an “Honorary Mississippian.” I recall I said to a student named Carrie, “You’re a smart girl and a good writer.”
Her little pal who stood next to her puffed up with pride and said, “Carrie is real smart; she’s going to Ole Miss next year to study pharmacy.”
I like people like that. A friend of mine says “true friends are never jealous or envious.” This little girl wanted to make sure some stranger come to town knew she was proud of her friend Carrie.
We stayed at the Jamison Inn, and I promised Mark the manager I’d play a mandolin tune before I left. April from housekeeping was there when I checked out and we sang “Glory Hallelujah Gonna Lay my Burdens Down.” I think we did it in “E.” The lady was a powerful singer.
We did a Hee Haw show fundraiser at Smitty’s church and they had a slew of fine pickers there. Since then I’ve run into Marty Stuart. He’s a Mississippi boy; so there’s a lot of music in those parts. That night we went to Smitty’s mama’s house and had that fried chicken and Mississippi Mama’s famous chocolate cobbler. Lordy.
Smitty and I played golf the next day with Elvis, Conway, and the Preacherman from the Hee Haw show the night before. I called my Lit agent to tell him how much fun I was having.
He said, “Son, you don’t even know where you are do you?”
I replied, “Yes sir, I’m right down here in Saltillo. It’s next door to Tupelo, the home of Elvis Presley. I saw his house and the hardware store where his mama bought his first guitar.”
He laughed. “No, as far as books, you don’t even know where you are.”
“Ask them about Reed’s Bookstore.”
Smitty gave me directions and we drove to Reed’s. We went in to visit. The lady who helped me was named Susan. I noticed a stack of Grisham signed copies on a table and inquired. Susan said when Grisham has a new book release he always debuts it at Reed’s. It’s hard to believe now, but when Grisham started out things were kinda slow an Mr. Reed was kind enough to let him do his book signings there. I guess Mr. Grisham never forgot it.
I told Susan about my book, and played the staff a song on my mandolin. It was “The Kentucky Waltz.” I looked over at the stack of Grisham books again and said, “Ma’am, I’m no Grisham and never will be, but I think we do have one thing in common. I believe we both know to dance with who brung us.”
“Yes, he is a very nice man.”
“Well, let me ask you something. If I ever get my book published would y’all consider having me here for a book signing?”
“Yes sir. You just call us.”
“Great! I’ll be back someday, and I’ll bring my mandolin and my book too.”
When I called last week young lady named Emily answered the phone, and she remembered me from 2008. “You were that tall gray-haired doctor who played the mandolin. I’d just started working here when you came through. Yes, we’d love to have you visit.”
And that is how Tommy Bibey, the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer wound up scheduled for a book signing this Saturday Jan 15, 2011 at 1:00PM at Reed’s bookstore, one of John Grisham’s favorite hangouts. Unbelievable.
In my next post I’m gonna tell you what I hope to get done at the Reed’s Bookstore gig. (Hint: I’m a doctor, but I view part of my job as a teacher) One thing about it, I might as well relax and just be me, ’cause I sure ain’t Grisham. No one’s gonna top that cat, ‘cept maybe Twain.
If anyone reading this is from that part of Mississippi I hope you’ll drop by. Go see the home of Elvis Presley while you’re there; he’s really famous. It’s a good exhibit that shows all about his raising. Elvis was just a county boy who loved his mama and the gospel, but man could he sing.