Bryson City Tales — Becoming Part of the Team (Part 2)

This is from the seventeenth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends and family to join us.

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As I walked up to the fence, one man turned toward me. He looked slightly familiar and obviously recognized me. “Hey, Doc. How ya doing?” He was a large man with a friendly smile. He stuck out his hand to give mine a shaking. “Preston Tuttle’s the name. Met you at Dr. Mitchell’s office.”

Now I remembered. Mr. Tuttle had come in with a bad cold or something. “Good to see you again, Mr. Tuttle.”

“Preston’s fine with me, Doc, if it’s all the same to you.” “OK, Preston. And, uh, Walt works for me.”

“Sounds good to me, Doc.” He couldn’t bring himself to call me Walt. Never did.

“Doc, this here’s Joe Benny Shuler.”

I shook hands with Joe Benny, who had been standing next to Preston.

“He’s your mailman.”

“Yep,” Joe Benny said. “Been bringing your mail up to the Gunn house. Man, you shore do git a buncha magazines, and them thangs are some kind of heavy.”


Preston’s eyebrows rose. I suspected he was wondering exactly what kind of magazines I was getting. I was to learn that in the economy of mountain gossip, one was guilty only until proven innocent.

Joe Benny chuckled. “Preston, Doc here gets a mess of medical magazines. He don’t get any of them brown-paper-wrapped magazines like you.”

Preston swatted him on the head and turned to me. “There’s one sure way you can tell that ol’ Joe Benny’s a lyin’ to ya.”

“How’s that?” asked Joe Benny.

Preston continued looking at me and said, “His lips are movin’.”

Both men laughed. They clearly liked each other.

“Preston, I’m surprised to see so many folks out here watching practice,” I commented.

He chuckled. “Actually, the crowd’s a bit sparse just now. When the plant lets out, then the crowd will really grow. Folks ’round here love this team. Most of these folks either played on this team or had kids who played. A few, like me, have kids playing now.”

“Where’s Coach Dietz?” I asked.

“That’s him over there.” Preston pointed to a man standing on the line of scrimmage, just watching—allowing his junior coaches to coach. “One mighty fine head coach we’ve got there. Hasn’t had a losing season since his first year. In fact, he’s won over 80 percent of his games. Took us to the state championship in ’79. Nearly got us there last year. He’s put together the best staff in the state. Over there,” he pointed to a man in the middle of the defensive team huddle, “is Bob Marr. He was the head coach over at Cherokee. Man, Cherokee is one of our bitterest rivals. Yet ol’ Boyce Dietz done stole him away from Cherokee. Best line coach in the state. Colleges are always trying to recruit him. But he loves it here too much.”

Preston went through each of the staff, highlighting their résumé, their strengths and their weaknesses, their families and their pedigree. Then he proceeded to inform me about the team members and their biographies. His knowledge was truly impressive. “I’ve been coaching most of these boys since their youth league days. Watched ’em grow up. It’s a joy to watch ’em now. We’re gonna have a great team this year. A great team.”

I explained to Preston my desire to work with the team.

He looked worried. “Have you talked to Doc Mitchell? He kinda thinks of hisself as the team physician, although he’s never been out to a practice and only comes down from the stands if he’s called. Seems to like the glory he gets when the whole town hears his name called over the loudspeakers. You best talk this over with him.”

“Preston, I have.”

He looked shocked. “You have? What’d he say?”

“Well, he encouraged me to come talk to the coach about it.”

“I’m surprised. Real surprised. When did you talk to him?”

“Well, I’m working with him in his office, so we talked justthis afternoon.”

Preston nodded knowingly.

“What?” I asked.

“You’re working for him. That explains it,” Preston announced matter-of-factly. “You see, that man wants to either control everything or know about everything. So maybe he thinks he’ll still be able to control things and still get the glory even if you’re on the field.”

Preston motioned for me to follow him, and we headed over to Coach Dietz.

“Coach, this here’s the town’s new doc. Dr. Larimore, this here’s the finest high school football coach in the great state of North Carolina, Boyce Dietz.”

“Good to meet you, Doc.”

“You too, Coach.”

“Coach, Doc here wants to help the team.”

“Need all the help we can get, Doc. Whatcha got in mind?”

“Well, for the last three years of my residency I studied sports medicine under Dr. Frank Bassett, the team physician for Duke University athletics for many years. If you’d be interested, I’d be willing to pitch in and help you with any sports medicine needs you might have. I’d be pleased to come and check the kids at practice once or twice a week and to be on the sidelines during the games.”

His eyes widened a bit.

“Of course, I don’t mean to intrude if you’ve already got some folks working with you. Just want to help out if you need me.”

He remained silent, looking real serious.

Preston broke in. “Doc here’s working with Docs Mitchell and Cunningham—down in their office. He done talked with Doc Mitchell and Doc done give him the OK to come talk to you.”

Now the coach’s expression relaxed. He smiled and turned his head to spit out some dip. “This town can be a bit political,” he confided. The understatement of the century, I thought. “Can’t be too careful. But if it’s OK with Mitchell, I’d be right glad to have you with us.” He stuck out his hand to seal the deal.

I was thrilled. To me there was nowhere better to be during football season than on the sidelines with your favorite team. Number one, you had the best seat in the house. Two, you got to know the coaches and the ballplayers and their families. Three, for a would-be or over-the-hill athlete, there was the ongoing and vicarious thrill of reliving past hopes and dreams. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I couldn’t believe that no other doctor wanted this honor—this joy.

I whistled all the way home. I was a team physician. Well, . . . sideline physician. This was big—really big!



  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1); (Part 2)

© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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