Bryson City Seasons — Answered Prayers (Part 1)

This is from the fourth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Seasons, which is the sequel to Bryson City TalesI 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.


I had just finished seeing the last patient of the morning. Helen passed by my workstation and commented, “Barb’s in Mitch’s office when you’re done.”

Barb would usually drop by the office with the children several times a week. I loved seeing them and wanted them to know they were a priority.

Besides, just seeing them and watching the staff and patients enjoy them would often make my day. In addition, Mitch’s staff and the patients enjoyed seeing the children.

I quickly finished my chart work and walked down the hall.

Barb was reading a magazine and quickly put it down as I entered. “Got time for lunch?”

I smiled. “You bet.” Then she must have seen the furrow in my brow.

“Walt, is this a bad day?”

I laughed. “No, just wondered where the kids are.”

“It’s Nancy Cunningham’s day off, and she wanted to take them on a walk around Hospital Hill while we go out for lunch!”

“That’s a nice surprise.” I called out, “Helen.”

“Yes, Dr. Larimore?” she called back from the nurses’ station.

It was the closest thing we had to an intercom.

“Believe we’ll walk down to Doc John’s for lunch.” I was referring to Super Swain Drugs, owned and operated by pharmacist John Mattox and his wife, Becky. In the drugstore, they had an old- fashioned grill, one of the many places where locals could enjoy breakfast and lunch.

As we walked out the office door, Pastor Ken Hicks was stepping out of his office at the Bryson City Presbyterian Church, just across the street from the offices of Swain Surgical Associates.

“Doc and Barb!” he hollered. “Are you heading to lunch?”

We nodded and waited as he closed the door, crossed the street, and joined us as we headed to the café.

“How’s the new office coming along?” Ken asked as we walked toward town. He was referring to the new office the North Carolina Office of Rural Health was building for Rick and me up on Hospital Hill.

Barb answered, “The trusses are going up. They’re predicting that Rick and Walt will be opening their practice up there the early part of next year—maybe March or April.”

“How do Mitch and Ray feel about it, Walt?”

“Well, I think they’re happy about it. The office is awfully crowded when the four of us are there. But I’ll tell you this, Rick and I have appreciated them letting us use their office and their staff this last year. It’s been a great way to get introduced to the community—and we’ve learned so much that we couldn’t have known had we gone straight into our own practice. We’re probably going to start interviewing for our staff just after Christmas. If you know anyone who wants to interview, let me know.”

“What are you looking for?”

“An office manager—someone to do the accounting and billing—and two nurses, one for me and one for Rick. Mitch has agreed to let them work with Rick and me the last four to six weeks we’re in his office. That’ll allow our new staff to learn from his. It will be a bit crowded, but I appreciate Mitch’s offer.”

Ken nodded. “Mitch sure talks fondly about you, Walt.” Barb beamed. I wanted to hear more.

“Really?” I asked.

“It’s true. I think he’s proud of you and Rick—and how you boys are a positive addition to our community.”

We entered the building and heard a shout from the back from none other than Doc John himself.

“Have mercy! Two of the town’s healing arts professionals and a lovely lady have just entered the Super Swain drugstore together. Goodness gracious!”

Several people sitting in booths near the soda fountain counter clapped their approval, with Doc John serving as the maestro.

Doc John was one of the old-timers in the profession of registered pharmacists—able to bottle up the most recent prescription medications but also to take raw ingredients and compound them into pills or potions or ointments or poultices or extracts or teas or powders. You name it; Doc John could mix it—whether for oral, rectal, or topical application.

Doc John was a “generalist” in the best sense of the word. He did it all. He was known far and wide for his “home remedies.”

Uncommon was the patient I saw in the office who had not first tried one of “Doc John’s Tried-and-True Home Remedies.” What came to surprise me over the years was just how many seemed to work. He wasn’t really a formal doctor-of-anything, but he had always been “Doc” to the locals.

Ken, Barb, and I smiled as we slid into a booth.

Whenever I stepped into the grill at Super Swain Drugs, I was immediately swept up in feelings of nostalgia. The store looked almost identical to Maxwell’s Rexall Drugstore in Tiger Town—the commercial area on the edge of Louisiana State University that my family patronized when I was growing up in Baton Rouge.

I had warm, deeply meaningful memories of my father taking me to the grill/soda fountain there on many occasions before school for biscuits and bacon. It was “just us guys.”

Bob Price, the registered pharmacist and a close family friend, would always greet me by name whenever I’d walk into his store. I can remember each of us having a cup of coffee, mine mixed as café au lait, and feeling very grown-up.

“The usual?” shouted Becky, the short and effervescent wife of the town’s most gregarious pharmacist—serving today as pharmacist aide, short-order cook, and waitress.

We all nodded our assent.

Although Barb and I were still considered newcomers by many of the locals—and would be for some time to come—at Super Swain Drugs we were now considered “locals” and valued customers.

We were quietly chatting as Doc John came up and threw himself into the seat next to Ken. As his large frame landed on the upholstered bench seat, we could hear a large whoosh of air escape as Ken bounced into the air and then settled back down into the cushiony softness of the seat.

“Can’t tell ya how surprised I was to see you three walk in together,” Doc confessed. “Ever had that sudden sense that God’s answerin’ your prayer right before your eyes?”

“I know what you mean, Doc,” Barb answered. “What’s up?”

Doc John took a deep breath. “Had a fella talk to me yesterday. He’s a pastor, and his daughter just had a baby over in Waynesville, and the baby’s got Down Syndrome. The whole family is tore up over it, and I keep wonderin’ how God could let something like this happen. Truth is, I’ve been askin’ God ’bout it all morning. It just don’t make no sense, given this man’s served the Lord so well and for so long. Anyways, I was just thinkin’ ’bout that, and who walks in but a pastor, a doctor, and a mother. And not just any doc and mother, but ones with a little girl who’s got some kind of birth defect herself.”

Pastor Ken seemed startled. “Doc John, do you think a man of the cloth is protected from trials or tribulations?”

“Well, seems like he should be—at least somewhat. Shouldn’t he?”

Ken chuckled. “Well, in my observation it doesn’t happen that way. In fact, one well-known man of the cloth, Saint Peter, wrote that we shouldn’t be surprised at the painful trials we suffer, as though something strange were happening to us. But we should rejoice, he said, that we participate in Christ’s sufferings, so that we may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

“I see what you’re saying,” Doc John conceded, “but I’m not sure I understand why God allows terrible things to happen to innocent children. I mean, I know he knows what he’s doing. But somehow it just doesn’t seem fair.”

“John, God doesn’t promise us that life will be fair,” Ken observed. “But he does promise that he himself is good. And he promises that if we love him and are called according to his pur- pose, then all things—even things that appear bad or unfair or unjust—will work together for good. So I hang my hat on his promises. To be truthful, though, I’ve not had to walk down the road your friends have. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be.”

“Well, I can tell you,” Barb added, “that it’s an incredibly hard path to walk. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

I had a strong sense God was prompting me to tell Kate’s story. I hesitated and then glanced at Barb. She nodded, and I knew this was one of those God-ordained moments.



  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)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2); (Part 3)
  30. The Showdown (Part1)(Part 2); (Part 3)
  31. The Initiation (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
  32. Home at Last (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2017. 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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