Bryson City Seasons — Chicken Pops (Part 2)

This is from the eleventh 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 turned off the Road to Nowhere onto a narrower and slightly winding road that initially passed small home sites and then a farm or two. As the road ascended toward the gap, trees began to enclose the road. At the gap, I slowed down and began the descent toward Deep Creek Valley.

Two old rusty mailboxes marked the driveway, each looking equally tenuous in its attachment. “Nichols” was painted on the side of one and “Eldridge” on the side of the other.

The one-way dirt road was bordered on one side by a steep embankment and covered with thick rhododendron bushes. The other side had an even steeper falloff to a small bubbling stream. My windows were open, and immediately upon entering the rhododendron thicket, I felt the air temperature drop ten degrees. I drove slowly, absorbing the smells of moist clay and listening to the rushing brook.

The Nicholses’ house, located just off the road in its own tiny little hollow, appeared clean and nicely kept. I parked my Toyota and walked up to the screen door. A voice called out from inside. “Come on in. It’s open.”

Inside I found a beautiful young lady sitting on a quilt laid out on the living room floor, playing with two of the cutest young girls you could imagine. Toys and blocks were scattered across the room. The two-year-olds crawled busily from toy to toy—squealing and giggling.

“Hi, I’m Sarah Nichols,” she said, bounding to her feet and holding an outstretched hand. “You must be Dr. Larimore.”

She was lovely, wearing a denim long-sleeve shirt with the sleeves partially rolled up. Her hair was pulled back. “I am. I am indeed,” I replied.

She pointed to the sofa, indicating I was to have a seat. “Some tea?”

“No, I’m just fine. Tell me about the girls.”

“Well, they’re as fit as fiddles. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery were uncomplicated. I’ve been breast-feeding them. Their only doctor visits have been for immunizations and checkups.”

“Does Dr. Mitchell do their checkups?”

She wrinkled her nose. “No way! I take them to Dr. Hasselbring, the pediatrician over in Sylva.”

“Why?” I asked, almost dumbfounded.

“Well, the girls were born over there, and Dr. Hasselbring has been their doctor from the moment they were born. Besides, Dr. Mitchell doesn’t really care for kids anymore.”

I was confused. “Then why didn’t you call Dr. Hasselbring about this? Why did you call Dr. Mitchell?”

“Oh, any doctor could handle this. It’s not really that complicated.”

She turned to keep an eye on one of the girls, who was starting to crawl off the quilt. And you think child checkups and immunizations are complex? I thought to myself. Suddenly I was feeling very used. She turned back to me and smiled—a smile that could warm any developing cynical spirit.

“I can imagine if I was you I’d be pretty miffed about this call.”

I thought, You’re right about that! But I kept my thoughts to myself.

“Well, I had heard you were in town and actually called to see if you might be willing to come up. Helen said I would have to see Dr. Mitchell, since he was on call. I said okay—but I was disappointed. Anyway, she called back and said that Dr. Mitchell was doing something really important but that you were available and would come up. I thought that was sweet.”

“Tell me a bit about what’s going on.” I was still a bit miffed, but my miffedness was softening.

“About a week ago I took the girls to a pox party at a friend’s house.”

“Excuse me,” I interjected. “A pox party. What’s that?” I had honestly never heard of such a thing.

She cocked her head. “Well, Dr. Hasselbring told me that if any of the neighbor kids ever came down with chicken pox, we could take the girls over to play and see if they would get them. Dr. Hasselbring said it’s better for them to get the pox when they’re young—then they’ll be immune for life. She also told me the incubation was seven to fourteen days and if the kids did start to break out, to get a doctor to look at them to be sure it was the pox, and if it was, then we could hold our own pox party for other small kids to come to.”

Well, I must admit I had never heard of such a thing, but it did make sense—after all, the chicken pox vaccine was still a decade and a half away from being available. Feeling I was being one-upped by a neighboring town’s baby doctor, I decided to take control. We doctors do that by talking, not listening. “Have the girls had any fever?”

“No sir, they haven’t. And they’ve been acting just as normal as can be. Well, maybe a tad irritable.”

“Any cough, or are any of the lesions draining pus?”


“Mind if I take a look?”

“I’d like that!”

The girls had the classic chicken pox lesions on their cheeks, trunk, and arms—little dewdrops on a slightly red and raised base. The older lesions were a bit bigger, the newer ones very small. This was classic for the pox. I checked the kids’ ears and mouths, which were normal, and listened to their breath sounds—again normal.

“Sarah, this looks like classic chicken pox. If you keep the girls a bit cooler, the rash will be less severe. You can use calamine lotion on the wet lesions to help dry them out and over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream on the dry lesions to keep them from itching so much. Oatmeal baths in cool water can be fun and soothing for the kids. And let them drink lots of fluids.”

She looked impressed.

I continued. “If there’s any fever, feel free to give them some baby Tylenol.” In those days we were just learning of the potential for Reye’s syndrome in kids under seventeen years of age who take aspirin.

“Tell the moms of any kids who come to the pox party that, just as Dr. Hasselbring said, it may take their kids seven to fourteen days to break out. The lesions can last up to a week but are only contagious until they crust over.”

She sat, raptly listening to my mini-lecture. It wasn’t over. “If the kids develop a bad cough, a high fever, or a fever you can’t control, get them checked by a doctor right away. Also, if any of the lesions look like they’re getting infected, I should take a look.”

This was fun. I was sure the other doctor hadn’t given her this much useful information. I was in my element. “Last but not least, if any of the moms who are coming to the pox party haven’t had chicken pox or don’t remember having the pox, and they might be pregnant, don’t allow them to come or bring their kids.”

“Why not?” She wrinkled her nose up again.

“Chicken pox in pregnancy can be really bad for the mom and her unborn baby. No sense taking any chances we don’t need to take. Well, that should about do it. I’ll be on my way. My best to Mr. Nichols, whom I hope to meet someday.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, I’m glad you mentioned Peter. We own a tubing center—it’s near the Deep Creek entrance to the national park. Let me get you some free passes.” She stood and walked over to a bookshelf and picked up the passes, which she handed to me. “We hope you and your family will come and grab a tube and enjoy the creek sometime.”

I took the passes and thanked her for the courtesy. As I stepped to the door to leave, she asked, “Do I owe you anything?”

I opened the door and turned to reply. “Nope. I’ll have Sarah Crisp, one of our office staff, send out a bill at the end of the month. Will that be okay?”

“You bet. And by the way, thanks for all the information. It’s really helpful.”

“You’re welcome. Have a good day.”

I enjoyed the drive back to the hospital. Dusk gathered around the car as I drove, and the cool air and the sounds of crickets singing wafted through the open windows. I took my foot off the accelerator. Time to slow down, I thought to myself. I felt suddenly blessed.

Most doctors don’t make home visits anymore. Certainly I could drive to the Nicholses’ house more easily than this mom could drive her sick twins to the office. Yes, it took me a bit more time, but then I would have missed this delectable drive and delicious evening. It couldn’t have been a more enjoyable or affable experience for me. I decided I could not afford to not make more home visits.

I smiled as I thought I’d probably see the Nichols girls in the office sometime. After all, that drive to Sylva is a really long one. And I thought I should take Sarah up on her offer to tube Deep Creek, but maybe I’d wait until next summer—when the weather and water would be a bit warmer.



  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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