Bryson City Seasons — Swain County Football (Part 1)

This is from the twelfth 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.


Ever since my first football season in Bryson City, I, like most county residents, was looking forward to the fall.

The previous year had been my first as the on-the-field team physician for the Swain County Maroon Devils. This year would be Rick’s first.

The previous year’s team had won its second Smoky Mountain Conference championship in as many years, played in three state play-off games, and brought their win-loss record in the new stadium to fifty-nine wins and only thirteen losses. The spring practices had gone very well, as had the end-of-summer, two-a-day practices. The team, the coaches, and the fans were ready for another season. I was too. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be one of the worst seasons of that decade—primarily because of one injury.

After seeing the last patient of the afternoon on Friday, I drove to the house to eat a quick supper and change into my “game uniform”—coach’s cleats, maroon pants, and a white golf shirt. Then I drove up to the temple of local football—Swain County Stadium.


For a small town, this stadium was magnificent. I suspect there are junior colleges that would lust for such an arena. It was carved into the side of a small mountain. The visitors’ metal bleachers could hold nearly a thousand fans, but the concrete home stands, running from the 25-yard line on the north to the 25- yard line on the south and climbing over thirty rows high, could easily seat 2,500 fans—with another two thousand or so being accommodated on the adjoining hillside. At the peak of the stadium was a spacious press box. At the north end of the stadium was a two-story field house—more fitting for a small college than a high school.

I parked in one of the two parking spaces reserved for Rick and me, the team doctors, and then walked toward the immaculate field. I felt remarkably at home. As I walked around the field, I saw two of the Maroon Devils’ most loyal fans, Preston Tuttle and Joe Benny Shuler.

“Hey, Doc. How ya doin’?” Preston was a large man with a friendly smile. He stuck out his hand to give mine a shaking. “You remember Joe Benny?”

“Hi, Mr. Tuttle. Of course I remember Mr. Shuler. He brings me my mail every day.”

“Preston’s fine with me, Doc, if it’s the same to you.”

“Okay, Preston. Walt works for me.”

“Sounds good to me, Doc.” Preston couldn’t bring himself to call me Walt. And he never did.

Preston asked, “Joe Benny, this young doctor still keepin’ your mailbag full?”

Joe Benny chuckled. “Preston, Doc here gets a mess of medical magazines. ’Bout breaks my back sometimes.”

I laughed. “Just keeping you in shape, Joe Benny. And, Preston, your boys looked good in spring and summer practice. Scott’s shaping up as a fine tight end. I think he’ll have a super senior year. How’s he feeling about his little brother being on the team with him?”

“Aw, Doc. He’s plum tickled. Scott and Ritchie are awfully close. Jest like Joe Benny’s kids.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” agreed Joe Benny. “Heath and Benjie are good boys—and they’re good friends. I reckon one day Heath will start for the Maroon Devils at quarterback, and his little brother will be catching all the balls he throws.”

“Heck with the Maroon Devils!” Preston noted. “I can see Heath throwing the ball for the University of Tennessee.”

“Now wouldn’t that be sweet!” exclaimed Joe Benny, a smile reaching from ear to ear.

Preston’s prediction was truer than he ever could have imagined. Heath and Benjie would later star at Swain County High School, long after I would leave the town. I would do their youth league physicals and enjoy watching them play and seeing their daddy take obvious pride in their development. Both would play college ball at the University of Tennessee. Heath would become a Heisman Trophy candidate and then play professional football with the Washington Redskins. But that was far in the future.

Preston looked back at me. “Hey, Doc. My wife, Dean, is gonna interview with you—if’n y’all ever git that new office built. She’d love to be your new office manager. She’s had experience doin’ that, and she’d be mighty fine. Knows just about everyone there is to know and can run a business just fine.”

“We’ll be interviewing at the start of the new year. But it wouldn’t hurt to have her bring a résumé by Dr. Mitchell’s office. Okay?”

“I’ll do it. You can be sure.”

“Best make my rounds, gentlemen. Good to see you both.”



  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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