Bryson City Tales — The New Year (Part 2)

This is from the twenty-eighth 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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After the cider had been consumed, Rick helped Katherine carry the pitcher and mugs to the kitchen, while Rick’s dad and I put a couple more logs on the fire. In a moment, they returned with bowls of cheese soup. After the soup dishes were cleared, Katherine and Rick disappeared into the kitchen once again. He returned with a set of wine glasses and a bottle of wine. “From my personal cellar, a bottle of 1978 Sterling Reserve merlot. It’s one of the best merlots made in California—and a terrific year, too!”

Barb and I smiled at each other. That was the year Kate was born. As Rick poured the wine, Katherine reset the table and then disappeared into the kitchen with Rick. Soon they came back with a massive platter of meat and potatoes.

“Ta-da,” sang Rick.

“Thick center-cut pork chops, marinated, coated with a thick graham cracker crust and slowly baked,” added Katherine. “Served with baked apples, candied yams, and green bean casserole.”

Rick pulled Katherine’s chair out to seat her and then pulled up to the table.

“Walt, if you don’t mind, I think a prayer of thanksgiving is in order.”

“Rick, I couldn’t agree more.”

He looked at his dad. Paul was a large, handsome man with beautiful silver hair. “Dad, would you say our grace?”

“Be delighted, Son.”

He reached out, and we each held hands around the table and bowed our heads. “Lord, thank you for tonight. Thank you for friends. Thank you for the safe birth of baby Scott. I ask you to protect him and to grow him into someone who will make a difference—truly make a difference in this world. Thank you for Katherine and her hospitality. Thank you that Walt and Rick can be partners. Bless their practice. Thank you not only for this last year but also for the years to come. Bless this food to us and us to your service. Amen.”

Katherine took her wine glass and raised it in a toast. “To new friends—good friends—and a new year!”

“Here, here!” was heard around the table as glasses clinked.

The dinner was delicious. I reveled in the crackling logs, the flickering of the fire as it reflected off the ceiling rafters and the floorboards, the peals of laughter, and the warmth. Dessert was a warm peach cobbler with homemade vanilla-bean ice cream accompanied by mugs of strong coffee. After we had shared dessert, Rick’s mom and dad set out to explore the inn. Katherine pulled her chair close to the table.

“Gentlemen,” she warned, “I must tell you something.” She was quiet for a moment. “You know that I’m not from around here. And until recently I’ve not sought medical care here.” She looked at Rick and smiled. “But my business is here. I know the local people and I hear them talk.” She was quiet, sipping her coffee and staring into the fire.

Rick cocked his head. “What’s on your mind, Katherine?”

Her eyes suddenly glazed over. She seemed almost to shudder. She looked at me and then at Rick. “You guys are so needed in this town. You have so much to offer.” She took another sip of coffee, then continued. “I’m not sure all the older physicians want you here. I’m not sure they’re not as threatened as can be by you two. I think the only thing that’s saving your hides is that you’re sharing office space with Mitch and Ray for now.”

Although I had suspected the same, I hadn’t heard someone outside the medical community verbalize it. To me, this made the potential conflict between the younger and older physicians much more likely—maybe even more threatening. I wondered what this would mean.

“What should we do?” asked Rick.

“Your best,” she responded. She looked into his eyes. “Just do your best. They’ll never be able to beat that. If you are both as good of doctors as I think you are, and if you’re as good of people as you seem to be, you’ll do just fine. Just fine.” She sighed. “For the town’s sake—and for your sake—I hope you can ride it out.”

We were quiet for a few moments. “Well,” Katherine broke the silence, “let’s get you all out of here.” She stood and started to clear the dishes.

“Can we start the dishes?” asked Barb.

“Oh, heavens no!” pealed Katherine. “You guys get outta here!”

We gave her a hug and loaded back into the cars to travel back across town. The moon was reflecting off the snow, and it was hauntingly beautiful. At the top of Hospital Hill, Rick helped us get into our home. We said good-bye to him and his parents. By 10:00 the Larimores were all snuggled into bed.

No firecrackers awoke us at midnight, nor did we see the ominous clouds gathering on the horizon. A storm was headed straight toward us.

The first snow of the new year came on New Year’s Day— about four inches of fresh powder lying on the bench just behind our house. The thermometer read twenty degrees above zero. But inside, the house was warm.

I had forgotten to turn off the clock radio, and at 6:00 A.M. sharp Gary Ayers’s voice shocked us out of our slumber. As I rolled over to turn off the radio, I was surprised to hear him say, “On the home front, WBHN is proud to announce that Dr. Larimore, the team physician for the Swain County Maroon Devils, likes our little town so much that he and his wife, Barb, have decided to increase our population by one. Welcome to our newest citizen, Scott Larimore, born on Christmas Day!”

We laughed out loud. Barb confided, “Our son—almost famous!” I was just glad Gary hadn’t mentioned that the birth took place in Asheville.

Now awake, I pulled on my slippers and robe and went into the children’s bedroom to get Kate up.

“Katie,” I whispered, “there’s snow outside.”

She shot straight up in bed, her eyes as wide as saucers. “Snow!” she yelped and quickly crawled from her bed to run, as best she could without her braces, to the window.

“Wow, oh wow, Daddy. Wow, oh wow! Can we go out and play?”

“After breakfast we’ll go out and play, OK?” I heard a movement behind me and turned my attention to the crib. My little boy was beginning to arouse. I walked over to watch him grimace and squirm. Although he was still sleeping, he appeared to be exercising his new plumbing system.

Then I noticed it. He was the color of a carrot.

I picked him up, gave him a hug, and placed him on the bassinet to change his diaper. He was yellow all over. Even the whites of his eyes were yellow. My baby was jaundiced!

I know I shouldn’t have panicked. After all, jaundice is common, especially in breast-fed children—particularly in premature breast-fed children. But sometimes a physician doesn’t think like a physician—especially when it comes to his own children.

By 8:00 A.M. Rick was making a home visit. The lab results were in by 10:00 A.M. Scott was indeed jaundiced—not dangerously so—but his bilirubin levels indicated the need for therapy.

“I have an idea, Walt,” Rick exclaimed. “Follow me.”

We put on our coats and walked across the street to the hospital. Peggy Ashley was the charge nurse that day. Rick explained his plan.

“Well, we’ve never done that before,” she responded. “Have you talked to Mitch or Ray about it?”

Rick’s cheeks flushed a bit. “No,” he retorted. “Why do I have to? I’m an attending physician here. This is standard medical practice. It’s just that we’re not doing it in the hospital.”

Peggy thought a moment. “Well, I guess we could give it a try and see how it goes.”

Before I knew it Rick and I were pushing a hospital bili light across the road and into my children’s room. Years before it would become popular, we were doing home phototherapy in Bryson City.

When an newborn infant’s liver isn’t yet up to speed, the bile that is normally excreted by the liver can build up in the bloodstream, resulting in the carrotlike color of the whites of the eyes and the skin appearance that doctors call jaundice. If the levels of bile—called bilirubin—get too high, they may damage the brain. So while waiting for the liver to begin its life-saving work, the bilirubin levels can be reduced to safe levels by simply exposing the skin to certain frequencies of light. Back then this was accomplished with what were called bili lights—two banks of fluorescent bulbs that would be positioned over the baby. The baby’s eyes would be covered to protect their eyes from any possible negative effects from the light, and the lights would be left on, day and night, until the bilirubin levels were normal and the liver was working properly.

So we set up a hospital-like nursery in our home. The nurses were kind enough to come over every four hours to check on us and on Scott. Betty and the lab techs came over twice a day to do heel sticks to check Scott’s bilirubin levels. By the ninth day of Christmas the bili lights were turned off. On the tenth day of Christmas Rick and I rolled the lights back to the hospital.

On the twelfth day of Christmas we celebrated Barb’s thirtieth birthday. Part of the celebration involved borrowing a large wheelbarrow and shovels from Dr. Bacon. Rick and I hauled the Larimore Christmas tree out of the house and down the road to the site of our new office building. Together we pushed the tree up to the most southwest corner of the lot—the corner that was projected to be untouched—just above what was to be the new parking lot. We dug a hole and then rolled the Norwegian spruce’s ball into the hole and backfilled the tree. We stood back and admired our handiwork, a tradition we would repeat on every twelfth day of Christma s that we lived in Bryson City.

As I sat on the bench that evening, trying to keep warm in a winter coat and hat as the sun set, I reflected on the planting of the tree—and on our hopes that the tree would take root and grow.

It was beginning now to feel like our family and our medical practice was starting to take root in this small town. I was beginning to feel comfortable in my profession as a small-town generalist. We were settling into our new home and our new town— and falling in love with them both. It felt like a great start to the rest of life—a new year, and a new decade. I still did not see the bad moon rising.



  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)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2020. 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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