For the next few months, I’m excerpting chapters from the first of two books about my early years in family medicine in Kissimmee, Florida – The Best Medicine: Tales of Humor and Hope from a Small-Town Doctor. I hope you, your family, and your friends will follow along and enjoy this trip back into the past with me and my family.
CHAPTER 1B – NEAR DEATH
A FEW WEEKS LATER, Dan and Boots showed their appreciation for my staff and me by hosting a dinner at one of the more lovely restaurants in town.
As we entered the historic Fryemont Inn, music from the 1940s filled the grand dining room. Wide maple plank flooring original to the 1923 building creaked pleasantly under our feet while large dark chestnut timbers supported the vaulted ceiling. In front of an enormous stone fireplace was a massive table, dressed with a white tablecloth, flatware, and bouquets of colorful flowers separated by scented candles.
A smorgasbord of delightful sensations accompanied the warmth of the room—the welcoming fragrance and sounds of a crackling fireplace mingled with the delicious, yeasty, sweet smell of hot, buttered, and freshly baked cathead biscuits piled high on the table.
As we gathered, a tall, debonair man walked in with Dan and Boots and introduced himself. “I’m Kevin Cole. I’m chairman of the Board of Trustees of Humana Hospital Kissimmee. I am up here on vacation with my kids, traveling around the Smokies in an RV. Boots told me how you saved Dan’s life.”
Before I could object, he continued, “So I asked for permission to drop by and introduce myself. Our hospital board is looking for a few excellent family physicians to come to Kissimmee. If you are ever in the mood to move to one of the most perfect small towns in America, I’m the one that can make it happen.” He extolled the virtues of his hospital and community in Central Florida and ended up saying he would fund our meal from the hospital’s recruiting budget.
My sinister side thought, Floridians! They come up here in the good weather, buy up our land, and run up our prices. Then they leave in winter. And they don’t know how to drive on mountain roads. Nothing worse than needing to get somewhere and getting stuck behind a Floridian!
From my other shoulder, another voice reminded me, Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body, so I thanked him for his generosity.
“I’d love to stay,” he added, “but the kids are in the RV eager for more adventure. I hope to see you in Kissimmee.”
I doubted we would ever meet again.
During dessert, Boots leaned over to Barb and me and whispered, “You all really do need to consider our hometown. Kissimmee is not too far from Orlando. It’s small, although larger than Bryson City, and has incredible people, hearty congregations, and exemplary schools. Descendants of pioneers inhabit our county. They’re wonderful salt-of-the-earth kinda folks. We’d love to have more family doctors there. I hope you’ll consider it. We’d cover your expenses to relocate and set up a practice! And since Dan once owned the Ford dealership, you’d never lack suitable transportation. How about it?”
Barb and I smiled at each other. It was our first experience with what we learned was Boots’s renowned persuasive charms. “It pleases me you’d want us there. But living in the Smoky Mountains is a joy. We love the people, the natural environment, the clean air and water, our church, and our new practice.”
Boots continued, “There’s stunningly beautiful country down in Osceola County. Large lakes with big ole bass and great fishing. Oak trees and Spanish moss. No snow or ice. A wonderful place to raise a family and build a career. You’d love it!”
“We look forward to raising our daughter, Kate”—I reached over to touch Barb’s bulging tummy—“and her sibling here in western North Carolina. It’s heaven for us.”
Boots smiled and patted my arm. “Well, I can understand. There are many reasons tourists visit in the warmer months. But if the dreary winters and endless days without sunshine get to you, you’d be welcome in Osceola County. Our weather is gorgeous all year!”
I cocked my head at her. “Do you work for the Chamber of Commerce down there?”
Dan laughed. “She should, Dr. Larimore. She should!”
Boots chuckled as I thought, Florida is the last place I’d want to live! My other side countered, Are you sure? Could those be what they call famous last words? As the mountain folk say, “Don’t sell the hide before you shoot the bear.”
TO BE CONTINUED
This excerpt of The Best Medicine: Tales of Humor and Hope from a Small-Town Doctor is provided with the permission of the publisher Baker/Revell. You can learn more about the book or purchase a copy here.
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