Bryson City Tales — The Initiation (Part 2)

This is from the thirty-first chapter from my best-selling book, 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.


That same summer I also experienced my most memorable social event of my first year in Bryson City. Monty Clampitt gave me a phone call—the phone call that was to initiate an unforgettable adventure.

“Doc, you still interested in working with us at the rescue squad?”

I had taught a class one Thursday night on how to use the newly developed adrenaline syringes that could be self-administered by a person in the earliest stages of an allergic or anaphylactic reaction. I was surprised to see how many of the boys on the rescue squad I’d come to know throughout the year. I told Monty I’d be honored to work with them—as would Dr. Pyeritz.

“Well then, I’ll drop by the office this afternoon with the paperwork for you boys. If you want to attend the meetings every Thursday night, we’d love to have you, but we’re willing to waive the attendance requirement, knowing you all’s call schedule. If you’re willing to come teach an occasional class and be available to come with us on some of the calls on which we might need a doc, that’d be just fine.”

“Monty, that sounds good to me.”

“One other thing.”


“There’s a way that docs can be certified in advanced field first aid and in wilderness medicine. You may want to consider some of that training over the next year or two. It might come in handy if we ever need you in the field.”

“Sounds good, Monty. I’d like to see the information the next time it crosses your desk.”

That evening we filled out the application, not only for the local rescue squad but also for the state and national association—as well as the insurance and release forms. (Obviously the attorneys had gotten to these fellas.) As Monty gathered up the forms, he told us about a training session scheduled for that Friday evening at the station house—and that we’d be welcome to come and meet the rest of the squad.

“Well, Monty, I think I can make it.”

Rick added, “I’ll be on call, but I’ll get down there if things are quiet at the hospital.”

On Friday evening Rick was caring for a woman in labor. So I drove alone to the rescue squad building for the training session— an update on water rescue.

During the session there was a sudden alarm. Monty leaped to his feet and ran over to the radio receiver to listen to the call.

“Swain County Rescue, this is Swain Command Center, over.” I recognized Millie’s caustic voice. Now, the command center was just a little desk in the sheriff’s small office—but the name sure sounded official and “big city.”

“Swain County Command, this is Swain County Rescue, over.” I smiled. It seemed to me that he should have said, “Millie, this is Monty. What do you need?” It would have been quicker and more natural, but admittedly and markedly less official- sounding.

“We have an overturned boat on Lake Fontana just west of the new T. A. Sandlin Bridge. One person missing. Search-and-rescue needed stat and requested by officers on the scene. Over.”

“Ten-four. Swain County Rescue responding with water rescue units. Will notify you of ETA when under way. Over.”

“Roger. I’ll notify the officers on the scene. Over and out.”

As Monty was speaking, the squad leaped into action. There was no need to sound the rescue siren, which echoed across the valley and called squad members to the station, as they were already there. The trucks, lights blazing, were pulled halfway out of the garage so that the trailers containing the inflatable rescue boats could be attached behind them. Men were grabbing their equipment bags.

“Walt, hop in the passenger side of Unit One,” Monty instructed. “I’ll be driving.”

“You want me to go?” I shouted.

“You bet, son. You’re one of us now!” He turned to run around the unit. I paused for a moment. You’re one of us now! It sounded incredible.

“Come on!” I heard him shout. I jumped in, he turned on the siren, and we were off.

I had never ridden in the front of an emergency vehicle. In medical school, while on one of my ER rotations, I had ridden in the back of ambulances out on emergency calls—but never up front. It was exhilarating, and I could easily see how one could become addicted to the rush—seeing people pull over as you raced by them. We sped up the hill toward the four-lane and then headed west.

“Swain County Command, this is Swain County Rescue, over.”

“Swain County Command here. Come on back.”

This sounded to me like two truckers talking over CB units. I almost expected to hear Millie add, “Come on back, good buddy!”

“This is Unit One en route to the Sandlin Bridge. ETA 10 to 15 minutes. I do have Dr. Larimore with me. Over.”

“Roger that, Unit One. Did you say you have Dr. Larimore with you?”

“Ten-four, Millie. He’s on his first rescue squad call.”

“Hmm!” she sighed. I had no idea what emotion she was trying to express. But she continued, “Rescue One, I’ve also been notified by the park service that they’ve launched a search boat from the Almond boat dock and will be at the search site within thirty minutes. Over.”

“We’ll take all the help we can get, Millie. Over.”

“Roger that. By the way, Monty, there’s a one-lane dirt road just before the new bridge. At the bottom of the road, around a small cove, there’s a place where you can launch the boats. That’s where the officers are stationed.”

“Ten-four. Unit One out.”

“Have a safe search. Monty, you boys be careful, OK? Command out.”

I couldn’t believe it. Millie’s voice actually had a hint of softness in it—a touch of concern. I smiled. The old girl really did care!

As we pulled off the four-lane, the truck’s emergency lights penetrated the darkness of the road leading to the lake. At the bottom, a sheriff’s car, emergency lights still blazing, awaited our arrival. Deputy Rogers and the sheriff both ran up as our truck stopped.

The sheriff summarized the situation. “Monty, some fellas were drinking and fishing just below the bridge. Said their boat turned over. Two of ’em made it to shore. They say their buddy went straight to the bottom. The ambulance took ’em both to the hospital. They’re near enough drowned. Don and Billy will be back here shortly.”

As our other units pulled up, Monty went into action. “Joe,” he called to one of his deputies, “I want you to take two smaller inflatables and place the marker lanterns. Then I want you to shore-search a half mile up-lake and two miles down-lake.”

He turned to look for Ray, his other deputy. “Ray, let’s launch the larger inflatable for dragging, OK?”

“Dianna!” Monty recognized his wife as she drove up. She had been monitoring the radio at home, as did most of the rescue squad wives—many of whom would be coming. “Honey, can you set up the food tent for us?” She nodded and turned to begin her work. She would erect a tent in which the spouses would prepare coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks for what I imagined could become very fatigued workers.

“Walt.” Monty was walking up to me. “You ready for your initiation?”

“I guess so.”

“Then I want you in the dragging boat with me. I’ll show you the ropes.”

I nodded, not at all sure what I was getting myself into.



  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)

© 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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