Captivating stories of how a young doctor’s
first year of medical practice in the Smoky Mountains
shaped his practice of life and faith

"We walked out onto a side porch, with woven-seat rocking chairs strewn across it, to look out at the hills that were literally ablaze with color—reds and yellows were painted across the promontories, and amber and orange hues specked the bluffs. The spectacular view all the way to the peak of the distant Frye Mountain reminded us of why so many chose to visit this wilderness area during the fall color season."

But the little mountain hamlet of Bryson City, North Carolina, offers more than dazzling vistas. For Walt Larimore, a young "flatlander" physician setting up his first practice, the town presents its peculiar challenges as well. Schooled in the latest medical technology, the eager doctor—his wife, Barb, and two-year-old daughter, Kate, in tow—is about to discover that there are some things in rural practice for which medical school just hadn’t prepared him. But he’s about to learn. His patients will often be his best teachers, and his classroom will range from hospital corridors and smelly barns to homey kitchens and mountain streams.

With the winsomeness of a James Herriott book, Bryson City Tales sweeps you into a world of colorful characters, the texture of Smoky Mountain life, and the warmth, humor, quirks, and struggles of a small country town. It’s a world where the family doctor is also the emergency physician, the coroner, and the obstetrician, and where wilderness medicine is part of the job, search-and-rescue calls in the national forest are a way of life, and the next patient just may be somebody’s livestock or pet. And it is the place where the practice of medicine will forever shape Dr. Larimore’s practice of life and faith.

Sharing the joys, heartaches, frustrations, and rewards of rural mountain medical practice, Bryson City Tales is a tender and insightful chronicle of a young man’s rite of passage from medical student to family physician. Laughter and adventure await you in these pages, and lessons learned from the strengths, foibles, and simple faith of Bryson City’s unforgettable residents.


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9

Foreword 13

1. The Murder 15

Part One

Rewind: First Stop in Bryson City

2. The Arrival 27

3. The Hemlock Inn 35

4. The Grand Tour 44

5. The Interview 50

Part Two

Fast-Forward: Awkward Beginnings in the Smokies

6. Settling In 63

7. First-Day Jitters 70

8. Emergency! 77

9. The Delivery 84

10. The “Expert” 92

11. The Trial 98

12. Shitake Sam 106

13. Wet behind the Ears 113

14. Lessons in Daily Practice 123

15. White Lies 138

16. The Epiphany 145

Part Three

Play: Making Bryson City Home

17. Becoming Part of the Team 155

18. Monuments 162

19. My First Home Victory 171

20. Fisher of Men 180

21. Fly-Fishing 188

22. Something Fishy 201

23. A Good Day at the Office 210

24. An Evening to Remember 217

25. Another New Doc Comes to Town 224

26. ’Twas the Night before Christmas 232

27. A Surprising Gift 242

28. The New Year 249

29. The Home Birth 259

30. The Showdown 273

31. The Initiation 287

32. Home at Last 301