They shut down one of the last country Doctor’s offices in the Delta recently and we probably won’t see another. Health care is too tempting a target for the corporations. A kindly, caring, and brilliant fellow ran it for years, his body giving out before his mind. His name is Byron E. Holmes, M.D. and he was the closest thing to Marcus Welby, M.D. you could find in these parts.
It is said that in the old days he charged two dollars for an office visit. That usually took care of one’s problems. He was slow to forward you to Little Rock and have the young folks pass you around to their Med School buddies before cutting on you. No, he would say, “Let’s watch it for a few days and see if it won’t heal itself.”
Know what? It almost always did.
The office was an old house on the “main drag” of Lonoke, Arkansas. He required no appointments. Patients were seen on a “first come, first served” basis. When things were slow, he would make his rounds to the nursing homes. When the waiting room was crowded, he never hurried. As for myself, he rarely fussed at me for anything but my weight. Sometimes he wanted to talk about the world. It didn’t matter if I was in a hurry or if the waiting room was crowded. I listened. I think I was one of the few people that had never heard all of his stories.
His father was a Methodist minister and the legend goes that he told his son not to go into medicine. It was, as Joseph Conrad would put it, “… a command not obeyed.”
We’re glad it wasn’t. I’m glad I was fortunate enough to be in his care for nearly 40 years. “Better go let Dr. Holmes look at it” was the catch phrase that took care of everything. One never felt patronized, insulted, or condescended to in his office. And if he wasn’t the best at drawing blood I ever saw, that was a minor detail.
They replaced his clinic with a corporate outfit from Dallas, Texas. They now charge $196.00 for an office call. The old days and old ways are done for, I’m afraid.
We’ll miss the old doc. Fortunately for me, the UAMS Longevity Center and the VA take care of my modest medical needs. The care is excellent. Under it, I have lost 50 pounds and feel 20 years younger. If something should go wrong, I think they will do a good job of treating it.
Even so, I always felt a little more confident when Byron E. Holmes, M.D. would say it would be all right in a few days. It always was.
"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people." - Orson Welles