From the autumn of 1970, Dad and I taking a break along the Appalachian Trail with my fellow scouts of the great and wonderful Boy Scout Troop 170.
This One’s For You, Dad!
By Dr. Richard Mabey Jr.
My father once told me that I should use my title in my bylines. Regretfully, I really did not take his advice. I don’t know why. I didn’t want to come off that I thought I knew it all. I can’t explain it. Dad told me that it could open doors for me, that otherwise might be closed. When I look back, I really and truly wish that I had listened my Dad, all those years ago.
It’s painful to admit it, but in the past couple of years, I’ve had plenty of doors slam in my face. Mostly from the pretentious academic types, the intellectual snobs, who are the big muckalucks of the publishing world. People, well meaning people, say to me that I should try to have my book published by a smaller book publishing company. The truth of the matter is that there are no longer any small book publishing companies.
Oh, you might say, “what about Acme Book Publishers?” They specialize in printing books about the beauty of nature. Well, most respectfully, if you dig a little bit; you’ll find that Acme Book Publishers is a subsidiary of Amalgamated Publishers, which is a subsidiary of Big Brother Industries, Inc. And, then you’re shocked to find out that BBI is a subsidiary of International World Greed Corporation.
I don’t know why I didn’t use my title, in bylines. I was living in my little Mayberry, the very town from which I grew up in. People would see me in the grocery store, the hardware store or the charming little corner sweet shop and say to me, “Richie, why aintcha in practice?” It’s the question that I dreaded.
Having practiced chiropractic for nearly two full years, in a small town in the hills of West Virginia, left a certain scar on me. It was a painfully lonely time of my life. My patients were dirt poor. I don’t mean that unkindly, it’s just that they really and truly couldn’t afford to pay me for office visits. Oh, they were sincere and earnest, to be true, they were.
Patients would bring me corn and tomatoes from their gardens. They would offer to fix my old 1966 Ford Galaxie, if needed. One patient would change the oil in my Galaxie for me, as payment for office visits. They were kind and warm-hearted folks. But the hard, cold fact of life is that it costs real money to run a doctor’s office. Even in a small town in the hidden, peaceful valleys of West Virginia.
So, I got a job in a local grocery store to help pay for the office expenses. You know how it is. You’ve got a telephone bill to pay, heating bills, rent, electricity, the whole bit. I practiced in this little store front and lived in this tiny little backroom. It was kind of like when Barney lived in the backroom of the Courthouse, when his landlady threw him out.
I got sick, very sick. I wasn’t eating right. I was worn out, just plain physically worn out from working so hard. Whenever I wasn’t working as a chiropractor, or working in the local grocery store, I would be sitting at that little card table in my backroom, writing. I wrote a lot of poetry back then.
I had a typewriter of course. I would write the poems freehand, then type them up, then mail them out to various magazines. Mostly small press publications. I got about a half-dozen of my poems published in those two years.
I met this girl, Davene. She was about three younger than me. We would go for walks, talk, sit at the little park bench, watch the birds in the trees. I’d bring along a bag of stale bread with us to the park. I had bought it for nearly nothing at the grocery store that I worked at. They were just going to throw it away, it was so stale. Anyway, Davene and I would sit on the park bench, tear the bread slices into little pieces and throw them to the birds. We would watch the birds eat the pieces of bread. It was kind of cute. It was such a time of innocence.
I got sick. I got a really bad sore throat. For anyone who has ever had rheumatic fever, getting a sore throat is deadly. Back home, in my little Mayberry in New Jersey, Dad had a heart attack. I drove home. Dad was already in the hospital. My old editor offered me a job at the weekly newspaper in my old Mayberry. About a month later, after Dad came home from the hospital, I drove back down to that little town in West Virginia.
I closed up the office. I didn’t have my own X-ray machine. I had used another chiropractor’s X-ray machine, from two towns over. Older chap, nice gentleman. Whenever I would send a patient there, this good hearted chiropractor would never try to steal my patient from me. He was a good, solid, honest man. But the bottom line was that it wasn’t hard to close up my office. In many ways, I was relieved.
Saying goodbye to Davene was the hardest thing. It wasn’t a big, serious romance. But, truly, I did like her a lot. We continued to keep in touch by good old fashioned U. S. Mail. There was no Internet back then, being the latter part of the 1970’s. A few months after coming back home to my Old Kentucky Home in New Jersey, I got a letter from Davene. She wrote me that she began dating her old boyfriend from high school. I wrote back and told her that I was glad she found someone. Of course, that was a big lie. I never heard from Davene, ever again.
And that was that. I think a lot about fate and destiny. Oh, I’ve read all the books on positive thinking and that we are the captains of our own ships of destiny. But, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’m basically a writer at heart. I worked for well over a half-dozen newspapers, including one of the biggest daily newspapers in the entire state of New Jersey. I owned my own newspaper, a small town weekly. I saw four of my plays produced. One made it all the way to Manhattan. I wrote, produced and hosted my own television talk show for five years. I spent ten years working at the big grand-daddy telephone company of all time. I worked in their international public relations department, Africas region. I got to give a speech, for the cause of hunger in Africa, at the United Nations. I served as an Assistant Scoutmaster of the great Boy Scout Troop 170 for over 20 years. And, I worked with my sister Patti, as a church Youth Group Director for well over 15 years, in three different churches. It’s been a good life.
But, I sat and thought it over. I really have thought it over. Dad was right. Using my title might help me to get into doors that otherwise would be slammed in my face. I’m not trying to be hotsy-totsy here. I’m just honoring dear old Dad. I loved my Dad very dearly. The truth of the matter is that I should have honored his advice a long time ago. So, from now on, I’m going to byline my blog with my hard earned title. And, believe me, it was hard earned!