Last week, I got a call from a New York radio station that wanted to know if I had ever met Dr. John R. Brinkley. I told the excitable young women that I had indeed…if you broadly defined the term “met.” At the time I had been five years old and was sitting on my grandfather’s shoulders. We were at a meeting in Cullowhee and Dr. Brinkley had agreed to speak from a platform. He was probably addressing about 300 people and I was one of them. I remember that I was wearing my aviator’s helmet and had my feet in the pockets of my grandfather’s coat. My grandfather kept telling me in a reverent tone that this was “a great man.” He was certainly an unusual one since he glittered…had on a lot of rings and badges. He waved his arms and kept talking about making his listeners new men. There didn’t seem to be an women in the crowd. On the way home, I asked my grandfather what Brinkley did that made him a great man. After a while, my grandfather finally said, “He can make the dead bough bloom again.” So I figured that Dr Brinkley was some kind of tree doctor. The excitable lady from New York wanted to know if I had been present at any of the “surgeries.” I told her again that I was only five years old at the time and I couldn’t talk much longer since my cell phone was going dead due to the fact that the woman who washes my clothes had put it through the washer. I told her that she could call again in two hours when my batteries would be charged, but that would only allow me to talk for about five or ten minutes. So, we did that, but when she called back, she seems terribly frustrated because I had not witnessed a surgery. Yesterday, she sent me a copy of the radio program on Brinkley where some d.j. laughed and snorted about those “ignorant folks in the mountains” and I finally shut the program off. I was getting angry about all of the references to ignorant hillbillies and goat glands and all the references to criminal surgeries. Time to hush before I say something that offends someone. Let me add one thing: Years later, when I was “a college boy,” I asked my grandfather why he had admired a man who was a shyster and crook. My grandfather said, “I admired him because he made something of himself.”
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