THIS I KNOW: A 2007 interview with Ferrol Sams

January 29, 2013 

AUTHOR AND PHYSICIAN FERROL SAMS, IN HIS OWN WORDS

Interviewed by Joe Kovac Jr. -- May 2007

When you practice medicine for enough years, you learn to listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

Heck, any age is good. Name one that you haven’t liked.

If you’re not raised right, you’ll miss the boat.

I learned in sophomore psychiatry the 3-year-old attitude toward life: “It’s always somebody else’s fault.” And some people never outgrow that.

I can barely remember her name. ... I was a pencil-necked geek and she said, “I’m gonna teach you how to kiss.” ... I was a freshman in college and she was a sophomore ... and she said, “Have you ever kissed a girl?” And I said, “Not really.” And she said, “Well, let me just show you how it’s done.” And she taught me well.

“I’m not mad, I’m just hurt.” That’s Southern.

I taught a course once in creative writing at Emory, which was a terrible misnomer. I told them, I said, “I can teach you to write correctly, but I cannot teach you to be creative.”

There are great characters in the Bible, and that’s the most beautiful literature. Well, it ought to be. It’s been edited over thousands of years.

As Helen Elliot, my first publisher, said, “Sambo, the eye is a very forgiving organ.” You can read over something three times and then go back and say, “How in the world did that get by me?”

The New Yorker is so precious and so effete that I always feel like I need to wash my hands when I finish reading it. They know everything -- even before Hillary does.

You can overuse a word. “Just” is one. ... Have you ever listened to a real early, dedicated Baptist preacher? I mean by this “youthful.” Have you ever listened to one pray? “And we just ask you, Lord, just this moment just as we come just as we are, Lord, to just ...” It makes you want to stay home and have a drink, doesn’t it? “Would you just shut up!”

America is perishing from obesity. We need to quit stuffing our guts.

The hardest thing in the world to do is to stand strong when everything about you is crumbling.

A ratio of two to one. Good father, good mother, good wife. Two women and one man. ... You’ll grow up and be a good man if you’ve got those three things on your side.

I was a country doctor. ... Three dollars an office call, five dollars if it was at night or a house call.

You never know what you’re gonna uncover when you raise a robe.

There’s romance in everything about life if you leave room for it.

What is perfect? The way your hand moves is perfect. ... But perfection is not something that you create unless you’re very, very fortunate. It’s something that’s given to you to see and to be in awe of.

Don’t ever quit courting. When you get married, that’s just the beginning.

I had a first cousin who lived in Atlanta. He was a city boy and he was a year and a half older than I -- and about twice as big as I. I was a runt. And his mother would bring him down to the farm -- the grandparents lived with us on the farm. So she would come down frequently to bring her son down. It was sort of like rubbing two puppies’ noses together and expecting them to be friends. We always wound up fighting. I was a bit of a prude and he was a racy street kid from Atlanta. He’s the one that told me how babies were made, and I told him my parents wouldn’t do anything like that. From then on, he deviled me and whatnot. There was a teacher here in town that he didn’t like. And I’ve forgotten what the horrible, dirty limerick was he said about her. And I said, “You can’t talk that way about Miss Trammel.” And he said, “Yes I can, too!” And I said, “No you can’t, she’s a lady!” ... And anyhow we got to fighting. And his mother and my mother were in the grandmother’s room, and, boy, he was just getting the best of me. He was mopping up the hall floor with me. He was all over me, pummeling me with his fists. And my mother came out and said, “Get up from there and leave that boy alone!” And my aunt said, “Leave them alone, Mildred. Let them fight it out.” Well, my mother acquiesced to this and they went back in my grandmother’s room, and he said, “You give up?” And I said, “No, I don’t give up!” And the next thing I know he’s got me flat on the floor and he’s sitting on my head and jumping up and down, and I opened my mouth and I took the biggest bite out of his ass that you can imagine. And I did not turn loose. And he started yelling and screaming, I mean the blood was coming. My grandmother’s room door erupted again and out came my mother and his mother. And I’ll never forget it. My aunt said, “Turn him loose, you little jackass!” And that was a bad word for a lady to use. And my mother very sweetly said, “Let ’em fight it out, Lou. Let’s let ‘em fight it out.”

I always had good, strong teeth. Puny biceps, but good, strong teeth.

When your wife of 59 years looks at you and says, “I love you, darling,” that’s a surprise. You keep saying, “How can she say that?” It’s wonderful.

Wild-strawberry shortcake. ... You get a bunch of those (wild strawberries) and two layers of a cake -- a good white cake -- and you mash the strawberries up with sugar and you put as many as you can on the bottom, then as many as you can on the top layer, and the juice soaks through and it’s soggy. And I’m having a gustatory orgasm just thinking about it.

Well, you didn’t ask me one question: “What’s my pet peeve?” ... It’s people who get up in the pulpit on Sunday mornings in the Methodist church -- which is supposed to be more formal than the Baptists or the Pentecostals -- and they get up in the pulpit and they say, “Good morning.” Then everybody says, “Good morning.” You feel like you’re in a damn kindergarten class.

There is no greater tribute after something is done or played than total silence.

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