In 1965 when “Whispering Bill” Anderson wrote and recorded the song, “I’ve Enjoyed as Much of This as I Can Stand,” I was in medical school. A couple of years later, after a long Saturday night in the emergency room, I was sequestered behind a curtained cubical stitching up an intoxicated “gladiator” and listening to country music on a portable radio. Jim Reeves had just sung the same song when my replacement intern inquired how the night had been. That was the first time I can recall quoting the title of the song. Since then I have had numerous occasions to do so, sometimes adding the S-word after “this.”
The expression was not original with Bill Anderson. As a matter of fact, I heard my brother Al say something very similar in 1956 when Coach Lyons insisted that the football team attend an Arts Council-sponsored ballet at the high school auditorium. He wanted us to learn to appreciate the arts. When the lights came up after the first act, Al loped out, muttering how much he was enjoying it, but he would not be back for the remainder. I don’t remember his exact words, but it is conceivable that someone quoted him to “Whispering Bill.” One can find inspiration in strange places.
There have been times when I have wanted so badly for things to be different that I pretended they were. For example, there have been a number of times when the weather was iffy, but I just had to go hunting anyway. If I had talked someone into going with me, he would likely be the first to say that we should go home. It is stubbornness on my part, I suppose. There were times when I remembered a good place to hunt, a place where there were some birds and the walking was enjoyable, but I forgot about that being 20 years ago. After a few minutes of fighting the underbrush and briers, it dawned on me that persistence was not a good idea, and that I had enjoyed about all that I could stand.
Recently my son Bill incorrectly attributed the saying to me. Interestingly, he thought that I really meant I was enjoying something so much that I could not endure more enjoyment. When he learned that sometimes I was being sarcastic, he was taken aback.
But sometimes I didn’t mean it sarcastically. Many a day when we had put many miles on our boots while bird hunting, doing one of the things I enjoy most, I would be exhausted and would say as we ended the venture, “I’ve enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.” One can only enjoy as much as one can physically endure. There is satisfaction in weariness after a long day’s hunt, because it is expected. It is part of the game. It is some of the price one pays to make the game fair. That sort of tiredness is a good tiredness, and that is the time when slipping out of one’s boots feels so wonderful, a hot shower so satisfying, and three fingers of “brown water” so relaxing.
Even the dogs understand this on some level of comprehension. At the prospect that we are about to go afield, they are excited to the extreme. They can’t be still. They bark and whine and pant thick slobber, urging in their unique language that the man hurry. They enjoy the hunt no matter how successful it is—or how unsuccessful as the case might be—but at the close of the day, they have enjoyed enough and take satisfaction in a dip in the pond, laps of cool water, and the ride home. They know when it is time to quit. I should learn from them.
As I reflect on it, my son was right: There are some things that one can never get enough of. Some things, as he says, are like a bottomless cup. Most of those things are hard, even grueling, and demand a lot, but bring great satisfaction. Practicing medicine was like that for me.
Yeah, I like country music, and I like a lot of the songs Bill Anderson wrote. He has a way with words and a knack for the double entendre. If I could be that creative, and if I could write words that rhyme and could sing, maybe I could go on the Grand Ole Opry, too.
Dr. John C. “Doc” Blythe is a retired oncologist, avid conservationist, and author of The Last Hunt on Early County.