Before I get too far into my scribbling today, I would like to say “thank you” to all my readers and friends. It was so kind of you to send me addresses of stores that carried the Big Hunk candy bars. I especially want to say thanks to the sweet little blond lady that went above the bar and sent me an entire box of 24 bars. Since I had just returned home with five candy bars I bought at the Farmers Market on Alta, I think I am pretty much covered for the next few days (months?).
I would also like to thank the “Dentistry for Vets” folks for being so kind when they replaced the two fillings that were pulled out in my haste to eat the bar before dinner. I have always had good relations with dentists. Well, not that first one. He was kind of like the sadistic dentist in the movie, “Little Shop of Horrors.” If you have not seen that movie, I highly recommend it.
The first dentist that I ever thought was kind and patient was one I had in the Army. I was out at Fort Ord when I first joined. I had been in a water fight with my brother and a couple of other guys when my loving brother picked up a bucket, filled it with water and threw it at me. I’m sure he didn’t know that the bail would break off at that very moment and the bucket hit me right in the face. Knocked one tooth out and broke the other one in half. OK, well I’m almost sure.
Let’s just say my smile was destroyed. When you are a young man full of sap and something like that happens to you, it just hurts your flirting with pretty girls. As I have mentioned a couple of times, my family was not the Rockefellers of Wasco. I had enough experience that I knew my folks were not going to get my teeth fixed as dinner on the table was much more important than fixing my smile.
Here is where I had to use my brain for something that wasn’t connected to girls. “How was I to smile any more with one front tooth?” I asked myself. I studied the problem for a couple of days with my mouth closed at all times. Of course, the teachers thought I was ill. Anytime I wasn’t talking or cutting up in class, they didn’t know how to deal with me. For two days they never called upon me for any answers to questions in class.
They were very patient with me and since I mostly irritated them with my answers anyway, they probably thought there was something wrong with me. I was so embarrassed that I wouldn’t open my mouth very wide, which was very hard for me.
I just thought hard about it and a couple of days later while helping mom with cutting potatoes for planting, it came to me. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant answer. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t agree with me, but I’m also pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed for quite some time. Although you might think it was a crooked thing to do, when you are 13 years old and every girl is gorgeous, your mind works in a different way than it does when you are older and more refined.
The next day I went to school and almost started paying attention in class. At least that is what the teachers must have thought. Actually I was just slinking down in my desk so I wouldn’t be called on. My second class was gym and I had it all planned out. After I had changed my clothes into gym attire, I sort of hung around until all the other kids had left the gym. Then I walked into the latrine and spit on the floor, sort of shuffled my feet and then went into the coaches’ office.
I picked a coach that I really got along with, walked over to him and said I had slipped in the latrine and fell, hitting my mouth on the floor and knocking out my teeth. My favorite coach walked with me into the bathroom to see whatever he could see. It gets a little strange, but stay with me.
This coach was not dumb; in fact, he was really smart. To this day, I swear I know he didn’t believe me. That really means nothing when you are young. One lie leads to another. He was aware of my family’s plight. (Just about every kid who lived on a farm that their parents didn’t own were pretty low on the list of rich kids.)
He just stood for a while looking at me and then at the floor and I guess he had made up his mind. “You go on up to the office and I’ll call that you are coming and that you need to see a dentist for an accident that happened in gym.”
You see my family didn’t have any insurance for things like this, and yet I knew the school did. Again, I’m pretty sure that coach knew also. They sent me to the dentist, who pulled the broken tooth out and had me come back in five days to get a partial plate.
That’s how I came to know a really kind dentist. I kept that partial plate until I joined the Army. While going through in processing out at Fort Ord, it was noted that I had a plate in my mouth. Two weeks later I was sent to building 300, which was right at the entry to Fort Ord. I walked in and knew, by the smells, that a dentist was close.
I went into the treatment room and this really kind man walked in and started talking to me like he was my friend. He examined my mouth and told me he was going to install a bridge in my upper jaw. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It took almost a month for everything to get done, but eventually I had a dazzling smile.
On my last visit to the kind dentist, he congratulated me on my new smile and walked over to put on his uniform jacket. That’s when I noticed that he had two stars on his coat. My legs actually started shaking. I had not even seen a general yet, but the first one I saw was the kindest, most interesting dentist I have ever known.