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One mighty popcorn kernel

It’s often said, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Perhaps this statement would have come out differently had it included popcorn kernels. Last Saturday my son Doug was enjoying some microwave popcorn, when an uncooked kernel broke off the entire back half of a large lower molar.

Doug thought it was just another piece of corn kernel; but when it was silver and enamel in appearance he knew differently. A few years ago the same thing happened and he needed an implant. It was expensive and took weeks to complete the process. So Monday it was off to the dentist. Doug found out he’d need a crown. Thankfully, easier and much less expensive than an implant.

Doug’s tooth and this time of year, the month of July, brings back many memories. It was July 1964 when I left Pennsylvania with my five sons in a used Volkswagen Bus to move to California. My first husband Don and I were at the end of over 20 years of marriage. My mother, who lived in Ambler a few blocks away, was also offering advice on why I should stay and work things out.

The first day we only got to Harrisburg. Doug had a root canal done the week before on an upper molar that became infected. We managed to find a dentist who removed his tooth, and Doug spent two agonizing weeks on our trip out West. However, it wasn’t all bad. Our trip could be the source of the movie “Vacation.” It seemed we traveled a similar route and stayed at the same places.

We camped in Ohio and Illinois. We traveled through the Black Hills of South Dakota, arriving at the famous Wall Drug store around midnight. When we arrived the car was on fumes. Then we saw Mount Rushmore, perhaps the most inspiring site for me, other than the Statue of Liberty. As we hit the Wild West, the thought of going where we knew no one had began to sink in.

Was I making the right decision? Would my boys be happy? Would we be able to make it on the little money we left with, just $1,000? I was scared to death; but I couldn’t tell the kids, then aged 19, 17, 10, 8 and 6. Then we arrived in Casper, Wyo. The one purchase I’d allowed the boys to make was for each to buy a black cowboy hat.

All this managed to do was confirm we were indeed six eastern tourists who wouldn’t know a cow from a steer, much less from which we got our milk. We were very tired, camping or cheap moteling along the way, eating cereal for breakfast, baloney sandwiches for lunch and inexpensive dinners. The boys deserved it, so we stayed in a nice hotel in the center of Casper.

At first, I was concerned about the cost. The clerk said a room with two beds and some cots would cost a whole ten dollars. I grabbed my wallet and said “yes.” The campgrounds and motels we’d stayed in up to that time had cost more per night than that great hotel. We had a large corner room with an old-fashioned tub. All of us took turns washing the grime of the trip away.

Back to Doug’s problem. Was it a dentist who discovered popcorn? Or perhaps it was a relative of one? Just kidding of course. Dentists do a great job keeping us healthy and the cost of their education and equipment is a lot. Strange how a little kernel of corn and a broken tooth brought these memories back. Doug just came back from the dentist and he was only gone two hours.

What used to take many hours and waiting for a lab somewhere else to make the crown for his tooth is now done in house. The Dentist Office where Doug went has computerized equipment now with a device that looked like the Star Wars R2D2 robot. It scanned his teeth and sent the information to a device that uses diamond cutters and water to make a porcelain crown that was an exact fit.

Doug tells me he’ll keep away from the popcorn, at least for a while. But he is so impressed with the dentist and staff in this office that he no longer worries about getting a crown. Dentistry has come a long way from the foot powered slow speed drill of yesterday. Thank goodness for innovation.

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at news@lahontanvalleynews.com.