Pine Nuts: I’d rather have a root canal… |

Pine Nuts: I’d rather have a root canal…

I’m one lucky boy. I’ve survived a war, a divorce and, now, a root canal. The war was bad, the divorce was worse. She said I was immature. Girls can be so yucky sometimes. But the root canal was an overwhelming success.

Granted, I was a little nervous about the procedure and asked a lady I saw at the post office if she had ever experienced a root canal.

“Why yes, you might not be able to relate to this entirely, but it feels something like giving birth to a porcupine backwards,” she said.

So it was with no little fear and in trepidation that I walked into Dr. Fullmer’s office in Reno for my appointment to experience firsthand what has become everybody’s preferred comparison, “I’d rather have a root canal.”

Add to that, I had on my mind Mark Twain’s account of what a visit to the dentist was like 150 years ago.

There was this poor fellow who went to see that Doctor Tooshmaker up in Virginia City to have his tooth out. Dr. Tooshmaker was quite good at his trade, he practiced pulling teeth on iron rakes. Well the tooth wouldn’t come, but the patient’s right foot came up.

Tooshmaker: “What’re you doin’ that for?”

Patient: “I can’t help it!”

Tooshmaker: “All right then, you come back in a week, and I’ll take care of you.”

Durin’ the week, ol’ Doctor Tooshmaker invented an instrument, combining the properties of the screw, the lever, the wedge, the hammer and the incline plane.

The patient came back and sat in the chair. One turn of that crank, and out came that tooth! Its roots were hooked under the patient’s right big toe, and his entire skeleton was extracted with the tooth. They had to send him home in a pillow case. But no matter, Dr. Tooshmaker got a patent on that instrument, as a turkey de-boner.

But guess what? One hundred and fifty years later, Dr. Fullmer, unlike Dr. Tooshmaker, has invested in magnifying periscopes, talented assistants and the latest miracle, Novocain. My root canal was a cakewalk. Dr. Fullmer whistled while he worked — always a sign of confidence. A doctor who talks and whistles while he works is a doctor that can be trusted. I don’t trust those doctors who cuss like a fishmonger’s wife.

All’s well that ends well. I would, however, like to make one humble suggestion to Dr. Fullmer as an appreciative patient. I would take that instrument that he calls, “The Explorer,” and rename it, “The Locater” or “The Comforter.” Because when he called for “The Explorer,” I went down into my boots, as any sober person would do.

Well, to mention a root canal alongside a war and a divorce I shall never be tempted to do again. Dr. Fullmer has got the root canal thing down to a science. And I suspect the threadbare expression, “I would rather have a root canal,” will soon be falling out of use and disappear into the lexicon of our yesteryears.

To learn more about McAvoy Layne visit

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