Editorial: Blame Canada

Editorial: Blame Canada

William E. Stein, D.D.S.*:

“Birdie with the yellow bill, hopped upon my window sill, cocked his shining eye and said:
‘Show me the way to Wiley: Point!’”

In Homage to Clellan Card, better known as “Axel Torgeson”

I very seldom have “writer’s block”; I just sit back and wait to be inspired. “Inspiration” means to receive the spirit, that sacred breath that calls you to life. This is such a moment. I have procrastinated just long enough to be inspired by memories of “Axel and His Dog” while sitting here on the deck of Wiley Point Lodge overlooking a finally placid bay on Lake of the Woods. For those of you who are at a loss with the “Axel” reference, “Axel and His Dog” was the premier children’s television show for kids who grew up in the Twin Cities in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Axel Torgeson lived in a tree house on a magical island. Each day he would look through his magic spyglass to introduce the next episode of the “Little Rascals”, a hilarious but now politically incorrect series of kids movies from the 1930’s and 40’s. Famously accused murderer Robert Blake played “Mickey”, a later cast member.

Axel would close each show with a nonsensical poem about the “Birdie with the Yellow Bill”. Perhaps this was a primitive form of “Tweeting” on Twitter ... or not.
At any rate, a birdie with a not-so-yellow bill is actually perched on the railing before me. The Canadian spring has once again proven that all of the good things we have done for the environment have succeeded, and in a quicker and more successful fashion than we could ever imagine! Who would have thought that such a modest amount of hybrid auto sales and a bunch of fluorescent light bulbs would have cured global warming? Yet today we set a new Canadian all-time low high (oxymoron?) for June of 44 degrees American.

Terry and I have come up to Wiley Point in June for many years. Usually we have to quarrel about how low to turn the air conditioning. I vote for 68, Terry for 70. Tonight we both agree: Turn the heat up to 73!

We’re fortunate that we booked and paid for our annual trip a year in advance. If I had to make the call now, I might have second thoughts. The economy, as you may have noticed, is, as they say, “in the porcelain convenience”.

The border crossing was always bustling; yesterday there were just two cars. The Lodge is barely surviving with a minimum of guests. Back at our offices, we all have holes in our schedules and face the anxiety of mounting bills and lower receipts.

What to do about those holes in our schedules? Hire a marketing consultant? Perhaps take more time off? How about this? See some patients through the Donated Dental Services program. You’ll keep your staff occupied, you’ll keep your skills up, and you will have a wonderful experience. If you are like me, your practice does a bunch of pro bono work as needed, but this is something different.


Last year I was approached by Donated Dental Services and asked if I would consider helping a lady in dire dental straits through the program. The patients are well screened and most deserving. My patient needed several extractions and full upper and lower partial dentures. Rather than my having to do the surgery and foot the lab bill, DDS coordinated the whole thing. My local oral surgeons donated the pre-prosthetic surgery, and my own dental lab donated the prostheses.

What a piece of cake! What a grateful, satisfied, and well deserving patient.

Give Kids a Smile is a great program, and we all need to participate, but how about giving some deserving adults smiles too? In these days of public assistance cutbacks, many helpless people are going to suffer. Please contact Donated Dental Services through the MDA website. You’ll be glad you did.

We as a profession must and do strive to help our sisters and brothers in need. We just do it because we are doctors. We help the poor without expectation of reward. But sometimes we are rewarded.

Our patient wrote to Donated Dental Services: Thank you for the help. Truly, I did not know where to turn. You were always helpful and always kind to me. Thanks for your thoughtful words. P.S. My doctor, I believe, is going to Haiti soon. My goal is to try to save and donate some money for his project there.

This dear lady was as good as her word. She saved for months, and gave me a check for $100, which we put to good use in Haiti. This calls to mind the Gospel of the “Widow’s Mite”. You can look it up; I’m up here fishing.

I’m going back to plotting how to outwit that giant musky that followed my lure to the boat twice today and gave me “the fin” both times, laughing and blowing bubbles in her wake. When casting for muskies, we musky fishermen end our retrieve by doing a “figure eight”, dipping the rod tip in the water and challenging the musky to bite. It occurred to me how much this resembles sword fighting; we are truly “dueling” with this wily fish. Which brings me back to Wiley Point and another inspiration from Axel: “Birdie with the yellow bill, hopped upon my window sill, cocked his shining eye and said, How do you eat your Walleye? Fingers?”

*Dr. Stein is Executive Editor of Northwest Dentistry. He is a general dentist in private practice in Aitkin, Minn., AitkinDent@AOL.com.