Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Debbie’s Tooth
I was almost nine years old the fall my sister Debbie was born. I remember how excited I was and how strange it seemed to have this little dark-haired bundle of joy living in our house. It didn’t take long for her to make her presence known to Harrold’s population and later to the whole country.
Dad always talked about how he took Mom to Doc Martin’s office when she went into labor, and Doc told them to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. They left town immediately, driving straight to St. Mary’s in Pierre, and finding Doc Martin already there, in his white gown, waiting for them. Dad could never figure out how he beat them to Pierre.
Mom wanted to nurse Debbie, but discovered very soon that wasn’t going to work. Debbie had teeth! Two on the bottom and they were sharp! She became a bottle baby right away, but she didn’t seem happy about it, crying loudly every time she was fed. After a week or so of her crying and fussing, Mom discovered her little teeth were rubbing a sore on the bottom side of her tongue whenever she sucked on the bottle. They went to Dr. Boller, the dentist in Highmore, to see what could be done. He said they could pull the tooth that seemed to be causing the problem, and she would get another baby tooth in that spot as she grew older. Exhausted from Debbie crying all the time, the folks agreed to pull the tooth. When it came time to pull it, Dr. Boller hesitated, never having worked on a month-old patient before. When he finally took hold of the tooth, it lifted out without any effort, blood or pain. There wasn’t a sign of any root to it, so it would have fallen out at some point on its own.
Life at home returned to the normal feeding, rocking, changing diapers, missing sleep routine that all parents have, and the remaining tooth disappeared under the gum when Debbie was about six months old.
Not too long after all of this, the folks started getting newspaper clippings from people in New York, Texas and California, telling about baby Heintz in Harrold, South Dakota being born with two teeth. Jerald Thorn stopped in the barbershop shortly after he came home from being stationed in Germany to show Dad a clipping from the Armies’ “Stars and Stripes” newspaper, telling of Deb’s two teeth. My baby sister’s two teeth had become world famous!
Years later, Dad found the bottle he had stored the tiny tooth in, and was eager to show it to Debbie. When he opened the bottle the air hit the tooth, turning it to dust. He and Deb were both heart broken. The tooth was tiny and Debbie of course didn’t remember it, and she didn’t get a nickel under her pillow from the tooth fairy, but it was nice to know that a little girl’s tooth brought smiles to people all over the world. Deb, your tooth story has always made me smile, and the next time I see you I’ll give you that nickel!