Dr. Paul Nifong lived his faith using a drill

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, May 26, 2016

As communist plots go, the fluoride scare of the 1950’s didn’t work out too well for the Soviet Union. Instead of ruining America’s health, as some feared, fluoride in our water gave us better teeth with fewer cavities.

We country folks drank water from wells and didn’t have the benefit of fluoride. As a consequence, my teeth are now packed with fillings. In contrast, my public-water-drinking children have rarely had a tooth cavity.

During my childhood some people feared a “Red under every bed” or being instantly evaporated in an atomic bomb cloud. We worried about the Domino Effect. We worried about Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s vow to bury us without firing a shot. We worried about missile gaps and the Cold War. We were suspicious of change.

We still are. America is turning into a nation of fraidy cats. We routinely encounter a new crisis-du-jour that is going to kill us all.

In my youth it was flouride. When health specialists recommended that fluoride be added to public water systems, fears of a secret communist plot were broadcast.

The fluoride memory was stirred by the recent death of my old dentist, Dr. Paul Nifong Sr. of Clemmons. A better man has not walked the earth, but I didn’t think so when I was a boy. I averaged three cavities per visit, and his shrill drill conjured up images of the tortures awaiting me in hell if I didn’t mend my wicked ways.

My family has always had a deep affection for the Nifongs. The late Dr. Frank Nifong caught me — and my other siblings — at birth and doctored on us through childhood. When his younger brother, Dr. Paul, established a dental practice in Clemmons in 1960, there was no question where we would go. I was one of his first patients … and one of his last when he retired 47 years later. He knew — and patched — every tooth in my mouth.

After I moved to town and started drinking public water, my cavities decreased, and I learned that Dr. Paul was not a Spanish Inquisition torturer but a funny, witty, kind man.

He lived his Christian faith in the best way he knew. He regularly traveled to Honduras to work on the teeth of natives who would walk for miles to a clinic he established as part of the Moravian World Mission. A missionary dentist.

I never got to the point where going to the dentist was fun, but I always like to see him.

Americans, meanwhile, still like a good crisis.

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Just when I had given up on them, my purple martins arrived from Brazil. Long after I had spotted martins at other colonies, mine were still missing in action. There are three pair. Up from two pair last year. This is the third year I have attracted them, and they are busy nesting.

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Hay season is upon us. Farmers will be in the fields cutting and baling hay. In some fields, you can spot another bird — barn swallows — trailing the farm machinery to harvest their own dinner of bugs. They zoom about helter-skelter in a mad dash to snag the bugs stirred up by the baler. In recent weeks, they have even buzzed about me when I’m mowing the lawn. They often come so close that I duck, expecting them to collide with me.

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The Town of Mocksville is in a tight spot as it tries to deal with a federal jury’s $4.1 million verdict for firing three policemen five years ago. The town’s liability insurance is only $1 million. Likewise, Bermuda Run has a $1 million policy. The Village of Clemmons has a $3 million policy. Mocksville’s attorneys may be able to get the judge to reduce the award, especially if the policemen are rehired. The jury’s award certainly seems excessive, but the town is facing a huge out-of-pocket bill even if the award is cut in half.

— Dwight Sparks