This is whimsical but true. If I mightily stretched things, I could even say this is about legal realism.
Long ago—when I was 12—I lived in Florida. I took to water skiing. One day while racing along on two skis I decided to drop one and ski on the other.[i] The remaining one was not a slalom ski. But, I made it work until it didn’t.
As I fell forward into the onrushing water the ski submerged tip first. Then, the butt end popped back up and hit me in the mouth. My teeth, and particularly my lowers, were never the same.
My parents evidently had an aversion to dentists (as I do now) and, eventually, I came to like my new look anyway. Think of actor Bill McKinney in Deliverance.[ii]
You could buy 3.2 beer at 18 until 1982[iii] when the Buckeyes did away with that magnificent beverage.[iv] Fake IDs were easy to get and that was particularly true since I looked a little older (see above). And, when I turned 18 while still in high school (I had flunked second grade—I still don’t know how I accomplished that feat), drinking beer in gloomy billiard parlors became one of my passions.
My passion for beer led inextricably to a passion for fist fights. I won some and lost some. Ironically, the kid who well and truly further busted up my teeth had recently moved to Toledo from Lincoln, Nebraska. That is when I first developed an abiding respect for the Cornhuskers.
So, today as you read this, I am paying for my past sins. Beginning at noon, a fellow with a degree in dentistry and a medical degree to boot put a question to me.
He asked, “Is it safe?” I responded, “Yes, it is very safe.”
And then he began.
My screams have subsided. I no longer have any teeth left in my lower jaw. As I say, life is a series of disappointments and payback is a bitch.
Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)
[i] Not me:
[ii] I will believe until my dying day that the Mountain Men in Deliverance were merely misunderstood. Much like the fellow I sentenced in a drug case that sodomized a young girl (with transmission fluid) for failing to pay her drug debt to that fellow’s brother. See United States v. Johnson, 169 F.3d 1092, 1094 (8th Cir. 1999).
[iii] By 1982, I was 36 and a devotee of box wine. By the way, that remains true now. To be clear, I refuse to discuss whether I may have written this piece after draining the box. I understand my Miranda rights. Scott is a good teacher.
[iv] I am pretty sure Ohio did away with 3.2 beer because one had to drink so much of it in order to get a buzz that an epidemic of kidney problems arose. I’m also thinking that is why the Cleveland Clinic was founded. But to be candid, I can’t say for sure.