Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Commentary by Betty Bell


Betty Bell

When I made my evangelical migration to Sun Valley in December '46, long before evangelical became the norm, the Lord had spoken clearly: "Get on a train ... go find some hills ... learn how to ski." This was doable because I lived in Omaha, the Union Pacific hub which daily sent its trains down the tracks right on by Sun Valley. So I climbed on board and detrained in this land of bewitching visuals. In accordance with the Lord's will I set about assembling the tools I'd need, and with only a skinny hoard of money I bought 10th Mountain Division Army surplus boots, skis and poles--poles with baskets big as frisbies. I even found a pair of the coveted 10th Mountain goggles with the amber lenses that made the flattest light days seem sunny.

The following winter I started the first of my pre-winter musings that dealt with figuring out how to meld a drug store soda-jerk's pay with the need to replace boots in which my feet turned a beat or two before the seven-foot skis reluctantly followed. I baby-sat and such so that I could take care of these basics needs, and then followed a long string of years unmatched for joy and jubilation, years when my now habitual pre-season musings were mostly about picturing myself in deep, light powder and trying to meditate my way to superior skill and fitness. Many stellar seasons slid by the boards before pre-season musings were wholly consumed with knees.

Most of the poor souls in the world never get a chance to wear out their knees. Knees ungrudgingly bear three to five times one's body weight on as simple an outing as a stroll down the bike path. And if one's office is on the second floor, and one sees one's self as far too agile to take the elevator, in the ascension the knees handily cope with seven times one's body weight. Knees gladly do a myriad of mundane tasks all through the average flat-line life.

Aye, but that's the rub. Rare is the Wood River pilgrim who chooses the flat-line life, and thus we become pigeons, set-ups, for more than a flat-liner's share of serious knee crises. We're lucky that a slew of orthopedic doctors choose to live their own non flat-line lives here so that there're a lot of choices when one's inevitable orthopedic time comes. Because I grew up in the Cornhusker state where putting on airs is a no-no, when I chose my first orthopedic doctor, I chose one from the phone book's short list, those who didn't fancy-up their title with the spelling "orthopaedic." That doctor even now tends to all of my orthopedic failures.

I still do pre-season musings, but they've changed. Now they've settled around the search for ways to not go gentle into that kneedful night, and I've come upon an interesting tidbit: A couple of Australian researchers discovered an astonishing glue that frogs produce, but not any old frogs--only by frogs that live underground and come up only if it rains buckets. At first, when the frogs surfaced to keep from drowning, bugs by the billions zeroed in on them, and so they did some clever evolving. They learned to secrete a glue that not only gums up bugs' jaws, it traps them to their skin. Then the frogs whip their tongues around and eat them for a win-win. On a hunch, one of the environmental biologists tested the glue as a medical adhesive and to his delight it hardened fast and it stuck hard. These folks have already fixed ten sheep with torn cartilage in their knees, and the glue has proved to be stronger and longer lasting than standard medical gunk. The problem is you can't buy frog glue until it has been tested on humanoids, but if your knees, too, have gone 'round the bend, maybe you should join me and try to sign on as a volunteer humanoid.

I'm more optimistic, perhaps wildly enthusiastic, about a stunning idea I have for the next new miraculous pill, a pill that'll repair frozen old knees and young knees frozen from X-treme use. I've dubbed it "Argaiv"—pronounced R-give, and when Argaiv gets the FDA OK it'll do exactly the opposite of what it's spelled backwards from. When you pop an Argaiv a day your knees will stay soft and supple forever. Wall Street better listen-up—the market's gonna be twice as big as it is for the other.

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