Dr. Don Newbury

Each week it is mine to pick a topic for this space. If I picked a body part, it wouldn’t be the nose, but in recent weeks, the nose — proboscis for readers who join me in being facetious — has chosen me!

Often, “nose” topics are comedic. It is the organ that horses win races by, it is the one we poke into other people’s business.

Daily, people rely on their noses to see what passes — or fails — smell tests…

As kids, we gave up fairly early on contemplating our noses. When we did, our eyes crossed.

It was what we did NOT wipe on our sleeves; yet, we were admonished to keep it clean.

We were told NOT to get our nose out of joint when things didn’t go the way we planned. Noses of New England Patriots’ fans remain disjointed…

Really, though, my personal “nose news” started about the time I reached my 70th birthday last fall — when so many well-wishers reminded that 70 is “just a number.”

So are calendar dates for doctors and dentists, and last year, I had enough appointment cards for a full deck.

My dentist decided I needed half-a-dozen crowns, and I saw him so often that he memorized my eating habits. “No tuna sandwich for lunch today?” he once quizzed, adding a weak joke about “crowns in my stars if not stars in my crown.” (Really, though, he’s a good sport, decked out in orange and usually humming “The Eyes of Texas.” Better at drilling than trilling, he’s usually off-key, particularly on Monday mornings.)

Now, back to my “nose news.” During my annual physical, the doctor found a spot that he didn’t like.

“Probably a basal cell,” he said. “But before too long, you’ll likely want to have it fixed, unless you want a third hole in your nose.” (At once I had an answer for the woman who corrected me when I mentioned having a “nose for news.” She retorted, “You don’t even have a NOSTRIL for news!”)

Yikes! I figured I needed a third nostril like, uh, a hole in the head. Oh, I know that Jimmy Durante, W. C. Fields, Barbara Streisand and a few others didn’t let “big proboscises”get in the way of their stardom..

But I figured that a third nostril could only diminish a speaking career that now is pressing toward 50 years. I dismissed the thought of joining the circus as a three-nostriled wonder and scheduled the surgery…

With my nose still bandaged, I phoned Southwest Airlines to schedule a flight.

Their agents were “busy with other customers.” I was mollified by soothing music, and occasional babbling interruptions of “little-known facts.”

One factoid related is unsubstantiated: “Did you know that every three or four hours, you breathe out of your OTHER nostril?…”

Later that day, a daughter forwarded an e-mail that claimed that our noses (and ears) keep growing until we draw our last breath.

It made me think of a lifelong friend who may have been born with a 40-year-old nose. I mean NASCAR could hold races in his nasal passages.

He was an outstanding basketball coach, and one night a leather-lunged fan provided what my friend says was the best line he’d ever heard about his exaggerated proboscis. The heckler screamed, “Coach, if I had your nose full of nickels, I’d retire!…”

My minor surgery was just that. While in the waiting room for the doctor to sign off on it, the fellow next to me wanted to “show me some pictures.” I cringed, fearing “quadruple exposure” — or more — to pictures of grandchildren.

I was wrong. They were pictures of his grand vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota. He had stacks of pictures of Mount Rushmore, and even more of the Chief Crazy Horse Memorial, just 17 miles away. Under construction since 1948, it is easily the world’s largest mountain sculpture. A few years ago, the famous chief’s face was finished. It is more than 87 feet tall. Completion of the project may take another 20 years.

Crazy Horse’s nose, chiseled and detonated from hundreds of tons of granite, is some four stories tall. Before getting your nose out of joint about costs, know that the entire project — nose and all — is funded by donations. And a nose this big is nothing to sneeze at…

Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to newbury@speakerdoc.com His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.