Playing It By Ear

Daryl Gay's Back Page, February 2019

Daryl Gay | February 3, 2019

Picture a knitting needle.

No clue? So stroll over to grandma’s and she’ll show you. Or look it up on your phone. Should you be participating in a recliner sprawl or reading room experience, just think  No. 2 pencil made out of steel with a backward-reaching hook on one end.

Got it? Good. Now you have an idea of what this girl is about to use as she goes prowling around in my brainbox!

I tried to put this visit to my local MD off until after deer season, despite the fact that I suddenly couldn’t hear a buck crunch acorns while sitting in the stand with me.

Doc puts a Maglite/magnifying glass upside my head and mutters, “Yup; 100 percent obstructed.”

Uh, what is?

“Ear canal. Can’t even see the drum for the build-up. Let’s get that outta there for you.”

1. Ain’t piddled with Play-Doh in a while, so no clue what the build-up is or why it chose my left ear, of all places, to build.

2. At least he’s confident.

3. Now, let’s discuss that “get that outta there…”

However, like good doctors and big bucks everywhere, he has vanished. And before I can even work up a good panic attack, in glides the girl with the knitting needle.

And a jug.

(A brief explanation here just in case you’re trying to tie this in with an outdoors magazine: I’d reallly like to be able to hear the beagles for the rest of the month.)

Back to the girl and the needle and the jug…

Since I prefer knowing water depth before diving, as it were, I ask questions. Then, cognizant of needle and jug roles in ‘getting that outta there,’ one more question is posed: “You a nurse?”

Drawing herself to full height—about Ma’s—she states flatly, “I’m a CLNRQZYTMVH.”

Or something like that.

Guess I’m supposed to know what them particular medical-type credentials is. But, really, I don’t NEED to know. What’s going on in my head—besides a coupla pounds of buildup—is trying to figure out if she’s qualified for the excavation I’m about go undergo.

One more glance, and I figure it’s safer and quite possibly less painful to shut up and bear it.

No grin.

She starts by filling the jug with warm water and hand-pumping it in. A half-hour later, she’s in the cubbyhole next door suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and the water heater element is burnt out.

On the plus side, no knitting needle yet. And the build-up is doing quite fine, thank you very much.

Hiatus over, it’s back to the jug. A 55-gallon drum later, we begin extracting miniscule amounts of crud with the needle.

“That hurt?”


After an hour and a second MD inspection, the decision is made to call off the trenching, try some drops (sulfuric acid?) for a couple days, then repeat.

“Looks to be quite a bit of swelling and irritation now,” he states.

Well, well; reckon where in tarnation that come from?

A couple days would make it Saturday morning. During deer season! But I’ll get over it.

When I’m around 96.

For round two, I get my former opponent’s tag-team partner. I’ll give it my best shot, but it’s likely she’ll win by pin.

One look with the Maglite and her heads sweeps side to side. That ain’t good.

“You ready?” she asks.

“Yes ma’am. I just want that junk out and this ordeal over with.”

Bad move.

If you ol’ boys fishing downstream from Dublin are having problems running up on the rocks, I apologize; most of the Oconee is running out of my left ear.

And that’s the good news. The bad came when she started knitting.

Legend has it that the Sioux never flinched or made a sound while undergoing the terrors of the Sun Dance. That’s only because them medicine men running the show didn’t know nothing about no eardrums.

No matter how many times you’re admonished to “Be still!” when steel goes to rattling up against an irritated tympanic membrane, well, you just gotta go, brother!

What we needed was some type of restraint device.

For her.

Just kidding…

My thoughts went to something like a 1920s leather football helmet. Slap that on, strap it tight, wood-screw it to the wall to hold your head in place—you betcha—and let ‘er rip.

Which, in retrospect, was not a very good choice of words…

That Saturday morning—while I could have been on the side of a tree—it took another hour and a half to get… nowhere.

I’ve been called many things in my time. In my mind, the monicker that fits best is “realist.” I take things as they are, with very little gray area, and act accordingly.

So when the knitting needle’s final scrape almost caused me to fill my boot, I summoned a smile, looked up and said simply, “We’re done!”

She said nothing upon exiting the room; I’m guessing the look on my face was semi-unpleasant.

“We have some bleeding around the eardrum now, so I think we’re going to stop and have you see a specialist with more sophisticated equipment than we have here.”

Bigger knitting needle?

All I could do was bite off any bile, reason that they had done the best they could, and get ready for round three—in two weeks. I’ll let you know how things come out—or if they don’t.


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