This piece is about me and my snuff-dipping oral surgeon and professor cousin Roy Kindrick. I hope somebody gets a hoot out of it.
I had to look it up to be sure. A maxillofacial surgeon is a medical expert in face, mouth, and jaw surgery.
That’s my first cousin and lifelong friend, Dr. Roy D. Kindrick, a snuff-dipping dental specialist and assistant clinical professor in the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Texas A&M University College of Dentistry and Baylor University Medical Center Oral and Maxillofacial Residency Program.
This is a mouthful, I know, but there is plenty more.
Roy’s home and oral and maxillofacial surgical practice has long been in Denton, but his roots go all the way back to the South Llano River and the Kimble County seat of Junction where our fathers grew up.
Maybe Roy’s propensity for Copenhagen snuff (and now a brand from Sweden called General Snus) is an inherent curse (or gift) from the cedar brake land of our fathers. He has a dental pedigree too long for inclusion in this article, but his insistence that smokeless tobacco is relatively harmless has earned him no small number of advocates and detractors alike.
It might seem odd to some that a medical man in high esteem would give any tobacco product much better than an iodine bottle picture designation, but Roy even wrote and self published a book titled A Guide For Smokeless Tobacco Users.
Roy’s father Bennett Kindrick and my father Grady Kindrick were brothers. My dad died of complications from pneumonia and a ruptured appendix before I was a year old while Roy’s father, my Uncle Ben, lived to the ripe old age of 97. His wife, my Aunt Eleanor, made it to 90. And Roy’s older brother, my cousin Freddy Kindrick, died at age 63.
Freddy Kindrick’s working career included time with the Denton State School, Gatesville State School for Boys, and the Gatesville Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. For a brief period, Freddie played bass with Jim Ed, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown. Everyone loved Freddy.
Roy and I have both shared the agony of losing sons at early stages of life–first my son Grady and then Roy’s son Ben. Clinical depression is not a theory. It is real and it kills.
Inspiration for this piece stems from a recent email I received from Roy, a nostalgic lament spurred by my decision to end publication of Action Magazine with the January issue, and with Roy’s recent decision to hang up the scalpel.
The lionized and distinguished oral surgeon and university professor from North Texas is preparing to start a new life chapter in good spirits, and here is what he wrote me:
“I read your last issue with a heavy, but contented heart. We are both heading into our sunset years together. August 27th will be my last day in clinic. On that day I will know exactly how you feel. I really dread giving that last anesthetic, last incision, last suture, Postop. instructions, Rx, and thank you. I know that in spirit you will be there for me. Thanks for leading the way and being the man and mentor that you are for me.
Glad to hear you are doing well with your fight against cancer. You are one tough guy. Pat & I pray for you and Sharon every day.
We love you,
For those interested in some background, Roy’s father and my uncle Ben Kindrick served until his retirement as superintendent of the State School for Boys at Gatesville long before the facility became the womens prison it is today.
When the Kindrick boys reached aduthood, Junction lawyer and Kimble County rancher Coke Stevenson was elected governor of Texas, and Coke used his position of power to help some of the Junction young people into state jobs. Miller Bennett (Ben) Kindrick was one of them.
Uncle Ben started as a business manager at the state reformatory for boys. He took to the job with true compassion and love for the kids, working his way up to assistant superintendent and then to the superintendent position. And many an oldtimer in the state school system will remember Bennett Kindrick as the man responsible for elimination of overly harsh and often cruel disciplinary practices which had been in place for years.
I spent several summers as a kid visiting the Kindrick household at Gatesville and playing with my cousins and inmates at the school, and I recall Uncle Ben eliminating the feared “Bustin’ Block” at the state reformatory. It consisted of a mattress where the offender was placed face-down and bare-assed and then “busted” with a heavy razor strop. When he was appointed superintendent, Uncle Ben’s first official act was to stop the whippings.
Some of the inmate boys learned to love Ben Kindrick. They all respected him.
There were three boys and one girl in my father’s family–Ur Dee (Turk) Kindrick, the oldest and longtime postmaster in Junction who was born Feb. 2, 1897; Anga Lillian, born Oct. 16, 1898; my father Exa Grady, born Feb. 3, 1904, a trader, golfer, and business whiz who owned a trucking business, a grocery store, and the Telegraph Ranch on the headwaters of the South Llano River when he died; and Miller Bennett Kindrick, born May 24, 1908.
My father Grady died on an operating table at San Antonio’s Nix Hospital after being rushed there from Junction by a slow moving car of that time.
Only girl in the family was my aunt Lillian Kindrick,the Kimble County beauty who died in a one-car rollover with Coke Stevenson’s attorney brother Bascomb Stevenson at the wheel.
Bascomb Stevenson and Lillian Kindrick were engaged to be married when she died in the wreck. Of the two attorney brothers, Bascomb and Coke, it was Bascomb who was always considered the biggest brain. He was also the heaviest drinker and many said he was probably drunk when Lillian died. Bascomb was unhurt in the wreck.
My mom, Bernice Kindrick, was a Chenault. The Chenault and Kindrick kids all attended school in Junction.
So here we are, the maxillofacial oral surgeon and professor who has spent his life dipping snuff and putting broken faces back together, and his outlaw journalist cousin who hasn’t worn a set of handcuffs (or used alcohol or dope) since October 16, 1989.
My plan is to keep on writing, starting with an online presence which may be a continuation of the Action Magazine website, and only God knows what else. I guess old chicken snakes are hard to kill.
I asked Roy if he is still dipping Copenhaagen snuff. I feared that he would crush me with some sort of pussified capitulation speech about how he has reconsidered and repented of his evil habit since publication of his book on safely using smokeless tobacco.
My fears were unfounded and I knew all was well when Dr. Kindrick emailed me his answer:
“I use General Snus pouches. It is imported from Sweden. Read about it at generalsnus.com. It is sun cured rather than smoke cured (less carcinogens). My favorite is the General Snus White.”
Then the doctor wound it up:
“Anything enjoyable seems to carry risks. I probably should lie and say I am not a user. Don’t let me be a bad influence. How did you know? You are amazing.”
When I went to the General Snus website the big bold warning was atypical: This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss!
Doctor Roy wouldn’t give a bear the road. I know that he will find plenty to do and that both of us will be okay. Retirement is just a word and years are only numbers.