The Spitting Image

Posted on January 25, 2014 under Storytelling with no comments yet




We are all well aware of the evils of smoking, so let me assure you that I am not about to preach to you.  I have smoked just about every legal substance and a few that weren’t.  But that’s all in the rear view mirror now.  I haven’t smoked anything in well over thirty five years and am not likely to resume this habit so late in life.

My first memory of smoking was literally at my grandfather’s knee, as he lit a pipe filled with the original blend of Amphora tobacco.  It’s hard to describe how sweet and wonderful the smell was.  Today I am certain I could pick it out easily while blindfolded.

I shared my very first cigarette with my father.  Left to my own devices, I would have eventually discovered tobacco at school but my dad was blessed with wisdom.  He beat me to the punch.  He offered me an unfiltered Buckingham cigarette as a young teen and encouraged me to smoke it to the bitter end.  It was ten years before I pulled a stunt like that again.

I also had my first beer with my father.  I didn’t wait another ten years before trying my second.

I smoked anything that I could get my hands on in university.  It was just the thing to do back then.  I can’t remember if I inhaled but who cares.  I won’t be running for public office anytime soon.

It wasn’t until I took a fishing trip to Newfoundland that I discovered the wonders of chewing tobacco.  A group of us, including my brother-in-law and his old uncle Mike, headed out to a pond to do some “trouting”.  And it was foggy.  So much so that when we arrived at one of several thousand ponds in the area we had to hold hands to make sure that we didn’t get lost.  We were on our way to the Promised Land.  Mike was our fearless leader.  He had an inner GPS long before these devices were invented.  Even when we arrived at the first lake, you had to squint through the mist in order to see the water.

I had all of the modern gear.  Uncle Mike had a huge bamboo pole that made a whooshing sound as he cast his line.  He pulled in a beauty on his first cast and his catch that day was of biblical proportions.  I was standing no more than two feet away and hadn’t gotten a single bite.  Exasperated beyond belief, I turned to Mike for help.  He looked over my rod and its’ setup and quickly discovered the problem.  I hadn’t put any chewing tobacco spit on the worm.  Of course.  How stupid of me.  With two university degrees to my credit, surely I would have learned this somewhere along the line.  Success was instantaneous.

Later that evening as the fishing crew consumed copious amounts of Screech, Mike suggested that I try some chewing tobacco.  I eagerly embraced the notion and put a plug in my cheek … just like Mike.  I think the brand was Copenhagen.  I didn’t read the instructions on the package and I couldn’t understand a word Mike said … sober or under the influence, his accent being so thick.

Mike’s house was near the ocean and a steep cliff abutted his property.  After swallowing the juice from a massive plug, I hurried to the edge of the cliff and prayed for a stiff breeze to come up to put me out of my misery.

There was a lady from Guysborough who had a similar experience.  Fran came from a family of sixteen and her father chewed tobacco.  She absolutely loved the smell of it.

Her father was a hard worker and an outdoorsman.  Keeping a supply of firewood in the house at all times was necessary.  No scrap of fuel went unused.  And so it was that her father was cutting up some pieces of wood on the old sawhorse.  Cutting and balancing a long, slender piece of pine board was a nuisance and he was having a bit of trouble

Fran peered out the window and understood his plight in an instant.  She also saw a package of her father’s chewing tobacco on the counter and decided to help herself to a chaw.  She filled her face with a plug, put on her boots and headed out in the yard to lend a hand.  By the time she got to the sawhorse, the juice from the tobacco was sloshing around in her mouth.  The ground was covered in three feet of pure white snow.

Her father, appreciating the help, thanked her.  She was about to respond with “You’re welcome!”, but that would have required opening her mouth.  Her cheeks were now nearly overflowing with tobacco juice and saliva.  She made a run for the house, not daring to expel the black juice on the white blanket of snow, for surely the jig would be up.

She entered the pantry and spied her mother in the kitchen.  With no other options or escape routes, she swallowed everything, tobacco plug and all.  This was followed by a mad dash to the bathroom.

It didn’t take long for a volcano similar to Mt. Vesuvius to erupt.

Occasionally people tell me that I’m the spitting image of my grandfather.  Hopefully they haven’t heard about my exploits with chewing tobacco, picturing me instead seated calmly with pipe in hand.


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