A Grand Day! (Part 4)
[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to the first "A Grand Day!" essay. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]
Fortunately for me, my father had numerous pipes in his collection. In his den, in fact, he had one pipe rack on his desk that was filled with his most frequently used briar pipes, and he had another drawer in a cabinet that had many other, more worn, less frequently used pipes. I figured this would be a good place for me to look and perhaps "borrow" one for a while. Additionally, while my father carried a tobacco pouch with him at all times, he also had several cans (canisters) of his favorite pipe tobaccos on one shelf of his several bookshelves also in his den. It would be fairly simple to open one of the canisters and to remove a small pinch of the golden brown crumbles of leaf.
On a day much like today, cloudy and threatening rain, I did just that. My father was beginning to teach summer school for those students who did not pass one or more of their courses during the regular school year, and so he was away most days. I was just at the start of my summer vacation after third grade (I started school young), and my mother was quite busy with household work (laundry, keeping up the house, etc) and taking care of my younger siblings, so I had a great deal of flexibility and free-time to explore and have fun.
As I stated earlier, the woods way in the back of our property were a true joy for me and I often spent hours and hours out there searching for various forms of wildlife. But today I had a different mission in mind for out in the woods.
While my mother was in the nursery, I quietly snuck in to my father's den, and opened the drawer and withdrew one of the pipes. It was a bit dusty, the walnut finish was quite dull and rubbed off in spots where my father had held it numerous times, and the edges of the opening of the bowl were battered and rounded from hundreds of times my father knocked out the ashes either into the large glass ashtray on his desk, some other ashtray elsewhere, or if outside, on the heel of his shoe or onto the palm of his hand when he finished. The bowl must have become somewhat brittle and weakened from use as well, for on one side of the bowl a small section of the rounded opening was missing, looking as if it had broken away giving the bowl a crooked, askewed countenance. However, to me, the pipe seemed majestic and beautiful and utterly amazing.
I slid this beautiful beast of a pipe into the pocket of my dangerous (jeans for you younger folks) and then quickly went to the bookshelf lined with various pipe tobaccos. Having always been partial to the colors of orange and red, I quickly gravitated to the canister of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco... in an orange & black canister, and grabbed a small pinch of the leaf and gripped it tightly in my small fist.
As I quietly ventured out of his den, I hollered loudly so my mother would hear "Im going to go to the woods to play!" and I heard a muffled, but positive reply from my mother in the nursery as I went into the kitchen. I reached up on the wall by the stove and withdrew one of the wooden kitchen matches and slid it also into my pocket. I then bounded through the door out into the backyard.
It took me only a few minutes to reach the woods at the far back of the yard. I then took one of the several paths I had made over the years, this one ended deep into the woods at a small tree platform I had been working on most of the Spring. It would over subsequent years become a fairly grand sized and entertaining tree house that I and several buddies of mine built together. But this early summer day it was simply a comfortable platform about 15 feet off the ground. I climbed the wooden boards I nailed to the trunk of the tree and was soon comfortably seated on my platform.
As I looked at the pipe, I grew more excited and nervous with each passing moment. In my eyes, that decrepit, battered beast of a pipe was majestic, beautiful, and utterly impressive. I uncupped my left fist and held the small pinch of tobacco in my palm. With a nervous and shaking hand, I took some of the leaf out with my fingers from my right hand and dropped it into the bowl of the pipe. I was sitting in such a way that I could hold the bowl of the pipe between my feet, my tennis shoes gently holding the bowl in position. I kept adding leaf to the bowl until it seemed full enough. Luckily for me, the pinch of tobacco leaf I had grabbed was rather small, so I was able to put all of the leaf into the bowl.
It was so beautiful looking, I was truly in awe of the pipe and leaf. Slowly and carefully I brought the stem of the pipe to my mouth and gripped the stem with my teeth. It felt rather hard and cumbersome, not with the comfortable, contented look I saw on my father's face as he gripped the pipestem between his teeth. But still, it the feeling, though strange was wonderful to me. The stem itself, slightly beige at the tip from use, had a slightly acrid flavor that I did not recognize at the time but still I enjoyed its texture.
I likely sat there for the better part of a half hour looking at and touching, smelling, and experiencing the look and feel of the pipe. Finally after a bit of my nervousness subsided, I withdrew the wooden kitchen match from my pocket. Having watched my father use a similar kitchen match out-of-doors frequently, I knew I needed to strike the match against the side of a rock. Luckily I had been carrying many different rocks up to the platform of the last few weeks so that was not a problem.
The weather had started to grow a bit cooler and I could feel a gentle mist starting. I thought to myself that I had better hurry, for it was going to rain heavily, very soon. Growing nervous again, I held the match up against the rock and slid it against the rough surface as I had seen my father do countless times. As I slid the match, I expected it to fire to life quickly, but nothing happened. Perhaps I needed to do it more strongly? So using more force, I slid the match against the rock again. This time the head of the match snapped off the matchstick and feel between the planks of the platform to the ground below.
[Another good stopping point for now. Comments or suggestions are always appreciated.]