A Rainy Night
    July 7th, 2015

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
She was a cute one, this girl at the bar.
She wasn’t a real beauty, but just the right amount of dimple in her cheeks made her irresistible. And irresistible was good enough for me. Long wavy blonde tresses cascading across her shoulders with a smart black and red hat pinned off to one side gave her a classy look. She wore a simple black knee length dress and had her coat draped across her shoulders.

As I stepped up to the bar next to her I saw a small, straight billiard in her left hand. Drawing on it slowly, her eyes lost to some memory, she sent small clouds of smoke over her head. On the bar in front of her sat a glass of white wine. A Chardonnay perhaps, or a Chenin Blanc. Then I noticed the bottle of Char in a bucket of ice sitting on the back bar. A cute dame, all alone, preparing to drink a whole bottle of wine and smoking a pipe. The night might not turn out too bad after all. Seeing me, the bartender walked over. "I’ll have a whiskey, please," I said.

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Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
I’m sure we have all read tobacco reviews,
as well as wine and beer reviews. Pipes Magazine posts some great ones that I know I have benefited from. This is where I learned about Bosphorus Cruise, which I love. Most of the reviews I have read here have been down to earth and make sense when you read them. But haven’t we all read reviews that were pretentious at best. Reviews that told us our wine should taste like bacon and our tobacco like bramble. Bramble? Who knows what bramble tastes like? And how do you get bacon flavored wine? Can they really taste those things?

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Cruising The Information Highway
    May 12th, 2015

Marshall “Butch” Armstrong
Getting in touch with people who enjoy
the same things you do has been made almost effortless these days because of the internet. Those of us who where born in the dark ages before the time of computer enlightenment know that this wasn’t always so easy. Today there is an online group or website for virtually anything you’re interested in from dating services to cooking websites to politics and religion. Not only websites but groups and forums too, where the average person can get involved in asking questions, offering their own viewpoints, and giving and receiving new and old ideas. The entire world lies just at your fingertips provided you have an internet connection and a computer or smartphone.

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A Beautifully Crafted Pipe
    April 7th, 2015

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
Over this past Winter, my wife Ann has been busy painting.
She’s an amateur artist who likes to paint nature scenes. Her paintings show the graceful lines and shapes of our natural world. Recently I watched nine Eagles on what’s left of our lake ice, fishing for minnows. As one of them suddenly lifted off into the air, it’s wings showed the beautiful rounded arching shapes of the individual feathers. Works of art, especially taken from nature, always enhance a persons life, whether they are paintings, sculpture, or a finely crafted smoking pipe. Looking at my own pipes, and those of pipe makers online, you can easily see the graceful and even sensuous lines carved and shaped into many of them.

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Tobacco Dreams
    March 5th, 2015

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
I had a restless night last night and didn’t get much sleep.
Too many things on my mind I suppose, and so today I kept nodding off. I went out to the garage to smoke some Balkan blend that I have, (I love that Oriental tobacco) and fell asleep in my smoking chair! When I came in I thought I’d try to get a little writing done. The computer I write on is on an old desk in my dining room which is about 18 X 18 feet. (I live in a big old farmhouse.) I sat for awhile to think about what I wanted to write and nodded off again! I don’t think I was out long and when I raised my head I had my pipe in my mouth. And it was lit and smoking.

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On Pipe Smoking
    February 9th, 2015

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
Have you ever thought about pipe smoking?
It must seem like a silly question. Of course we think about pipe smoking. We think about it every day. We think about our down time when we can enjoy that next bowl. We think about which tobacco we’re going to smoke next, and which pipe we’ll use. But what I’m getting at goes deeper than that. Have you ever really thought about why you smoke a pipe? This may seem a bit esoteric but I hope not. I think there are deeper reasons why we smoke pipes that we rarely think about. On the surface we like smoking a pipe because of the taste of the tobacco, because we want to try new pipes and new flavors. Because we like to share what we have with others. Because we want to collect pipes and tobaccos. But I still think there are other reasons we smoke that don’t always come to mind. Maybe some of those reasons don’t translate well into words. I’m thinking of contemplative and meditative reasons for smoking a pipe.

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The Great Northern Pipe Club
    January 6th, 2015

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
The sun is shining, the temperature is 10° F/-13° C, the roads are covered with snow and the lakes are frozen over. It’s winter in Minnesota and I am headed to St. Paul for the Great Northern Pipe Club’s monthly meeting. (I like the name. It reminds me of the "Great Northern Railroad" which was started by James J. Hill who lived in St Paul. You can tour his mansion here.) I’ve been thinking about going for quite a while now but St. Paul is over 50 miles from where I live so I haven’t done it yet. Well, it’s finally time. My friend Ted, of "Vig Guitars," also in St. Paul, invited me up, so here I go. The Great Northern Pipe Club meets on the third Sunday of the month at the Golden Leaf Tobacco shop on West 7th street near downtown St. Paul, and the meetings are open to everyone. It took about 50 minutes to get there and another ten to find a place to park that I didn’t have to pay for. The Minnesota Wild hockey team are playing at home today so the streets are filled. The wind is up and it’s cold out here.

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Dreams Of Old Virginia
    December 4th, 2014

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
It sounds like a book title, doesn’t it, "Dreams of old Virginia?" For all I know, it could be, but for the purposes of this article it has to do with the smoking of Virginia tobacco. I was browsing through the forums here at Pipes Magazine.com and found one titled, "The art of smoking Virginias." The entries were very interesting. Before I decided to write this article I had only smoked Dunhill Virginia Flake. My friend Ted ( check out his Facebook page here) gave me a tin and I didn’t like it the first time I tried it because it seemed to be so mild that there wasn’t much flavor. After smoking it a few more times I started to enjoy it. Then I read the forum posts and realized that there were a lot of subtleties to a Virginia Flake. I came up with a plan to find out more about this intriguing tobacco. I would buy a few different brands of Virginia Flake and smoke nothing but those for a couple of weeks to find out what they were all about. Sound like fun? Well it was and I learned quite a bit.

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Smoking Outdoors In Minnesota
    November 4th, 2014

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
It takes a brave person to smoke a pipe outside when it’s below zero.
Or is that a foolish person? I don’t know. Whether brave or foolish, and sometimes they’re one and the same, that person is me. I smoke outside. My wife doesn’t smoke and we have our grandkids out here often so I respect that and don’t smoke in the house . During spring, summer and fall it’s not a problem but winter is another matter altogether. In Minnesota, winter is a force to be reckoned with. Last winter we had more than forty days when the temperature dipped below zero. We cannot do or plan anything in winter without considering the weather. If we do, we’re courting disaster. Storms can happen with little warning, whipping into a blizzard with white out conditions within an hour. On Halloween day 1991, the temperature rose to over 50 degrees during the early afternoon and by time the day was done we had over 30 inches of snow on the ground. It can make pipe smoking outside interesting to say the least.

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Rules? What Rules?
    August 7th, 2014

Russ Ouellette
In my early twenties I was fortunate to become friends with Mel Feldman,
who owned The Smoker in Albany, NY. Mel was kind enough to spend hours talking to me about blending tobacco, which led to some admittedly amateurish attempts at creating my own mixtures. With a little perseverance my work became good enough that we offered a few of my blends at The Pipe Den, also in Albany. They did reasonably well. Well enough, in fact, that some of them were used by other stores in the chain. As I did more blending, I tried to codify things so I had firm guidelines to follow.

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