12Pups 1000th Post Ramble

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Preferred Member
Feb 9, 2014
Once in a great while I have to explain the difference between my job, "Writer," and "Author." I'm both, but what I excel at, my claim to "fame," so to speak, is writer. Often the credit for what I do goes to someone else. I "ghost-write" for them. Then I laugh and tell them the old joke that defines my career:
What's the difference between a writer and a park bench? -- A park bench can support a family.
It pays the mortgage, my truck loan, food and medical bills. I'm doing okay. And I wouldn't trade my freedom for anything. I mostly do technical pieces for the mining, construction and drilling industries. Lately I like to quip that, if gas prices don't go up soon, I won't be able to afford to fill up. The hit that the Big Four are taking has production down is killing my clients. While the Big Four can wait it out with their deep pockets, and are even BUYING oil at these prices, storing it away, until they recoup their losses in the future (you WILL see $4 and $5/gallon gas again someday), the equipment manufacturers are hunkered down, almost silent. And those are the folks who sign my paychecks. I know only that I have a job through Christmas... and that's good enough. I can always go back to writing for the government. They have deep pockets, too, and that's what I did before I fell into this.
I also define what I do by a metaphor one of my undergrad profs used to make. He called writers "dream guessers." And in some online venues, that's my nick: DreamGuesser." I learn what you want said, then I say it so well you sign your name to it as yours. And give me money.
He compared writers to the dream guessers of a tribe in our area. Young men at about 12 years of age would go on a vision quest. Whether you believe they were struck with divine inspiration of the Great Spirit, or were just delusional after three or four days of going without food or water, they stumbled down into the tribe again from their isolated lookout on nature, and related their vision to the elders in the tribal council, closed session-like. One of the elders had the horrendous job of "guessing" the meaning of the vision. The other elders used wooden tongs to take embers from the tipi fire and pelt him with them until he did so convincingly. My hunch is, he was in a hurry -- as I am most days -- to get it right quickly.
That's what I do. I'm under the gun again tonight. After I leave this forum I'll be enclaved until I come up with a 1,200-word piece on a blasthole drill that a mine bought, which must win approval of the equipment manufacturer, and the mine, and my own company bosses. And all the captions for the photos I took Whew!
But I also knew I was close to the 1,000th post milestone. And I wanted to make it good.
With that said... the following is my Pipesmagazine 1000th post -- not guessed, but lived. Offered as author, not writer.



Preferred Member
Feb 9, 2014
Just off the Mesabi Iron Range of northern Minnesota, halfway home on a nine-hour drive, I saw an irresistible rest stop off MN HWY 23. I needed a smoke, and I wanted just the right venue for my last bowl of Standard Tobacco Co. War Horse.
Knowing I would do something exactly like this, I had studied the coffee decanters at the Holiday Inn Express that morning before checkout in Mountain Iron, Minnesota. I had learned during the week that they weren't identical. The first shot I squirted into my cup had some bubbles on top, but they were kind of clear. I went for a top tier pot I figured was made earlier, which might be different from this watery blend. Nailed it. Thick brown foam on top.
I filled up my thermos. War Horse needs thick coffee.
An unfortunate consequence of my genetics and my age, I had to stop about every hour for a biological urgency. But it wasn't until this stop, three-and-a-half hours into the trip, that I found the right venue.
War Horse could wait for me to fulfill a biological priority. Strange little rest stop: there were "two" mens rooms (and two ladies). My forehead is wrinkling up again as I wonder about the reason for that. They added on? They did that by design? What the heck?
And then I went to a concrete picnic table nestled in between the fluffy pines at the edge of the parking. A light breeze was at my back. If you've never inhaled the air of northern Minnesota, I feel sorry for you. Writer's are limited to language, and language, as Howard Nemerov lamented, is just too damn limited for some things: "To know a thing is to know a secret, to hold the key to Blue Beard's room" -- or something like that (my Nemerov was destroyed in a flood, and this poem is not available, as far as I know, online). To try to put such a thing into words "overwrites the experience," becomes a new experience, a literary experience. The reality is lost. In other words, you have to experience it for yourself. You can't trust someone to tell it to you. It's one of the two things you should never trust anyone to describe to you. The other is the experience of a drink of cool water from the side of your canoe in the Knife Lake chain of the Boundary Waters.
Ambivalence. That's the best word for the moment you load your last bowl of War Horse into your trusty, venerable old briar, your first briar. It's a combination of anticipation and of regret. It's the last one, yet you can hardly wait to light it.
I made quite a ceremony of ensuring the pipe was clean and ready, the first tobacco in it was "just so," and then next, and the next, building my bowl in no hurry, but... anxious for it.
It had rained in the predawn hours, but sun poked through now and then, blessing my ritual with dappled lighting in the trees, golden light and dark pines and grass and the beautiful complexity of the table's concrete surface.
I lit it with my black Zippo pipe lighter, first letting the fluid smell dissipate, and then lowering it to the bowl, pulling with my draw just enough to lap the flame down to it here, and there, and there... and there... and here. Confident it was even, I clinked the Zippo shut and stowed it, pulled long and hard and blast out the first puff. Then settled in to enjoy. The cloud met the breeze, greeted it and rolled off, tumbling away into Minnesota ambiance, happy and free.
I had been alone at first, but other cars came and went as I sipped. Soft swirls now and then escaping, joining the breeze, as I watched drivers noticing me. Their gazes lingered. Minnesota is enough to take in on its own, but here was a rarity, a man smoking a pipe while drinking coffee. They don't see that often and were memorizing me as part of their road trip experience, wherever they were bound for.
Cars with boats and canoes, trucks with boats and canoes, came and left. Drivers got out and stretched. Others got out and sprinted for the restrooms urgently. A few just stood and talked among themselves. All of them noticed ... me ... though I was far and to the side of the activity.
Sipping at the War Horse, then sipping at the thick coffee, I closed my eyes and paid attention to what was happening in my mouth. Again... as before... War Horse spilled its pipe tobacco flavor below and around my tongue, welling there, waiting. And the coffee parachuted down onto my tongue, washed over the sides, greeted it, shook hands, and went to work covering my palate. Every micron of palate. A palate-saturating team.
This was the first time I let War Horse nearly go out. I was taking it slow. But I carefully teased it to smoke again. Then let it nearly go out before teasing it up again. Equipping my palate with more coffee to accompany it, again.
Too soon, I could not tease it to life again. I tamped with my index finger. i tamped with my pinky. I tried relighting. Nothing. It was gone.
The tastes lingered in my mouth for many more miles down the road.
The best tobaccos are those that you still enjoy an hour after they're gone.



Preferred Member
Jan 8, 2013
As always, your posts intrigue and amaze me. I gues it's that writer thing, but man you can tell a story! Thanks for sharing that with us, it was a solid 1000th post, and a fantastic read.



Preferred Member
Mar 22, 2014
That was beautiful. If I had tried writing about that experience, it would have been along the lines of: "I stopped by the side of the road to pee and then smoked some Warhorse and drank some coffee".



Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
Pretty cool way to share what you do along with hitting a good milestone. Good job man, hope the economy picks up for yours and my sake... hell for everyones sake.



Preferred Member
Oct 25, 2013
I was right there with you...actually that's generally all I require of an author/writer come to think of it!