By Bob Tate
You are probably wondering why I named this ‘My Christmas Pipe’ when May has barely begun. Well, read on and you’ll find out.
The summer of 1996 was the year when I started to really want to get into pipes. I was 22 at the time and for reasons that I can not explain, I was really attracted to pipes and pipe smoking. I always have been. Maybe it was my grandfather who smoked a pipe or all of the old advertisements of pipe smoking and Norman Rockwell pictures that just screamed of a simpler time when a man could relax with his thoughts and a good pipe and let all the troubles of the world slip away. I had mentioned my interest to my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time (we lived together), and got the typical response.
She looked at me with that ‘Are You Serious?’ look that all men know, and get frequently, from their significant others and said;
“Only old men smoke pipes.”
“Well, what about all of the men of the 20’s through the 50’s? They weren’t all old men.” I countered.
I mentioned the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, etc. Well she really didn’t say anything more about it and neither did I. Life went on and I got busy, but every now and then I would go back to my thoughts about getting a pipe. Then autumn came and the urge really kicked in. There is just something about the cold and snow around the holidays that just invoke visions of pipe smoking in my mind. My grandfather smoked a pipe and every time the holidays came around I remember the smell of his cherry blend that he smoked. I was too young to know what exact blend it was, but it was definitely cherry.
Christmas day came and we were opening our gifts to each other before we went to our parents’ houses. We had opened everything and were getting dressed to leave when she stopped me and said with a grin,
“I almost forgot, you have one more gift.”
“Well, it can wait until later; after we get back home.” I said.
“No.” She responded, “I want you to open it now.”
We headed back to the living room where she dug out a few more packages that she had hidden. I looked at the packages curiously and said,
“I thought that you said one more gift.”
“Well, it all goes together.” She said.
So I began to open them up. She had given me a pipe, along with some tobacco, a tamper, and all the goodies that you need! Needless to say I was very excited. I couldn’t believe it! It was a small 3/4 bent Dr. Grabow Duke and the tobacco was a drug store brand. It was great! I was counting the minutes for us to get home that night so I could light up my very first pipe.
I wish I could say that it was an enjoyable experience, but other than the aroma, it wasn’t. I experienced every problem that beginning pipers have, from not being able to keep it lit to severe tongue bite. I knew nothing about pipe smoking and there were no B&M’s (Brick and Mortar Tobacconist Shop) around where I lived. Heck, I didn’t even know what a B&M was at that time. The internet didn’t really exist back then, so I had no source of information to learn from. I struggled with it for a few weeks and then I just put everything in a desk drawer and left it there. I am sure this has happened to countless other people when they first tried a pipe. They had no way of learning so they just gave up without ever finding the pleasures of pipe smoking.
In the summer of 2005, I was going through some old stuff and found that old Dr. Grabow pipe and tobacco. My interest was immediately sparked again. This time I was armed with the internet and found out tons of information. I learned what a B&M (Brick & Mortar Retail Tobacconist Shop) was and found a couple of them that are in my area. That is when my true pipe journey began and I have been an avid pipe smoker since then. I wish that I had persevered the first time and learned how to properly smoke a pipe. I can’t believe that I lost out on so many years of the enjoyment and relaxation that pipe smoking brings. I have built my collection of pipes and tobacco up since that day, but I still have that Dr. Grabow “Christmas” pipe.
I will always have it.
It has a special place in my rack that can not be replaced by even the most expensive, best smoking pipe on earth.