The Contemplative Lifestyle

The Contemplative Lifestyle

June is a memorable month for those of us who are absorbed in history. June 6, 1944, marked the beginning of the end of World War II as the U.S. and its Allies landed at Normandy. Here soldiers sloshed ashore under protracted and coordinated German machinegun fire on the deadly but beautiful sandy beaches. Soldiers braved the onslaught and moved up the sand dunes, foot by deadly foot. American and Allied aerial fighters and bombers, along with famous glider troops, bombed and landed in Normandy fields of glory.

Pipes may not have been the most popular wartime smoke—cigarettes took that spot—but many a soldier enjoyed their pipes to relax when possible from the terror of war.

One of America’s legendary generals, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, was rarely seen without his famous corncob pipe, either wading onto the beachhead or behind a military desk.

It’s probably safe to say the famed general made Missouri Meerschaum in Washington, Missouri, the celebrated and historical manufacturer of the sweetly smoking cob, one of the most popular pipes on the planet. Missouri Meerschaum will celebrate its 155th Anniversary Sept. 28, 2024. Now, that’s worth a cob and a smoke!

And by the way, the highly decorated general served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.

Dunhill sent pipes to the troops in World War I but struggled to continue its production of pipes and tobacco during the blitz bombing of England by Germany in World War II. And Peterson Pipes of Dublin also contributed pipes to troops in the war effort, according to some reports.

What got me dredging up this moment in time is a recent visit to a Knoxville Pipe Club gathering at Smoky’s Tobacco & Cigars in Knoxville, TN. It’s a Pundit favorite haunt from the past.

Listening to members of the club exhort the wonders of pipes and tobaccos, even down to repairs, was a Master Class. It was also good to get the world’s problems settled a bit as well. Ahem!

And, of course, there was some jovial, all-around fun at the special room set aside by Smoky’s owner, Dave Watson. The Venue is a spacious room next door to the main bricks and mortar pipes, cigars, and tobacco store. It is a rentable space, in which pipe and cigar aficionados have plenty of room to hoist out their pipes and tobaccos. And perhaps a wee dram of something, which kicks off the stories in a good month for history, pipes, and tobaccos.

Now for a bit of enlightenment. If you haven’t followed Mark Irwin at Peterson Pipe Notes, then you are missing one of the finest pipe writers, historians, in the writing business today. Irwin focuses, naturally, on Peterson Pipes, but this clergyman, English major with two Ph.Ds. is in a league of his own. He is also a Doctor of Pipes, as well as holding those other impressive academic degrees.

Here is what Chuck Station at, one of my all-time favorite pipes and tobaccos writers,  has to say about Irwin and the Peterson Pipe Notes blog: “He’s pursued his hobby, and we have all benefited. An author, researcher, blogger, and endless source of information, he shares his passion and his work, and those who love Peterson pipes have struck sterling silver to have Mark among their ranks, while the ongoing dialog about pipes is improved thanks to the quality and expansive quantity of his contributions.”

Now, reading Stanion’s 2022 Mark Irwin: Doctor of Pipes and Peterson Researcher Extraordinaire  in Pipe Line, I also discovered so much more about Irwin and his cerebral pursuits. It is a must read for all of you history buffs, pipes, and tobacco lovers. Irwin’s blog turned 10 years old in May. A big achievement in the fast paced tik toking world of today.

Back to my original pursuit, Irwin created a fabulous PDF recording from his lecture at the 2024 Chicago pipe show. The title is The Life You Save May Be Your Own. Or, as Irwin completes this thought: “Pipe Smoking and the Contemplative Lifestyle.”

Honest, you will really enjoy this You Tube production by Irwin.

And now, it’s time for a Pipe Smoker of the Past:

I start with one of my old, special friends, the late historian-author Shelby Foote. I was fortunate over time to interview Shelby on several occasions, in person and by phone. He was always so informed and informative. Not to mention his Magnum Opus, the three-volume non-fiction trilogy, The Civil War: A Narrative.

My real joy was the opportunity to interview the famous Civil War historian and novelist in his Tudor-style home in Memphis, TN, in his bedroom-office, no less.

Shelby was born Nov. 17, 1916, in Greenville, Miss., and died June 27, 2005, in Memphis.

The Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things… It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads—Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative

A parting shot: If you have gotten this far along with the Pundit, it is obvious I am a devotee of history. I was highly influenced in college by English and history professors. Most of whom smoked pipes.

Two other profs—physics and philosophy—also smoked pipes. So, I picked up the pipe at an early age. It has been a constant companion since that time. Observing the fellows in Smoky’s was a renewing experience: watching pipe smokers enjoy their pipes and tobacco.

Some of them puffed easily and put down their pipes. Tapped the ash, filled with a few dried leaves of a favorite blend, relit, puffed, put down. Repeat.

It was a teaching example of how to smoke a pipe without puffing and scorching your tongue . It’s called enjoyment.

The “contemplative lifestyle.”

Josh Manis Smoky's Cigar Knoxville TN
Josh Manis in front of a display case full of beautifully-carved pipes, has been Smoky’s sales manager for five years. And just behind Josh is a wall board filled with fine cobs and pipes that Smoky’s has available for sale. (Photo: Fred Brown)

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