Woodworking: My smoking history began as a cheap, resourceful scavengerThe more things change, the more things remain the same, as the French say.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
The more things change, the more things remain the same, as the French say.
That came home for me recently when I journeyed to one of our town’s newest businesses, “Cheap Smokes” on North Main Street and bought a carton of cigarettes.
So what’s so old fashioned about that?
Well, the way it works is you walk into the store. A clerk shows you five bins of loose pipe tobacco, ranging from mild to strong.
At the suggestion of a friend who already shops there, I chose the “medium.”
The clerk scooped up enough tobacco to make ten packs of cigarettes. She led me and the tobacco to a machine and helped me feed in the tobacco.
Out the other end came ready-made cigarettes, each with a filter. And then I paid her $29 and went off with a shoebox full of cigarettes.
As a nicotine addict on a fixed income this meant a lot because regular cigarettes these days cost about $8 per pack, or $14.50 per pack if you live in the center of the universe, New York City.
So what’s so old fashioned about that? you may repeat.
The whole experience reminded me of 65 years ago when my cousin Billy Steig and I decided we wanted to start smoking.
We both lived in grandma and grandpa’s big house, behind which was a patch of grandpa’s sweet corn.
Every afternoon, Billy and I snuck in with a Quaker Oatmeal box and collected dried corn silk from the husks that hung heavy on the stalks. Then we stored the oatmeal box under the floorboards of the barn by the house.
When the box was full, we purloined several pages of Grandmas’ Winona Republican-Herald and rolled ourselves some corn silk “cigarettes.”
Down to the golf course we ran to try out our swag. We sat in the rough between hole #2 and the Trempealeau River and lit up.
UGH! Boy, they tasted awful. We tossed the box in the river and came home for supper.
I’m not suggesting that the new Cheap Smokes cigarettes taste bad. They are quite delicious and apparently healthier than commercial cigarettes because they lack the lethal chemical injections that is given to cigarette tobacco.
I only mean to suggest the act of rolling your own cigarettes brings back the follies of youth.
After the corn-silk fiasco, we were undaunted. First we smoked dried marsh weeds that had a pithy interior, with a pinhole up the middle.
That worked quite well until Bergie took a huge drag and an ember raced up the pinhole and burned his tongue.
So then we tried corncob pipes stuffed with coffee purloined from grandma’s pantry. Bad idea.
One day Richard Hanson came with one of his grandpa’s tossed aside pipes and smoked “Indian tobacco.” We were desperate, so we got more pages of the Republican Herald, cut them in pieces, spit on them and rolled them tightly, lit them up and puffed.
For all I know I still have a headline printed on my lung. Enough of that.
Fortunately, my father was an inveterate smoker and left cigarette butts in ashtrays all over the house. These were the days before filters, so my brother Doug and I recognized a mother lode of tobacco when we saw it.
When our parents were out on the town, we hunkered down at home, brought out more slices of Republican-Heralds stuffed with Lucky Strike butts, ashes and all, a little spit.
We lit up and puffed on these huge cigs and listened to Sam Spade on the radio.
My romance with rolling my own didn’t stop there.
When I was in graduate school, cigarettes went up to the astronomical price of 40 cents a pack. Something had to be done.
The grad assistants in the English Department at Bowling Green chipped in and we bought three Bugler tobacco rollers, a carton of Zig-Zag cigarette papers in the days before pot smokers cornered that market, and big bags of Bugler tobacco.
This is no joke. We actually had cigarette-rolling parties.
We’d buy a case of Buckeye Beer for $3, awful stuff, and get right down to rolling our own. We’d roll hundreds of cigarettes, split them up and put them in cigarette packages we had saved from an earlier era.
This worked fine, unless the glue gave way and we ended up with a package of loose tobacco and twenty fluttery Zig-Zags.
And that brings us back to the present.
I like my new cheap cigarettes, but I don’t have any packages to put them in. I finally found an empty L & M hard pack in a drawer, and I’ve been stuffing it with cigarettes I store in a box in our freezer.
But the hard pack box is all mushed up and the last time I pulled out a cigarette, all I got was a filter and some empty paper.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.