Category: Archive

Irish Countryside: The pipes are calling

February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John B. Keane

For a while after I gave up cigarettes, I apprenticed myself to pipe-smoking. I could make no fist of it, so one day while watching a local football final I took my pipe from my mouth and flung it in disgust in the general direction of the referee.

Since then I have left pipes to those who know how to smoke them. However, let us now list, for the benefit of the student, some of the many ways in which pipes are misused by those who smoke them and those who pretend to smoke them. If I overlook some of the more glaring misuses, it is because I am by nature a soft-hearted and well-meaning chronicler who wishes ill-will to no one and who would not like to make a show, as it were, of certain guilty parties in front of their wives and families.

There is in every community a man, sometimes more than one, who lives in perpetual fear of being assaulted. There may be good reason for his fear, but whatever the cause he believes that footpads, thugs and others of evil intent are waiting for him behind every telephone pole, in every open doorway, around every corner and even under the bed in his own home. This is the sort of innate fear that breeds its own particular defense mechanism. So what does our friend do? He buys a pipe and every time he ventures out of doors he places the pipe firmly between his teeth. The idea is to suggest, through his bared fangs, that he is not to be molested. It does not matter if the smoke gets in his eyes or if his tongue is a mass of blisters from the excessive drawing.

His likely enemies are wary of him while he has the pipe in his gob. His lips are drawn back from the two rows of clenched molars and there is a snarly look about him that is almost wolfish in its ferocity.

At heart he is as windy as an overblown balloon, but lesser men get out of his way as he strides through the streets with tobacco smoke billowing behind him. The problem here is that sooner or later, he will foolishly believe that he is as tough as he looks and risk a collision with a man who is either too shortsighted or too stubborn to get out of his way. A man with a pipe in his mouth is easy meat in a clash of bodies. The pipe automatically leaves the mouth at the moment of impact and as a result our friend is without his armor for the rest of his journey.

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Let us now look at the man, who taps his pipe against the heel of his shoe. A man who does this is one of two things. He is an incompetent and daring bluffer or a very proficient fellow indeed. Since there is and always has been a woeful deficiency of very proficient men in this world, we may safely presume that the vast majority of those who tap the bowls of their pipes against the heels of their shoes are inefficient, incompetent and always late for appointments.

The tapping against the heel is to imply efficiency, to suggest to onlookers that the heel-tapper is a practiced pipe-user who has forgotten more about the art of pipe-smoking and pipe-handling than most ever learn and that because he is practiced at one thing it should follow as night follows day that he is practiced at everything.

Your heel-tapping pipe-smoker fools nobody and in the long run all he has to show is a broken pipe.

Let us now press on to a very rare type indeed. This is he who continually carries a pipe in his hand but never puts it in his mouth. Just when it seems certain that he is about to place it between his teeth he withholds it and waves it in one direction or another to indicate a point in time or a place in distance.

The case I would like to make is that he will use it for anything but smoking and this in the last analysis is the greatest misuse of all.

Before I close, let me parade another type before the reader. This man walks abroad with a pipe in his mouth and with his head in the air. Yet he is neither fearful nor alert for attack. He is just another proud man with new false teeth and he is using his pipe to bare them in public for the first time.

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