Smoke and Be Silent

            Traditionally, March has been one of my favorite months of the year. I must admit that it’s purely out of selfish reasons, as March is my birthday month.  Though most people will tell you it’s immature to be excited for your birthday; I’m still a kid at heart, so I can’t help but look forward to it every year.

            This year has been a bit of a downer, as I came down with a particularly nasty chest cold the Monday after my birthday. It’s the lingering kind of chest cold that’s persisted ever since— not strong enough to keep you in bed, but persistent enough to keep you from doing what you want to do. I’ve had multiple moments where I think it’s almost over, only for it to hang on like an unwanted guest. Even now, I’m still fighting the remnants of it.

            Originally I had a different blog post in mind, one that involved a bit of research. However, due to my cold, I ended up spending most of March indoors, putting my pipes and writing on the backburner while I recovered. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I don’t smoke when I’m sick. If I’m not feeling well, then I’m not going to waste good tobacco. As a result, I’m saving that post for a different month.

            I normally don’t have much of a chance to smoke outside during the daytime. Due to my job and household responsibilities, by the time I’m ready to write and have a pipe, it’s pitch black. However, with spring and the end of Daylight Savings, there’s more sunshine to work with when I get home from my commute. So today, when I arrived home after a long day, I decided I’d smoke a pipe before getting ready for dinner. My job is a bit mind numbing, so I needed a bit of a mental recharge.

            I changed out of my work clothes into something more comfortable and headed outside with pipe in hand. After going into my garage and lighting my pipe, I was ready to sit down with a book and read for a bit. However, as I glanced over towards the garage door and saw the sunshine peaking through, I made an abrupt change of plans.

            All winter long I’ve spent cooped up in my garage, huddled in front of my computer screen trying to stay warm. Now that spring’s here, the snow has melted away, and there’s a mild temperature outside. After months of the same environment, it was time to get some fresh air. So I snatched my pipe tool and lighter, and off I went for a short stroll.

            I took a walk down the driveway and into my backyard, which leads to a small channel and pier. Just last week, most of the channel was frozen over, but now there’s not a single trace of ice left on the water. I stepped on the pier and began walking around, puffing away as my mind drifted along with the smoke.

            I stood on the edge of the pier and glanced out over the water’s horizon, watching tree branches sway all around the channel. I could hear the cries of seagulls as they lazily landed on the water’s surface. Nature surrounded me on all sides without a single computer screen in sight. At that moment, I felt completely at peace, puffing contently on my pipe as I basked in the sunlight. After being stuck indoors for most of the month, I felt unshackled from the burdens of life and my current illness, relishing the freedom of being outdoors and enjoying the simple comforts of a pipe. Spring is known as the season of rebirth, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was reborn at that moment, but I felt alive.

            In my momentary reverie, I recalled the beginning to one of my favorite novels, The Wind in the Willows. In the first chapter, Mole is busy in his home working on some spring-cleaning. Tired of the banality of his surroundings, Mole escapes his home and charges down to the waterfront, where he becomes enamored with the world outside his humble home. Here, he meets the Water Rat, and the two form an instant friendship over an interest in boating. In that moment, Mole escapes his solitary life and begins a great adventure.

            No, I didn’t meet someone in a boat and go on an adventure myself, but I found myself relating to Mole at that moment. It’s easy to get sucked into a repetitive lifestyle, sticking to routine and never venturing outside. With our modern comforts, there’s a temptation to be passive and simply absorb artificial entertainment. As an introvert, I’m especially susceptible to these feelings, but a life spent indoors is a life wasted.

            Likewise, it’s easy to get into a routine with pipe smoking. For me, I can take my pipe to my garage and enjoy it there without much thought. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about that, but sometimes a change of scenery can add something to the smoke. Taking a stroll with a pipe won’t change the flavor of the tobacco, but adds to the experience.

            There’s a reason why there are multiple sayings about pipes and recharging the soul. For example:

            “A pipe is to the troubled soul what caresses of a mother are for her suffering child.” –Indian Proverb

“There is nothing like being left alone . . . to walk peacefully with oneself in the woods. To boil one’s coffee and fill one’s pipe, and to think idly and slowly as one does it.” –Knut Hamsun

“Smoke your pipe and be silent; there’s only wind and smoke in the world.” –Irish Proverb

The answer is simple, really. A pipe forces us to slow down and take in the world around us. As we puff our briars and cobs, we catch the little things that others pass by without thought. So next time you decide to fill your pipe, go somewhere different from your usual spot and take the scenery in for a while. Who knows, you just might gain a new appreciation for life.

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Until next time, happy piping!

-TheBadgerPiper

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The PAD and TAD Zone

            It happens to every pipe smoker eventually. You’ve bought a starter briar or cob, as well as a few ounces of a pleasant sounding aromatic. You’ve struggled with learning how to pack and light a pipe, as well as how to smoke it properly. You’ve watched a few youtube videos, maybe joined the Instagram pipe community or a pipe forum to learn the secret knowledge of the briar. You’ve joined in some conversations with fellow pipe smokers, perhaps even met up with a few to enjoy a bowl. Over time, the pipe becomes easier to smoke, and you’ve come to the decision that you want to stick with it.

Soon, that pouch of tobacco nears the bottom, and now you need to order the blend again. You’re no longer the cautious newbie looking for a way into the hobby; you’re a pipe smoker through and through. Maybe not a “pro” or a distinguished piper, but you’ve dipped you’re toes into the pastime, and now you want to spread your wings a little. You like that nice aromatic, but you’d like to try something else in addition to your favorite.

Other pipers have suggested other blends for you to try, blends with tobaccos that veer perhaps less in Cavendish and more in Virginia, Burley, Latakia, or even that mysterious Perique you’ve heard so much about.

It’s not just tobacco you’re looking for, either. That starter briar or cob has served you well, but perhaps it’s time to look into adding a second pipe to your rotation. After all, variety is the spice of life, and you’ve seen other pipers with all sorts of interesting briars and cobs in their collection. A straight Billiard is a solid shape, but there was a rugged bulldog pipe that caught your eye. Maybe you can find something similar on a pipe website.

So you log onto the page of your preferred pipe retailer of choice with that faithful credit card and start searching around. You have the name of a blend and shape of a pipe on your mind as you click around, astounded by the sheer amount of options before you. You add that blend into your cart, but in the process you spotted another one that had a name you recognized. Soon, the number on the cart icon at the top of the page increases as you add blend after blend, tin after tin, a bulldog pipe and a diplomat cob. You can’t buy every blend you find, so you jot down the names of blends in a document for next time.

By the time you’ve clicked the order button, you’ve gone way past your initial budget. You scratch your head in bewilderment, wondering just how you’ll explain to your significant other why the credit card bill is higher than normal.

How did this happen? Why are you suddenly investing in boxes of mason jars? Why are you already counting down the days until the next time you can place your order?

There’s no need to panic my friend. As your unlicensed and unofficial doctor, I can tell you the obvious diagnosis— you’ve taken the turn right into… the PAD and TAD Zone.

Image of the Twilight Zone belongs to CBS

            Do do do doo, do do do doo, do do do doo, do do do doo.

The Pipe Smoker’s Dictionary defines PAD and TAD as “Pipe Acquisition Disorder” and “Tobacco Acquisition Disorder” respectively. Symptoms include: dizziness, sweaty palms, daily visits to tobaccoreviews.com, memory loss upon viewing a pipe webstore, naming children and pets after pipe brands, and hallucinations of packages arriving on your doorstep. There is no known cure for PAD and TAD. Please do not consult a doctor if you recognize any of these symptoms, they can’t help you.

If you haven’t come down with a case of PAD or TAD, don’t worry, it’ll happen eventually. I’ve seen plenty of forum posts of pipers admitting to contracting PAD and TAD, and often the replies only encourage the sufferer to embrace their affliction.

I came down with PAD not long after I started smoking a pipe. At that point, I only had two briars to my name, and once I knew that pipe smoking was for me, I wanted to add more pipes to my collection. Granted, I had my eye on smoking a pipe for about two years by the time I started, so I had an idea of shapes and brands I wanted to purchase. Being a poor grad student kept me from buying new pipes, but I soon found an enabler by the name of eBay. Over time, I saved what money I could and snagged a few pipes (as long as they weren’t sniped from me…) at a cheaper price.

One of my first early purchases was a pipe rack, and let me tell you, pipe racks do not help with PAD. I’d have an evening smoke, place my pipe back on the rack, and notice the empty spots on the rack.

This won’t do, said the little voice in my head. I bet a nice Comoy would fit right alongside the others. So off I’d go onto eBay and I’d bid on a Comoy within my price range. After cleaning it up, I’d put it on the rack and be satisfied for the moment.

Then that nagging voice would come back once more.

You know, these five pipes are nice, the voice would say. But I’m so close to having a seven-day set. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pipe for each day of the week?

Two months later, two more briars filled the empty spots, with one pipe resting on it’s own.

Sure is a shame to leave that pipe all alone by itself, I heard the voice say. Better buy a few more racks to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Off I went to eBay, and won a lot of three pipe racks. That solved the problem! Or so I thought…

Over time, those empty spaces filled with briars, with empty beer steins holding the overflow of cobs and smaller briars in my collection. Now, one would think that PAD’s hold over me would finally break after collecting so many pipes, but that’s not the case. Even now, I find myself glancing over at eBay or a pipe store and think, well, one more couldn’t hurt…

However, much to PAD’s chagrin, there’s another voice that stops me from spending my hard earned cash on that new briar. Unfortunately for me, that other voice has ulterior motives and can be just as persuasive. That silky voiced tempter, if you haven’t guessed already, is known as TAD.

I’ve mentioned before that I got into pipe smoking over a fascination with pipes. When I started, tobacco was an afterthought. I spent so long agonizing over my first pipe that I realized I hadn’t even taken the time to pick out a tobacco to smoke in it. I had to make a completely separate order for pipe tobacco, as I didn’t even have a blend in the cart for my pipe purchase. I picked out a few aromatics and an English as my first order without giving it much thought.

It wasn’t until a year later when a friend of mine on the Christian pipe smokers forums sent me a huge sampling of tobacco to try. He had a pretty big cellar, and knew I had much to learn about pipe tobacco. Up to that point, I stuck with aromatics and the occasional English, only recently dipping my toes in other blends with MacBaren’s Navy Flake and Erinmore Flake. Thanks to his generosity, he opened my eyes to all types of blends, from flakes like Exhausted Rooster, to Kendal Plug. My palate changed accordingly, but that would mean investing in more blends. The TAD bug had latched its teeth on me, and it wasn’t about to let go.

I started off purchasing blends I enjoyed from my friend’s samples, such as Exhausted Rooster, Stockton, and Kendal Plug. As I smoked these blends, I searched forums and TobaccoReviews.com for more blends to try, jotting down suggestions I’d find from more experienced pipers. Eventually, I developed my own taste for blends, and I could easily hone in on ones I knew I’d probably like.

Eventually, my cellar had a large variety of tins and mason jars to pick from when readying for my evening smoke. I realized at some point that I needed to pace myself in picking out new blends, and instead focus on stocking up on blends I considered favorites. If I didn’t, I’d just keep buying new blend after new blend at the risk of running out of my go-to blends. I now have a system when ordering tobacco, limiting myself to only a few new blends while using the rest of my funds for favorites. That doesn’t mean I still don’t hear TAD whisper in my ear, but I have it contained (for the most part).

            So why do so many pipe smokers “struggle” with PAD and TAD? I think I have an idea why. See, pipe smokers tend to be of the collecting sort. Before I started smoking a pipe, I was a retro video game collector. Now, my funds are less focused on old video games, and instead go towards new and estate briars.

The pipe hobby is a deep, labyrinthian rabbit hole for the collector, from pipes, to tobacco, and to pipe ephemeris. Every pipe smoker has a different taste in pipes and tobacco, which means no two collections are exactly the same. Oh, everyone might have a billiard in their collection, but most likely, the two billiards will have a different maker, size, or appearance. Likewise, a pipe smoker might only collect Canadian pipes, but chances are, each of those Canadians have some sort of variation to them. Just as soon as a collector buys their latest pipe, a new one ends up at the top of his or her wish list.

With pipe tobacco, while some are content with smoking a single blend, more often than not, most pipers prefer having a variety of blends. Everyone has a favorite meal they like to eat. I love pepperoni pizza, but I wouldn’t want to have it for every meal. For one, I’d get tired of it eventually, and pepperoni pizza would lose its excitement.  

There’s a plethora of different pipe tobacco blends out there, and it would be a shame to limit oneself to a single blend, no matter how much one enjoys it. Likewise, with the sheer volume of pipe tobacco out there, I doubt there’s a piper out there that’s smoked every blend on the market. Still, no matter how many blends we try and enjoy, there’s always another blend we can add to our cart the next time we place an order.

From my own observations, PAD and TAD tend to strike those who are newer to the hobby. Speaking from my own experience, after diving into the hobby, I wanted to add as many pipes and blends into my collection as soon as possible. This is a natural response, as with all the shapes, brands, and blends out there, the new piper wants to find the things they’ll enjoy the most in the hobby. One can’t know what they like until they buy it for themselves, and unless you’re a millionaire, a cellar and collection takes time to procure. 

Another aspect as to why PAD and TAD can hit so hard is the desire to be part of the conversation. When the pipe smoker first joins a pipe forum or the pipe sections in social media, we inundated with images of pipes and tobacco from others. The new pipe smoker can only talk about so much about the handful of blends and pipes they own before they run out of things they can talk about from their point of view. We want to be part of the discussion, so we pay attention to the blends others are smoking and add them into the next online order.

I’m no stranger to this phenomenon. Every autumn, Boston tobacconist L.J. Peretti releases their limited batch pressed Thanksgiving Cake. In the past, I’ve seen others online rave about the blend, so I bought some for my cellar back in November. Now certainly, this is a quality blend, and I’m glad to have it. However, if it weren’t for the influence of pipe forums and social media, I never would’ve heard of the blend. Such is the power of TAD.

So, should you seek professional help if you come down with a case of PAD or TAD? I don’t think so. We all have our own manias from time to time, and as long as it’s not out of control, then I think it’s fine. Now, if you’re going into debt buying pipes and tobacco, then maybe you should give your credit card to your significant other, or keep that wallet far away from the computer. This is a hobby, not an addiction; and if you’re spending more money than you should, take a step back and reevaluate your purchasing habits. This is why I don’t save my cards to pipe sites, just so I don’t make impulse buys.

If you’re looking to keep PAD and TAD in check, then I suggest keeping a budget dedicated to the pipe hobby. Keep to that budget when making purchases, and don’t go overboard. Before making a purchase, have a list of blends you want to try. That way, you have a plan going in when placing an order, which should limit the damage from impulse purchases. Likewise for pipes, have an idea of what you’re looking for before you go searching. If the site doesn’t have what you’re looking for, then wait until your desired pipe is back in stock. Don’t buy a different pipe in its place just to add a new one to the rack. Otherwise, you’ll be kicking yourself when the one you want is back in stock.

Above all else remember, the pipe hobby is all about having fun. Patience and pipe smoking go hand in hand, and much like how it took time to learn how to smoke a pipe, don’t rush in building a cellar. It will happen over time, so sit back and enjoy the ride. Learn how to tune out the siren call of PAD and TAD, and you’ll eventually end up with a bountiful cellar.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m meeting with someone to sell my television. There’s a beautiful shell Dunhill I spotted on eBay that’ll look great on my pipe rack. I don’t think my wife will notice, at least right away. The cardboard cut out replacement I put in its place is working so far, so I have about a few hours before she discovers what I’ve done. But by then, it’ll be too late, and that pipe will be mine!

Until next time, happy puffing, and send help.

TheBadgerPiper

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The Case of the Leaky Pipe

            “You are bidding on a Jobey pipe. This pipe is in good, smokable condition. It used to belong to my grandfather, and now you can be yours.”

            I read the description text underneath the picture of the old Jobey pipe from the eBay app on my phone. I had spent the past hour scrolling through the site, taking a gander at the estate pipes up for auction. For some reason, I was in the market for adding a paneled billiard in my pipe rack. In the past, I hadn’t given paneled pipes much thought, finding them a bit ugly if I’m being honest. Yet for some reason, I decided to give the boxy shape a try, as they have a style all of their own.

            While scrolling through countless auctions, I found this Jobey mainly due to the price. The pipe had been relisted at a “Buy it Now” price of $7.99, and with shipping it ended up being around $12 That was cheaper than buying most new cobs. Scrolling back up to the picture of the Jobey, I thumbed through several images, checking for any flaws or obvious defects. The pipe was in a desperate need for a restoration, with the wood of the briar a dull brown and an ugly oxidized stem. Yet the stem was in tact, with no bite marks, and I found no cracks or signs of concern with the bowl.

            I couldn’t figure out why someone hadn’t jumped on the pipe for such a reasonable price. My only guess was because, well, the pipe was a bit of an oddball, and no one wanted to put the work into restoring it. Yet I found it’s strangeness appealing, with an octagonal bowl and square shank.

            Truth be told, I wasn’t lacking in briar pipes, but I still had a valid reason for purchasing it. Earlier in the year, I invested in tools and materials for restoring old briars, and I wanted a new project to putter around with for practice. If I could restore this old Jobey, I’d have the confidence to fix up a briar down the line with a name like Peterson, Savinelli, or perhaps Dunhill.

            I could’ve left the pipe and instead focus on fixing up the estates in my possession, as a few of them needed some TLC, and I didn’t know how to fix them up back when I bought them. Yet I kept going back to the description and reading the story behind the pipe. Normally when I buy an estate, I don’t know the history behind it. Here was one, though, with just that— a story, albeit a short one. This pipe was a treasured briar for someone who was most likely not with us anymore. How could I let it linger around on eBay, forgotten and no longer used?

            There’s an old motorboat sitting in the front yard of a house within walking distance from where I live. I always stop to take a look at it while walking my dog. It’s been stripped of parts, and sits exposed in the weather; with faded paint and slowly rotting away until it one day falls apart. It’s a ghostly sight, and when I walk by it, I half expect, half hope there will be an old sailor sitting next to it, smoking a pipe while spinning a yarn about the boat’s final adventure. While boats don’t have thoughts or feelings, I’ve often wondered what a boat would prefer: to languish on the shore for the remainder of its days, or to sink in water in a storm, going out in a blaze of glory?

            Likewise, I’ve often thought the same thing about the pipes I’ve seen tucked away in antique stores. Would they prefer to gather dust, surrounded by junk and vintage memorabilia in a store, never to be smoked again, or be used until they fall apart? Perhaps I’ve put too much thought into it, but that’s the dreamer side of me.

            These thoughts came to my mind as I debated whether to buy the pipe or not. I’d be frivolous with my money if I simply bought the pipe out of sympathy, and I’d feel like an idiot if I bought the pipe and the story wasn’t real. So I checked the seller’s other items, just to make sure the story seemed legit. The other items for auction seemed like knickknacks that an older gentleman would keep around the house, so my gut felt confident that the story checked out.

Throwing caution to the wind, I hit the “Buy it Now” button and paid for the pipe. $12 wasn’t a huge investment, and the pipe was unique enough that I felt justified in my purchase. The paneled billiard would certainly stand out amongst my other billiard shapes. A few days later, the pipe arrived on my doorstep, and I happily took it downstairs to my workshop to investigate my newest purchase. That initial excitement of receiving a new pipe in the mail has never left me, no matter how many briars and cobs I’ve picked up over the years.

The pictures on eBay didn’t lie, this Jobey definitely needed a complete cleaning, but to be fair, it also wasn’t one of those nightmare estates one can find for sale on eBay (you know the ones). The pipe had been well used, but the previous smoker took relatively good care of it. All that it needed was a good cleaning and I’d have it in my rotation in no time. The only surprise I wasn’t expecting was that this pipe took a filter. No problem, I threw the unused filter into the trash like I did with all my other filtered pipes. I thought nothing of that at the time, but if my life were a TV show, this would’ve been the point where ominous music played as the camera focused on the trash can.  

Using RebornPipes.com’s excellent posts as my guide, I went to work on the Jobey. I dropped the oxidized stem in some oxiclean for an hour while I started my initial cleaning on the briar. The day before, I had given the pipe the salt treatment for the bowl, so the inside of the bowl was finished without any need for reaming. The shank took a surprising amount of pipe cleaners, so I hoped the oxiclean would help break down the gunk in the stem as it cleared off the oxidization. Once I was happy with the condition of the shank, I cleaned and polished the outside of the briar using a special compound. The dull brown color on the rusticated briar soon had a nice polish on it, giving it a nice sheen.

I next removed the stem from the oxiclean and sanded off the grit. I rubbed the stem against my polishing bar, and buffed it with a towel until it had a shiny black color to it. All that was left was cleaning the inner part of the stem with pipe cleaners and everclear. This turned out to be the most laborious part of the process, as the stem took almost an entire pack of Dill pipe cleaners. The portion of the stem that held the filter in place was the hardest part, as I went through countless q-tips trying to clean it. The Jobey was easily the dirtiest estate I’ve had to clean out of all my pipes, but after about two hours, it was finished. I left the pipe to rest overnight, deciding I’d take it on its maiden voyage the next day.

Sunday night rolled around, so I gathered my pipes and prepared them for my evening writing session. I filled the Jobey with one of my favorites, Old Joe Krantz, and off I went to the garage to smoke my new estate for the first time. This would be the true test, as while the pipe cleaned up nice, if it didn’t smoke well, then all my elbow grease was all for naught.

After settling down, I struck a match and began to draw the flame into the bowl, eager to get the pipe nice and lit. Something strange happened, though, something I had never encountered before. While I was drawing the flame with a good amount of suction, there was something terribly wrong with the draw. As the tobacco lit, I soon noticed the reason for my difficulty, as wisps of smoke seeped between the stem and the shank.

I quickly removed the pipe from my mouth and checked the fit between the stem and shank. There didn’t seem to be a problem with the connection, as the stem had a snug fit with the shank. Yet air was obviously escaping between them, and it made smoking the pipe a tedious chore. I ended up having to wrap some masking tape around the bowl just to smoke it normally, and even then I could tell a difference in the draw compared to my other pipes. Eventually, I decided smoking this pipe was more difficult than it was worth and cut the smoke short, dumping a third of the bowl away. Suffice to say, this was not how I imagined my first smoke with the Jobey would go.

A lesser pipe man would’ve called it quits and sold the pipe off on eBay, but not ol’ BadgerPiper. I’m stubborn as my handle suggests, and I don’t give up easily. Off I went on social media and the This Pipe Life forums, searching for an answer to my Jobey problem. Surely someone out there had the solution to my leaky pipe conundrum. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long, and a fellow piper on twitter by the name of FeatherEW gave me some sound advice—the Jobey needed a filter.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate filters, and I didn’t want to buy one of those packs of filters just to smoke one pipe. However, my twitter friend had a solution for that as well—buy a filter adapter. Savinelli happened to sell filter adapters on most pipe sites, so I could easily pick one up and see if that plugged the leak. However, I didn’t want to place an order for a single adapter, so I’d have to wait until my next order to buy one. The Jobey unfortunately would have to sit on my pipe rack, unused until I could buy more tobacco.

October came and went, followed by November, and eventually December, and with it, Christmas, glorious Christmas time. As soon as I had the money to order more pipe tobacco, off I went to tobaccopipes.com, and two different filter adapters made it into my cart. The last thing I needed was to order the wrong sized adapter, so I sacrificed an extra ounce on one of the blends to make sure I had the right one.

The box arrived a few days later, and I took my quarry down to the basement and grabbed that Jobey. Turns out, I made the right choice buying two different sized adapters, as the first one was too small for the Jobey. The smaller adapter didn’t go to waste, though, as it was the perfect fit to my filtered Peterson (which didn’t have a problem like the Jobey, but at least I can use it). The other adapter slid inside my Jobey just fine, and I loaded it once more with Old Joe Krantz for a second attempt.

The moment of truth had arrived, and as I struck a match and placed the flame over the paneled bowl, I hoped that all my efforts weren’t in vain. Immediately, most of my fears had been quelled, as the draw had the right amount of resistance. The tobacco lit without any problems, and I was soon smoking at a steady pace. I puffed slowly, keeping an eye on the stem and shank for any sort of leaks. While there as a small amount of smoke that seeped through, overall, it didn’t cause any problems for smoking.

The adapter wasn’t perfect, but in a way I feel as though it fits this ugly duckling of a pipe. The paneled Jobey won’t be winning any beauty awards, and it wont be the first pipe I reach for should my pipes ever be in danger. However, it’s a hardened smoker, and has treated me right since plugging up the leak.

The important thing for me is that the pipe is up and working again, smoking tobacco as it should. I did my best to honor the man who once owned the pipe, and I will continue to smoke it for the foreseeable future. I’ve done my work, so that whenever it’s passed on, its legacy can continue on with a new chapter.

Until next time friends, happy puffing,

-TheBadgerPiper

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Holiday Cheer

Greetings, fellow pipers!

As some of you know, I’m not just a pipe blogger, but a storyteller, too. While I originally planned on writing some fiction stories for this blog, I confess I’ve had a difficult time coming up with an original story to tell here. Most of my fiction efforts have been on the novel I’m working on, but a story recently came to my mind, so I typed it up and posted it here as a Christmas present for all of you.

I planned on having this finished by Christmas, but with the holidays comes family obligations, which delayed the completion of this little festive tale. I hope you don’t mind reading a Christmas story a few days after the holiday, and that it brings you some festive cheer before the new year.

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Holiday Cheer

By TheBadgerPiper

“So much for a white Christmas.”

Kyle scowled as he slammed the door to his minivan, glaring with disdain at the snow that still covered most of his front lawn. What had once been a beautiful snowfall a week ago had turned into a sludgy black mess, becoming an eyesore that had well worn out its welcome. Splotches of grass poked up from where the snow melted, leaving the ground soggy and muddy for whoever stepped in it. As Kyle stomped down the sidewalk to his front door, he could hear the excited barking of his dog, Abby, as she waited by the door for Kyle and his family to return.

After fumbling with his keys, Kyle unlocked the front door and was tackled by his hyperactive cocker spaniel. Dogs have a special way of turning even the sourest moods around, and Kyle let a smile slip on his face as he scratched his dog behind her ear. Abby hopped around at Kyle’s feet for a moment before glancing past his legs, searching for the other members of the family before cocking her up at her master.

“It’s just you and me girl for the next few days,” sighed Kyle as he shut the door behind him.

As Kyle hung up his winter coat, he rubbed his hands together and blew into them for warmth, before snatching a hooded sweatshirt off the coat rack and zipped it up. While the temperature in the house was considerably warmer than it was outside, with the heater out, he wouldn’t be warming up anytime soon.

Kyle walked down the hallway towards the kitchen and the back door, with Abby dutifully by his side. After unlocking the latch, Kyle opened the back door and let Abby run free to do her business. As Kyle watched Abby search for her perfect spot, his thoughts drifted back to his wife, Andrea, and his two sons, Max and Alex, who were currently waiting to board a plane to Michigan for Christmas.

Until yesterday afternoon, Kyle was going to be with them as they visited Andrea’s family for the holiday. Unlike some husbands, Kyle actually loved his in-laws, and Mike and Sandy, likewise, treated him as their son. Kyle had been looking forward to spending some time ice fishing with Mike at the creek behind their house. It was their yearly day after Christmas tradition. Andrea, Sandy, and his sons would go to the local mall for some holiday shopping, while Mike and Kyle would trudge down to the creek with poles in hand. They’d cut a hole in the ice, cast their lures in the water, and sit down and light their pipes while sipping hot coffee mixed with whiskey in their thermos for warmth. It didn’t matter if they caught any fish, the time spent together swapping stories was enough for the two of them.

As Kyle and Andrea were busy packing their bags for their flight, the two heard an ominous boom from the basement. Kyle could feel a knot in his stomach as he ran down the stairs, and much to his dismay, discovered that the heater had kicked the bucket. Calls were made, and a repairman arrived not an hour later. While the repairman promised that he could fix the heater, he didn’t have the right parts for the job. The repairman told Kyle and Andrea he’d have them in, but it wouldn’t be until the day after Christmas. As Kyle and Andrea watched the service van pull out of the driveway, the two considered their options.

“We could have Christmas here,” suggested Andrea as she placed her arm around Kyle. “Mom and dad’ll be disappointed, but they’ll understand.”

“No, we spent the money on the tickets,” replied Kyle in a gloomy tone. “You and the boys go ahead and see your parents. I’ll stay here with Abby and make sure everything’s in order.”

Andrea frowned as she turned to Kyle. “But you’ll be here all alone for Christmas. I can’t leave you here by yourself.”

Kyle scoffed as he hugged Andrea. “I spent Christmas alone in my apartment in college a few years. Believe me, there’s enough to do here to keep me busy while you’re gone.”

It took a bit more convincing, but Andrea eventually relented, and called her parents to give them the news. Kyle could hear the disappointment in Mike’s voice as he personally broke the bad news to his father-in-law.

“Looks like I won’t have a fishin’ partner this year,” lamented Mike on the other end of the phone.

“I’m not so sure about that,” replied Kyle as he glanced into the living room, watching his sons Max and Alex as their attention was glued to the video game they were playing. “I think it’s about time Max learned the fine art of fishing in the freezing cold.”

Kyle shut the sliding door after Abby trotted inside from her brief outdoor adventure. After wiping Abby’s paws with a dirty throw towel, Kyle pulled out his cell phone and dialed the local pizza parlor. While there was food in the refrigerator, Kyle wasn’t in the mood for cooking a Christmas meal. He’d have pizza today, and celebrate the holiday with a General Tso’s Chicken and egg roll feast tomorrow.

After placing his pizza order, Kyle wandered around the house while waiting for his dinner to arrive. With his family away, Kyle was at a loss with what to do with his newfound free time. He made his way up the stairs and into his study.

When he and Andrea first bought the house six years ago, they first made the room as Kyle’s office. Three years ago for Father’s Day, Andrea surprised him by redecorating the generic office space into more of a mancave. On one corner of the room sat the boring stuff— Kyle’s desk, his personal computer, and a filing cabinet for bills and paperwork. The rest of the office was more of a private sanctuary rather than a place for busywork. Antique metal ads for vintage motorcycles, pipe tobacco, and beer hung on the walls, as well as a well-worn dartboard. A leather armchair acted as the focal point for the rest of the room, with a turntable on one side, and a pipe ashtray sitting on top of an end table on the other. Next to the turntable sat a bookshelf filled with novels, old college textbooks, and research material for casual reading. Above the end table sat rows of shelves, which featured the prize of Kyle’s study— his pipes and tobacco.

Kyle paused as he stood in front of his pipe shelf, looking over the two-dozen briar pipes sitting in multiple pipe racks. Kyle could remember where he was when he purchased each pipe. Yet one particular pipe captured his attention at the moment, a rusticated black billiard made by Parker Pipes. This particular pipe held a special place in Kyle’s heart, as it was his first.

Back in college, Kyle had been a cigarette smoker, a habit he picked up in high school shared by his friends. When he first met Andrea, she tolerated his habit, though she never held back her desire for him to quit. Try as he might, Kyle could never quite kick his addiction. That was, until that fateful summer day when the two drove up to Michigan to visit Andrea’s parents. Kyle spent most of the day talking with his future in-laws, and telling them about his life. After dinner, Kyle excused himself from the table, and sat outside on the front porch as he pulled out an almost empty carton. As Kyle fished for his lighter, he heard the front door swing open as Mike stepped outside with a beer in hand to join him. Spotting the pack of cigarettes in Kyle’s hand, Mike gave a look of disapproval and shook his head.

“Seems like we have a little problem here,” said Mike. “No future son-in-law of mine is going to be a cigarette smoker.”

Embarrassed, Kyle played it off with a laugh and placed the cigarette back in the pack. “Yeah, I’ve been tryin’ to quit for Andrea, but I can’t seem to kick the things.”

Kyle readied himself for a lecture from the old navy man, but instead, the disapproving frown turned into a smirk on Mike’s face. Mike held out his hand and pulled the young man up to his feet.

“See, if you’re gonna be part of our family, then you have to follow the rules,” said Mike, as he pulled a bent billiard pipe from his vest pocket. “If you’re gonna smoke, then you’re gonna learn how to smoke a pipe.”

Kyle was taken aback by the comment. Smoke a pipe? That’s what old men and sailors smoked as far as Kyle was concerned. Truth be told, Kyle could count on his hand the times he had encountered a pipe smoker in his life.

“Maybe when I’m fifty-five and ready to retire,” joked Kyle, but judging from Mike’s expression, the man wasn’t kidding.

“Fifty-five?” scoffed Mike. “Son, I was younger than you when I bought my first briar. It’s a family tradition goin’ back generations, and even my two boys are pipe men.” Mike opened the front door and motioned for Kyle to follow him. “Come on, throw that pack out and follow me, and that’s an order.”

Though hesitant at first, but wanting to make a good first impression with his future father-in-law, Kyle begrudged the man’s request and tossed the pack out in the garbage before following Mike down into the basement. The two walked through the finished basement before entering into Mike’s workshop.

Mike took a moment to show Kyle his own hideaway. Besides his tools and workbench, the room was decorated in a nautical theme with souvenirs from Mike’s world travels with the navy. Mike’s pipes sat front and center on the shelf on the back wall, surrounded by German beer steins and beer glasses from the UK and Ireland. Even though Kyle couldn’t tell the difference between a billiard and a bulldog, the pipe novice was awestruck by older gentleman’s collection. Mike stood in front of his pipes with his hand stroking his scruffy chin as he studied his pipes, looking for a suitable one to pass on to the young man beside him. In the corner of his eye, he noticed Kyle walk up to the calabash on his rack and gazed at it in wonder.

Mike chuckled as he nudged Kyle away from the calabash. “Not so fast there, son. You’ve gotta learn the ropes before you try becoming Sherlock.”

Glancing again at his collection, Mike plucked a black rusticated billiard from the rack, and with a satisfied nod, he placed it in Kyle’s hands. “Now, this is more like it, a Parker. She’s a trusty pipe, with a good solid draw. It’s yours, so treat it with care.”

Kyle looked over the pipe, carefully turning it over in his hands as he inspected his new gift. While Kyle was lost in his thoughts, Mike placed a firm hand on Kyle’s shoulder as he added, “Of course, if you ever hurt my baby girl, I’ll be prying that back from your dead hands, understand?”

“Yes sir,” replied Kyle with a nervous chuckle. “You won’t have to worry about that.”

“Good, good, I’m glad we have an understanding,” said Mike with a smirk and a wink as he patted Kyle’s shoulder, before turning his attention to an assortment of jars and tins. Mike grabbed a circular tin from his stack and a spare pipe tool. “We’ll start you off with an aromatic. Take a whiff of that. Plenty of vanilla Black Cavendish, with a healthy dose of Virginias and Burley.” Mike popped the tin off for Kyle, and he took a sniff of the tobacco. He took an immediate liking to the fragrant tobacco, as the aroma reminded him of raisins and the fig newton cookies he enjoyed as a child.

“A little word of wisdom,” said Mike jovially as he set the open tin down on the workbench. “The nicer the aroma, the better off you are with the missus. Now then, time for your first lesson on smoking a pipe, how to fill the darn thing.”

Over the next few minutes, Mike explained the whole process of how to fill a pipe to Kyle before letting him do it himself, adding the occasional pointer as Kyle performed the three fill method for the first time. With their pipes packed and beers in hand, Mike and Kyle returned to the front porch. The two struck matches as Mike showed Kyle how to properly light and tamp his pipe. The whole process seemed overly complicated and fidgety to Kyle, but with his patient mentor, the young man was soon puffing away on his new pipe. While Kyle initially had trouble not inhaling the pipe smoke like he would with a cigarette, he soon had a steady rhythm going.

Over the next hour, Kyle and Mike talked about life and their past while puffing their pipes and sipping their beers. To Kyle’s surprise, he discovered he enjoyed smoking a pipe and the fellowship that came with it. Despite their difference in age, Kyle found Mike to be of a kindred spirit. Mike was no longer just the intimidating protector of Andrea, but rather someone he could look up to as a father figure for himself, something he lacked in his own life. By the time the tobacco had burnt to a white ash at the bottom of his bowl, Kyle felt sorry that their pipe time was coming to an end.

“So, how’d you like smoking a pipe?” asked Mike as he tapped the ash out of his bent billiard.

“I have to admit, I enjoyed it,” confessed Kyle as he scraped the ash out of his bowl with his pipe tool. “In fact, I think I’d be willing to switch to a pipe from now on.”

“Tell you what, tomorrow we’ll go to my tobacconist, and we’ll set you up with a few blends to take home,” said Mike, as Andrea and Sandy joined the two on the front porch. “And maybe find a basket pipe to go along with that one.”

“I’d like that,” replied Kyle, as he heard Andrea utter a groan behind him.

“Dad, you’re not corrupting my boyfriend into becoming like you, right?” asked Andrea with an annoyed smirk.

Mike gave a smug smirk as he crossed his arms. “Well, you know what they say, girls always end up marrying someone that reminds them of their father.”

Kyle allowed a brief smile for a moment as his remembered that fateful evening thirteen years ago. He and Andrea married the next year, and the year after, Kyle became a father when Max was born. Since then, Kyle kicked cigarettes completely and fell headlong into the world of pipes. Kyle’s friends teased him about his new hobby, but over time, he had converted a number of them into becoming pipe smokers. Whenever Kyle and Andrea visited her parents, Kyle would inevitably end up on the porch with Mike, bonding over their pipes.

Part of Kyle wanted to grab that Parker off the rack and reminisce over a bowl, but truth be told, his heart wasn’t in it. His heart was currently up in the sky next to Andrea and his sons, so he decided to occupy his time with an old computer game as he waited for his pizza to arrive. While video games couldn’t take the place of his family, at least shooting some zombies could provide some much needed distraction.

“You caught a Pikachu? Wow!” said Kyle as he chatted on his cellphone while pacing in the living room. “Is he pretty tough?”

“Yeah, and he has a super strong electric attack,” answered Alex proudly on the other end. “He zooms up and shocks his enemies.”

“Very cool, but don’t spend all your time playing your video game,” said Kyle as he stepped over Abby as she slept curled in a ball near the fireplace. “You need to get some of that reading done, and spend some time with grandma and grandpa.”

“I know dad, I will,” sighed Alex. Kyle heard Andrea ask for the phone on the other end, and Alex added, “Here’s mom. Love you dad.”

“Love you, too, bud.”

“Hey hon, mom wanted me to tell you that she’s sending me back with some of those Christmas cookies you love.”

Kyle plopped down into his armchair and took a sip of his soda. “Oh good, I was afraid I was going to miss out this year. Tell her I said thanks and give her my love.”

“Will do,” replied Andrea in a cheerful voice. “How are you holding up? Staying warm and out of trouble?”

“Yeah, it’s not so bad in the living room,” said Kyle as he glanced over at the fireplace. The fire was well and burning with the new log he placed inside before making his call. “I’ll probably sleep down here tonight while watching some movies.”

“Good idea,” said Andrea. “We miss you over here. Dad’s doing his best to hide it, but I can tell he’s not his usual self. But I hope you can still find a way to enjoy Christmas without us.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me,” assured Kyle. “I’ll manage somehow. You all have a good time tomorrow without me and give your brothers a hug from me.”

“I love you,” said Andrea.

“Love you, too,” replied Kyle, before the two ended the call.

Kyle placed his cellphone on the small table next to his armchair and picked up the TV remote. He turned on the flat screen and flipped through the channels, stopping on ESPN for a moment to check up on some scores before moving on. For once, Kyle was thankful that not every channel had Christmas programming, and settled in with a mindless 80’s action film.

After placing the remote on the table, Kyle’s eyes fell on the Savinelli billiard he had brought down from upstairs, along with a tin of Dunhill Nightcap and his pipe ashtray. While he was still glum over missing out with his family, he decided he’d somehow find a way to enjoy himself this lonely Christmas Eve. Kyle filled his pipe and lit it, tamping the ash down before lighting his pipe again and reclined in his chair. Abby awoke from her slumber and turned her head towards Kyle, and he placed a finger on his lips as he held his pipe.

“Don’t tell Andrea,” he said with a wink. “This is our little secret.”

Abby yawned and rested her head on her paws, wagging her tail contently by the cozy fire. Kyle soon grew bored watching his movie and shut the television off, choosing to smoke in the ambiance of the room. In truth, Kyle found it all peaceful, smoking his pipe in the comfort of the living room, lit only by the fireplace and Christmas tree, with the crackle of the fireplace as his soundtrack.

As the hour passed and his pipe grew low, Kyle felt sleep catching up to him. He grabbed his phone and checked the time. The screen said 11:24, and Kyle chuckled to himself. When he was younger, he’d stay up way past midnight for the chance to spot Santa as he delivered his presents under his tree. Now that he was an adult and in the Santa role for his kids, here he was, barely able to keep his eyes open. Kyle smiled to himself at the juxtaposition as he tapped the ash out of his pipe.

Reaching down beside the chair, Kyle pulled up the blanket he brought from upstairs and covered himself up to his neck. As he settled into his chair for his winter nap, he glanced down at Abby one more time while yawning.

“Goodnight girl,” said Kyle before shutting his eyes. A moment later, and Kyle was fast asleep.

Bark!

Abby nudged her cold wet nose into Kyle’s arm, waking him up from his slumber. Kyle yawned as he sat up in his armchair and stretched his neck; hearing little pops and cracks as he did so. After years of sleeping in a large king sized bed, his body reminded him that an armchair is not an adequate replacement for a real bed. Through bleary eyes, Kyle checked the screen on his phone for the time, which displayed 6:37 AM.

“Didn’t you get the memo?” said Kyle as he frowned at Abby. “You sleep in on Christmas morning.”

Bark!

“Fine, fine, I’m coming,” grumbled Kyle as he pushed the bottom of the reclining armchair back into place with his legs.

Abby danced around Kyle’s legs as he shuffled to the back sliding door and let her out. With a joyful bark, Abby dashed out into the yard, running around the perimeter of the fence with a bounce in her step. Kyle yawned again as he leaned against the door, waiting for Abby to finish up before heading upstairs and back into his own bed. While it was colder in his room, at least his neck wouldn’t be as sore.

As Kyle watched Abby run around, his mind went back to his family up in Michigan. He figured the boys were up by now, sitting at the Christmas tree and opening presents as his wife and in-laws watched with coffee in hand. Though Kyle was thankful for the extra sleep he’d have back at home, he missed watching the wonder and excitement on Max and Alex’s faces as they opened gifts.

For Kyle, there wouldn’t be any opening gifts this Christmas morning. He and Andrea decided they’d wait until after she flew back to exchange gifts. He didn’t mind the wait, as it wasn’t like the gifts would be going anywhere. He’d get to them eventually.

As Abby trotted back towards the house, Kyle opened the sliding door and let her back inside. With the frost on the ground, Kyle didn’t have to worry about wiping her paws off, the one benefit of letting her outside so early. After scooping some dog food into Abby’s dish, Kyle shuffled back towards the armchair to grab his cellphone before heading back upstairs.

Just as Kyle reached for his cellphone on the arm stand, his eyes fell upon something he hadn’t noticed before. Positioned behind his pipe ashtray sat a small rectangle box, wrapped perfectly in snowflake wrapping paper with a red and gold ribbon wound around it. Confused, Kyle plucked the box from the stand and studied it further. Had he somehow missed the box when he brought down his ashtray and pipe the previous night? He swore he couldn’t have, as he should’ve seen something as out of the ordinary as a Christmas present. But if it hadn’t been there when he went to sleep, then that would mean—no, that wasn’t possible. Kyle was sure he must’ve missed it the night before.

Sitting back down in his recliner, Kyle pulled out a small card, which was tucked underneath the ribbon that wrapped around the present. The card had an old illustration of Santa Claus on it, smoking a pipe as he warmed his tired feet on an old furnace. Kyle opened the card with a curious look on his face, and read the cursive handwriting inside.

Blessings and Holiday Cheer, to one who feels alone on Christmas this year.

May your heart be merry with a smoky pipe, puffing happily on this cold winter’s night.

From, A Fellow Pipe Man

Kyle puzzled over the card for a minute, reading the words and studying the script again and again. On one hand, he wouldn’t put it past Andrea to surprise him with a hidden gift before she left for the airport. On the other hand, he knew Andrea’s handwriting, and this didn’t match hers at all. While she had excellent penmanship, the script was too perfect and precise to be hers.

Truth be told, Kyle felt weirded out by the strange gift, and part of him wanted to get up, grab a baseball bat, and check all the locks inside the house. Yet Kyle’s curiosity got the better of him, and after removing the ribbon, he slid his finger underneath the tape and ripped open the wrapping paper.

Underneath the wrapping paper was an old navy blue box, with the word “Parker” written in plain white cursive. The box was old, as it still had dust on it left over from someone wiping the box clean. The box looked like it had been hidden away on some shelf, left to age for decades unopened. Now this grabbed Kyle’s attention, and he pulled the upper section of the box open to reveal a blue pipe sock inside, with the indentations of a pipe held within. Kyle tugged the edges of the sock open and pulled out a brand new vintage Parker pipe. The pipe was a classic bulldog, with two circular etched ridges around the smooth brown bowl, and a white stripe on the front of the stem by the shank. Kyle could hardly believe his eyes, and he turned the pipe over and over as he observed his new gift. The pipe was in perfect condition, unblemished and better yet, unsmoked.

“Would you look at that,” said Kyle with a grin on his face. “I wonder how long ago you were carved?”

That question would have to wait, as Kyle decided that he needed to celebrate the occasion by breaking the pipe in with a favorite blend. With all thoughts of going back to sleep behind him, Kyle headed upstairs with ashtray in hand to his study and snatched a tin of Squadron Leader from his shelf. After filling the bowl with the rich English blend, Kyle returned to his armchair, struck a match, and lit his new pipe. Great bellowing clouds of smoke wafted from the bowl of the bulldog pipe, filling the room with the campfire aroma of Latakia. Kyle leaned back in his chair and puffed contently, paying close attention to how his new Parker handled the christening smoke. Thankfully, the draw to the bulldog was smooth and easy, and it passed a pipe cleaner without any problems.

Though Kyle had planned on grabbing the novel he was currently working through to read while he smoked, the book slipped his mind as he enjoyed the quiet, relaxing solitude his pipe gave him. For the next forty-five minutes, all of his cares and worries were forgotten, chased away by steady wisps of pipe smoke. By the time the last of the tobacco burnt to ash, Kyle felt like a new man, his holiday spirits rekindled by his new briar. Kyle tapped the ash out of his pipe into the ashtray and ran a pipe cleaner through the stem, cleaning his new bulldog for his next smoke.

“I think you’ll do just fine,” said Kyle as he placed the pipe among his other briars in his pipe rack. “Yes, you’ll fit right in.”

“You sound like you’re in better spirits,” said Andrea in a happy tone on the other end of the phone. “Did the heater start working again?”

“No, it’s still as cold as ever,” laughed Kyle as he scratched Abby’s head. “But I had a nice surprise this morning thanks to you.”

“Oh?” inquired Andrea. “And how’s that?”

Kyle grabbed the empty Parker box and fumbled with it in his free hand. “I found the gift you left for me on the living room table. How’d you find an old pipe like that? Did your dad send it to you?”

There was a momentary pause on the other end of the phone, before Andrea answered, “I didn’t leave a present for you there. Just the socks under the tree.”

Kyle arched his eyebrow in confusion, before standing up and walking to the Christmas tree. Sure enough, there was a small, wrapped gift in the shape of a pair of socks sitting at the base of the tree.

“Wait, you didn’t leave a pipe for me by my chair?” asked Kyle with a hint of worry in his voice. “An old one in a dusty box?”

“Heck no,” replied Andrea with a scoff. “I wouldn’t know the first thing on what pipe to get you. I always let you pick that stuff out.”

Kyle tossed the wrapped socks on the couch as he went to each window, checking to make sure each one was latched shut. “And Mike didn’t send a gift in the mail? Are you sure? It was right next to me when I woke up this morning.”

“No, his gift for you is right here with me,” said Andrea in a deadpan voice.

There was silence on Kyle’s end of the phone as he checked every window and door, looking for any way someone could’ve entered the house without him knowing. Yet each window and door was locked tight, without any signs of breaking and entering.

“I don’t understand, how did I receive a pipe without you or the boys placing it here? I’ve checked everywhere twice, and there’s no way someone could’ve entered without me knowing.”

Andrea wasn’t sure how to answer, as the present was as much of a mystery to her as it was to Kyle. “I don’t know. Maybe you bought it for yourself and forgot about it?”

Kyle let out a laugh. “If I did, then my memory’s failing me. All I know is someone left a present for me, and I don’t know who could’ve done it.” Kyle fell back into his chair and ran his hand through his hair. “But whoever did it, they definitely brightened my Christmas, that’s for sure.”

Andrea chuckled and said, “You mean the socks didn’t turn Christmas around for you? That’s a shame.” The two shared a laugh, lightening the mood and erasing the fears of a possible home intruder. Once the laughter died down, Andrea added, “Maybe an angel left it for you? So they could get their wings?”

Kyle smiled as he reached for the Christmas card that came with the pipe. His eyes glanced over the picture of Santa once more, before the answer came to him. Of course, the gift giver had been staring at him the entire time.

“No, not an angel. More like a Saint.”

Merry Christmas, fellow pipers, and a happy 2019 to all of you.

-TheBadgerPiper

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A Pipeful of Graditude

The air is colder now, and there’s a bit of frost on the fallen leaves. Summer has passed, and before we know it, winter will make it’s presence known with heavy blankets of snow (and doubled commute times for work). Friends from Florida will brag about the wonderful weather they have in wintertime, while we gently remind them to watch out for the black widow spider spitting pythons in their back yard.

Tonight, I’m sitting alone in my garage, listening to the gentle hum of my heater as the leaves rustle past outside. I truly love autumn, and everything that comes with it. Yes, I’m one of those folks that drinks pumpkin spiced iced lattes, wears flannel (year round, mind you), and likes scarves (even though they get in the way). I don’t care that I’m a stereotype; I embrace it.

But with autumn comes Thanksgiving, and being grateful for the people and things in your life. So, even though we’re past the holiday, in keeping with that tradition, I’d like to embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving and speak a bit about the things that I’m thankful for and appreciate in my life. Since this is a pipe smoking blog, I’m focusing on everything pipe related in my life. Otherwise, I fear I’d bore you, dear reader. One other note, I’m writing this without listing everything in order of importance (except the first one), so no favoritism here. So without further ado, let’s begin.

 

I can’t start off without first and foremost being grateful for Mrs. BadgerPiper. So often, I read stories of pipe smokers lamenting about how their significant other hates their hobby, and needles them over it. Luckily for me, Mrs. BadgerPiper not only supports me in my hobby, but also encourages it at times. Some evenings, when I’m stressed out from work or life, my wife will stop me and say, “You should go out and unwind with a pipe.” While she doesn’t want me smoking in the house, and occasionally lets me know I stink, overall, I’m grateful my wife understands how pipe smoking is a positive influence in my life. Now if only I can get her to relent on her rule that I can’t own more than fifty pipes…

 

Next on my list is an old stomping ground I used to visit when I was first interested in pipe smoking: the website pipes.org. Billed as the grandfather of all pipe sites, and for a good reason, Pipes.org has been around for a very long time. Starting out as an emailing list in the late 1980’s, Pipes.org has seen the highs and the lows of the pipe industry. While it isn’t exactly the most active of pipe sites these days, I can’t think of a more important website to the history of pipe smoking.

Pipes.org holds a special place in my heart, as it was my first true exposure on how to start smoking a pipe. Over a decade before I ordered my first pipe, I stumbled upon the site while surfing the web on dial up with AOL. At that time, I was very much against smoking, but for some reason, I liked pipes. The site had a few articles that were informative, including a helpful one on how to get started that I’d remember for when I finally took the plunge.

What grabbed my attention at the time, though, was the digest. I spent a few evenings browsing the digest archive, reading many personal thoughts, opinions, and stories from the users of the digest. The stories especially stuck with me, and years later, I read the entire digest from beginning to end over a year. By the time I was done with it, my mind was set, and I decided I wanted to take the pipe up myself.

One story that’s always stuck with me was one user recalling a pipe smoking relative that was a captain in his country’s navy. He was smoking his pipe on deck when a wave knocked him into a wall, rendering him unconscious. When he awoke in the sick bay, he wouldn’t settle down until a sailor retrieved his fallen pipe from the deck. After reading that, I knew there was something special about smoking a pipe.

I could go on and on about the digest, but I’ll save that for a longer article in the future.

 

Going from the past to the present day, I’m thankful for my current pipe forum home, This Pipe Life. Forums have been on the decline since around 2010 or so, due to the rise in social media platforms. No one wants to take the time anymore to register on a web forum and spend a few weeks getting acclimated into an established community. Let’s be honest, no one likes being the new kid, and that’s how it can feel when joining a forum. Every forum has a different feel to them, too. What’s socially acceptable on one is frowned upon at another. Your success in becoming part of the regulars depends on how much time you’re willing to commit there, as well as the personalities of the other users.

Thankfully, This Pipe Life has some advantages other pipe forums don’t. It’s still a relatively new community, so if you post on there for about a month on a regular basis, you’re pretty much a regular. With the forum being on the newer side, that also means there are less members to keep track of. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of activity, as there are new posts on the forum every day. The advantage of being in a smaller community is that it’s easier to keep track of the current threads. If you can’t post for a few days, you won’t have to spend hours trying to catch up on what you’ve missed.

This Pipe Life also has a great and welcoming community of posters, who are more than willing to share what they know with new members and pipers. The members are very knowledgeable on pipes and tobacco, and chatting with them is honestly one of the highlights of my day. I also have to give a quick shout out to one of the members on the forum, Motie2, the forum librarian. Motie2 has a long list of pipe and tobacco related PDFs that he maintains, sharing articles with anyone that asks. If you haven’t already, grab a pipe and your favorite tobacco, and sign up. No matter your pipe and tobacco preferences, there’s a seat reserved for you in the smoking lounge.

 

Moving on from forums, I’m thankful for their evolution in social media. Yes, social media can be a time sucker, and it’s good to get away from your phone screen and do something productive with your life. However, while pipe smoking has a reputation for being a relic of the past, pipe smokers adapt with the times. Pipe focused communities have found ways to thrive on places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and myspace. If there’s a way to discuss pipes, pipe tobacco, and share pictures of us enjoying our hobby, we’ll use it.

When I started seriously using social media to talk about pipe smoking, I quickly found myself immersed into the worldwide pipe community. I’ve spent countless hours scrolling through feeds, liking pictures and comments of fellow pipers enjoying our hobby. I’ve chatted with pipe smokers from around the globe, picking up new tins based on the pictures other pipers have posted, and likewise, others have tried blends because I shared an image of a tin. I’ve made many pipe friends through social media that I never would’ve met had I not been on social media.

While social media has its downsides, like with twitter mobs and social media outrage, the pipe community has been a bastion of fellowship and camaraderie. I never would’ve gone to my first pipe club meeting if it hadn’t been for social media. I went to the Chicago Pipe Show because I knew I’d meet fellow pipers I had met on social media. Heck, this blog wouldn’t even exist if I hadn’t been inspired reading other piper’s blogs, which I discovered from— you guessed it, subliminal messages in pipe blogs. And if all goes right, the subliminal messages in this post will make you start your own blog once you’ve finished reading this one.

Nah, it was social media. Admittedly, Youtube’s the one area I haven’t considered dabbling with, but that’s because I’m not set up for it. Considering all the effort I’ve put into customizing this blog, trust me, you wouldn’t want me recording videos. Unless you want all those videos to look like I’m being held captive in an undisclosed location.

 

Next up, I want to give a big thank you and shout out to Phil and The Briar Report, the world’s premier source of pipe smoking news and information. This is a site that all pipe aficionados should have bookmarked in their browser and check daily. The Briar Report collects all pipe and tobacco related news in one convenient location so pipers can keep up to date on their beloved hobby. Not only does The Briar Report give news updates, but also posts links to blog posts, Youtube videos, podcasts, and other noteworthy links by pipe smoking content creators. This gives content creators a megaphone to a wider audience for their posts. Also, The Briar Report alerts readers about upcoming giveaways, and has participated in their own, so definitely give them a look. You might end up winning a contest out of it.

Full disclosure, while I’m not a journalist, I can’t write this ethically without mentioning that The Briar Report does post links to my blog when I make a new entry. This is a huge help for me, as I’m not all that well versed in self-advertisement. Since The Briar Report started posting my updates, I’ve noticed a definite increase in traffic to my blog. Now, I’d still write this blog if only a handful of pipers read it, but I’ll gladly take new readers when I get them. The Briar Report doesn’t have to do this, but he does, and I’ll forever be grateful for that.

 

Like I mentioned earlier, one of the great things about the pipe community is the friendships you make with other pipe smokers. Earlier this year, I happened to make one of those friendships with Dave of the Maple City Pipe Cast. Admittedly, I don’t regularly listen to many pipe podcasts, but when I found the Maple City Pipe Cast, it caught my interest. Unlike most podcasts out there that run for at least an hour, the Maple City Pipe Cast goes for frequent updates with bite sized content. This makes it a great audio companion for washing dishes or walking the dog. Despite being a one-man podcast for most episodes, Dave’s casual, conversational tone gives it the feeling of listening to the thoughts of a good friend over a pipe and coffee.

Dave invited me on for one of his Everyman Pipe Smoker segments, and we spent a good hour getting to know each other. This led to him inviting me on to his Universal Humdrum Podcast, where we talk about the CW Flash TV show. Since I started podcasting with Dave, it’s increased my love and appreciation for the show, and it’s one of the highlights of my week talking about the recent adventures of the scarlet speedster with him. Be sure to give his podcast a listen. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

 

Finally, I couldn’t make a list talking about the things I’m grateful for without talking about you, the reader. When I first started this blog, all I wanted to do was talk about my love of pipes, pipe tobacco, and everything involved with this silly hobby. Reading about other people’s love for pipe smoking was one of the main reasons I decided to take up the pipe in the first place, so I wanted to contribute to the fun. At best, I figured it was a way to improve my writing, and any readers I got out of it was a bonus.

After doing this for a few years, I’ve managed to etch out my own niche in the pipe world. Every time I get an email notification that someone commented on a post, or that I added a new subscriber makes my day. It’s a joy to check my reader statistics and see that I have readers from all around the world. I know I’m terrible with being speedy in replying, but I love chatting with everyone that leaves a comment, or reaches out with an email or message. While I started writing for myself, all of you give me a reason and a purpose for making these entries. If you’ve ever commented on my posts or hit the like button, thank you.

 

It’s an honor writing to all of you, and I hope to keep this going for as long as I’m alive. So I hope you have a wonderful rest of 2018, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy Holidays.

Until next time, happy puffing my friends,

-TheBadgerPiper

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Podcast Update

Greetings fellow pipers!

Just a quick update today to let you know about my most recent podcast appearance. As some of you might know, I recently became a co-host to the Universal Humdrum Podcast, a side project by Dave from the Maple City Pipe Cast. I’ve done a few episodes with Dave, talking about The Flash CW tv show, but today we uploaded my first solo episode. On Episode 13, I talk about various local legends and ghost stories I heard while growing up, as well as two strange occurrences that happened to me this past spring. Admittedly, it’s not pipe related, though pipe smoking is mentioned at one point.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and horror youtube videos while at work, so being able to create my own was a ton of fun. If you have some spare time, I highly recommend you give it a listen (though maybe not in the dark).

https://anchor.fm/universalhumcast

I’m also hard at work on my next blog post, which should come out some time next week. Until then, happy puffing friends!

-TheBadgerPiper

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An Ode to the Pipe Tool

It’s been a few months since I last tackled a pipe related haiku. So I decided to write one in honor to our constant companion– the pipe tool.

 

An Ode to the Pipe Tool

 

Oh blessed pipe tool,

Thy utility unmatched,

The pipe smoker’s friend.

 

You came from afar,

Born in the land of the Czech,

And purchased online.

 

You’re three tools in one,

A tamper, a pick, and spoon,

Each serves their purpose.

 

The tamper is true,

Guiding burnt tobacco down,

Flat into the bowl.

 

Like a shepherd’s staff,

You stomp the wayward ashes,

Protecting my clothes.

 

Unyielding pick,

Guard of the straight and narrow,

Setting errors straight.

 

Plunging in embers,

You stir the ash in the bowl,

Correcting the draw.

 

When the ash is low,

The spoon will heed the call,

To clear the dottle.

 

Once the pipe goes cold,

You scrape the bowl clean of ash,

And foul odor.

 

My humble pipe tool,

Covered in speckled pipe soot,

Your badge of honor.

 

You stay by my side,

As I puff my evening pipe,

Like a sentinel.

 

Without your service,

I’d scorch my fingers no doubt,

And holes in my shirt.

 

Though small in stature,

You prove your worth every smoke,

A friend for pipe men.

 

Until next time, happy puffing!

-TheBadgerPiper

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