As I sit in my garage office accompanied by a few assorted pipes I’ve finished smoking, I notice a theme between a few of them. Two of them, including the one I’m puffing away with at the moment, are Petersons. The other two pipes, a Jobey bent saucer and a Comoy straight bulldog, are both estate purchases from eBay. They weren’t purchased together, but from different times when I was trying to build up a nice rotation of pipes to pick from.
Why bring this up? Well, it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about for some time. I have two subjects I love in life: history and stories. Both are deeply intertwined with each other, as history is full of stories, and likewise there is a history in each story, fictional or not.
Each pipe has a history and a story behind it, whether we know it or not. They were carved, either by machine or by hand, assembled, and sold to a smoker, perhaps multiple, and kept in their care for years.
Looking at my Jobey, the pipe was in good condition when I purchased it for around $40 on eBay. The stem has yellowed from oxidation, and there are teeth marks all around the lip. This was a pipe that saw use by its previous owner, though taken care of, as I didn’t need to clean it other than for my usual sanitation practices. It was smoked, but with care by its owner. Perhaps it was smoked after work with a newspaper while relaxing after a long day? Why was it sold on eBay? Did the smoker pass away, and the next of kin decide to sell it for cash instead of holding onto it? Or maybe the smoker just wanted a new pipe, and sold it off to purchase a new one. It’s hard to say, but I have no doubt it was cared for by the smoker until he or she let it go.
My Comoy Bulldog on the other hand has an all-together different story. I purchased it a year later off of eBay for $10, and there’s a reason why. There are multiple scratches all over one side of the bowl, with dings on the rim on the other side. The stem has some oxidation wear on it, with only minor teeth marks on it. This was a workhorse pipe that was wounded in battle at one point, most likely from an accidental tumble to the ground. The inside of the bowl shows heavy use, though there wasn’t a cake when I received it in the mail. I had no trouble winning the bid on this pipe; most smokers wouldn’t want a blemished pipe in their collection. That’s their loss, as this tough little Comoy is one of my most used pipes in my rotation. I will smoke this weathered pipe until I pass from this life or it falls apart.
Then we have my two Petersons, neither of which are estates, but both have stories to tell. Whoever owns these pipes in the future might not know their history, but I can tell them here. Both came from Dublin, Ireland, and not just because that’s where Peterson makes their pipes. That’s because I purchased them both in Peterson’s shop in Dublin in person.
My large rusticated Peterson billiard was purchased in Dublin during my very first trip outside of the United States. That day my wife and I had visited Trinity College to see the Book of Kells in person. As a writer and a lover of Church history, it was a deeply spiritual moment for me to see this beautiful illuminated manuscript in person. We then had a chance to stroll through their wondrous library and look at an exhibit on Children’s Literature. Though the aisles were blocked off, I couldn’t help but look at the rows upon rows of old tomes just waiting to be pulled and thumbed through.
Afterwards, my wife did some shopping as I wandered into Peterson’s pipe shop, which was a short walk from the College. Being a fan of Peterson, this was my pipe version of wandering through the Trinity College library. There were rows upon rows of brand new Peterson pipes, all of which I could pick up and hold for myself. As the two attendants chatted to each other in Gaelic (hopefully not about the weird, nervous American tourist in their store), I carefully picked up each pipe that held my interest; terrified I’d drop it and make a fool of myself.
I chose two pipes that day, including the large billiard, as I wanted a pipe with a deep chamber for long writing sessions. I also picked up a tin of Peterson’s Nutty Cut while I was there. I was hoping to find the legendary St. Bruno Flake, but they didn’t have any. In retrospect, I wish I would’ve picked up a pouch of the available Condor, but I ended up liking Nutty Cut.
I didn’t get a chance to break the billiard in until a few days later in Edinburgh, Scotland. By then, we had been joined by my wife’s best friend from Germany for the trip, as well as her fiancé. We had spent the day sightseeing, and had finished having a pint at a local pub. Along the way I passed a man casually puffing his pipe outside a theater on the busy Edinburgh street. I decided I wanted to smoke my pipe on the way back to our bed and breakfast, so I filled the billiard with Nutty Cut and lit my pipe. We wandered the streets and through a park back to our room, all the while I enjoyed my newest pipe companion.
Me with my new Peterson in Edinburgh
My other Peterson, a Dublin Castle billiard, was purchased on my second trip to Europe. We were headed to Germany to attend our above German friends wedding. My wife and I were only in Dublin for a twelve-hour layover, so our time was limited. I went to Peterson’s as soon as they opened and spent about an hour looking at their pipes.
The Dublin Castle pipe stuck out to me due to its unique Anse shaped bowl. I have a fondness for slanted pipes, and this one called out to me to purchase it like a siren to a sailor. I heeded its call, and purchased it along with another pipe (an 03). As I completed my purchase, I had a brief conversation with the older Irish gentleman behind the counter about their pipes and their building. He seemed to appreciate my fondness for their pipes and their history, and I enjoyed my time chatting with him. Sadly, I didn’t get to try it out while in Dublin. I hope one day to return again to Ireland and partake in a pipe there.
I didn’t get to break this Peterson in until my last day in Europe on this trip. My wife and I were in Rome, and we decided to grab a drink at an Irish pub located deep in the city. I ordered a Guinness, filled my pipe with MacBaren Vanilla Cream Flake, and sat with my wife on the street and broke the pipe in as we watched people pass us by. This trip had been a long one, spanning a few weeks, so we spent the time reflecting about our travels through Europe. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last evening in Europe but with the love of my life, drinking a good beer while puffing my pipe. Much like in Edinburgh, it’s one of my favorite pipe smoking moments.
This is one of the reasons I am glad to be a pipe smoker. I’m investing in these little precious items until I leave this world. These are objects built to last for as long as they’re cared for. A pipe is not smoked and then thrown away like other forms of using tobacco. They’re extensions of who I am as much if not more so than the clothes I wear.
One of my favorite pastimes is looking at old photos of pipe smokers. It’s the history lover in me, as well as wishing for things to be more like the past. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the freedoms that have come with time, but there’s an appeal to the past, which is one of the reasons I smoke a pipe.
Taken from from pinterest. Is it me from another time? I’ll never tell.
But looking at these people with their pipes clenched in their jaw makes me wonder, are these pipes still floating around today? Most likely not, as most pipe smokers back then smoked a pipe until it was unusable, but they could be sitting in an attic or basement somewhere, caked to the brim and dusty. What stories could they say about their previous owner? The sailor standing pensively as he smoked his pipe on deck, what stories must it have? And the soldier resting with his pipe after a long watch, what could it tell us about its owner and what he went through? Or maybe the old farmer sitting on his porch with his corncob, what peace did it give him during the good and hard times? These people had good and difficult times, and their pipe stood with them through it all.
So when you get that new estate from eBay, or pick up a new pipe from your trusted online dealer of choice, take a moment and think about where your pipe came from and its history. If it is a new one, give it a good story to tell to its next owner.
Smoke your pipe in peace friends,
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