Returning to Peterson’s of Dublin

Monday, September 30th, 2019 – Dublin, Ireland

I stepped outside the lobby of my hotel and pulled the protective hood of my raincoat over my wool flat cap. Rainclouds covered the city of Dublin like a dark grey blanket, unleashing a constant barrage of rain on the waterlogged city. While Ireland’s known for its rain, even the normally chipper Dubliners had grown tired of the constant downpour. Still, despite the rain and massive puddles, the citizens of Dublin braved the weather, dressed in their own raincoats and holding their umbrellas above their heads.

I stepped onto the sidewalk and began my short trek alongside Trinity College, avoiding the puddles and pedestrians as I checked my phone to make sure I was headed in the right direction. While I knew where I was going, being a bit navigationally challenged, I find it reassuring to check to make sure I’m headed in the right direction. Considering I had been anticipating this visit for months, the last thing I wanted to do was get lost on the way to Peterson’s of Dublin.

I had been in Ireland for over a week, having travelled to the Emerald Isle with my wife and Mother-in-law for a family vacation. This was the third time my wife and I had been to Ireland, but this was the first for my Mother-in-law. While my Mother-in-law has travelled to many different places around the world, it was always a dream of hers to visit Ireland and see her family’s homeland. My wife and I brought her along as a way to thank her for giving my wife the chance to travel overseas while growing up. Now some might find travelling with their mother-in-law a punishment worse than death, but I actually get along quite well with mine, so it didn’t bother me. The only caveat for me is that she’s very anti-tobacco, so that meant no pipe smoking while on the trip. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a disappointment, but a trip to Ireland is worth a brief break from the briar. However, once we were in Dublin, I worked it out so I could stop at Peterson’s while my wife and mother-in-law were busy elsewhere.

For the past week, we explored the scarred remnants of bitter conflict in Belfast, the magnificent crags of Donegal, the glorious seaside port of Galway, and the ancient streets of Kilkenny. We only had one day in rainy Dublin before it was time for us to head back to the states, but all I needed was a good hour at Peterson’s to accomplish my mission.

Now, I’ve been to Peterson’s before, having stopped in during both of my previous trips to Dublin, but no matter how many times I get to go, it still fills me with a giddy excitement with every visit. Peterson pipes hold a special place in my heart, as my very first pipe was a Peterson Aran 408 Author. Since then, I’ve collected a number of Petersons, all different shapes, and they outnumber any other brand in my collection. So when I go to Peterson’s, I feel like a pipe pilgrim reaching my long desired destination.

Peterson’s of Dublin

By the time I reached Peterson’s, I took only a moment to snap a quick picture before venturing inside so I could get out of the ever-present rain. The shop itself is sandwiched in a long row of buildings, standing right across the street from Trinity College. I can’t think of a better location for “The Thinking Man’s Pipe” than being across from a legendary establishment of learning like Trinity.

It’s funny, for a shop as lauded as Peterson’s; it’s actually quite small in person. However, if your business is located centrally in an old city like Dublin, you deal with the hand you’re dealt, so expansion is kind of difficult. Still, the pipe section of Peterson’s puts most tobacconists to shame, so they work with what they have.

The first floor of the shop holds all of their available pipes in a glass case on the wall, with a display case containing a selection of non-Peterson pipes. There are also various knickknacks for sale, such as flasks, knives, and watches, which might interest pipe smokers looking for souvenirs. Besides the first floor, there’s a basement that holds their cigar selection, though I’ve yet to see it as I’m not a cigar smoker. Besides, if you’re a pipe smoker, the pipes are what you’re there for. There’s also an upper floor that’s off limits, which I imagine holds some of their extra stock. There’s a life sized Sherlock Holmes guarding the stairs, keeping an eye on travelling Americans that might venture up there out of curiosity. As much as I’d like to take a peek up there, I’d rather not to be banned from the store. The last thing I’d need is for my picture to be plastered on the back of the counter with the phrase “Do not serve this American.”

If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit their pipe tobacco selection is a bit lacking. One would think you would find their entire line of tobaccos in the shop, but that’s not the case. There’s a small selection of Peterson tobacco pouches behind their counter, as well as some C&D blends and a number of European only brands— such as Condor, Clan, and Mick McQuaid. In previous visits, they had a larger selection of tobaccos, but it’s been paired down to only the essentials. I’m not sure why their in-shop inventory is so sparse, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d put my money on regulations. But what do I know? I’m just some Yankee tourist.

After moving my hood back and shaking off the rain, I greeting the two friendly employees behind the counter and went straight for the pipe case. I had about an hour to spend in the shop before I needed to meet my wife and mother-in-law at Trinity College for the Book of Kells exhibit, so time was of the essence.

During my last two visits, I was able to pick up two pipes each, as buying Peterson pipes in Ireland is a bit cheaper than buying online in America. I had planned on doing the same for this visit; however, after glancing at a few prices on the pipes, I discovered that their pipes had gone up in price since 2015. I soon changed my tactic from buying two cheaper pipes to buying one nicer Peterson. Initially, this was a bit of a letdown, but looking back, I think it was a blessing in disguise. I’m not lacking in pipes, and this freed me into looking at more expensive pipes I normally avoid.

The Pipe Rack at Peterson’s

An hour seems like a long time to look for a pipe, but when you’re dealing with over one hundred pipes in multiple cases with sliding walls, it can be a bit of a sensory overload. Normally, when I’m searching for something, I tend to go in a logical order of moving from left to right, going up and down each row of pipes. I immediately ran into an obstacle to my system, as there was another American looking at the pipe case where I’d normally start. I had to break my system and work backwards, even if it disrupted my regular flow.

The pipes themselves were grouped together by their brands, moving from left to right from affordable to expensive. This made it a bit easier to find what type of pipe you wanted, as the Aran’s were with Arans’, Rocky’s with Rocky’s, and so on.  Occasionally, I’d find a single pipe by itself, as it was the last style left, such as the St. Patrick’s Day pipe I came across during my searching. Overall, though, everything was orderly and clearly defined for my logical brain.

Peterson’s had a pretty decent selection to choose from, with most of their brands represented. Their pipe stock did feel a tiny bit picked over, but there were still plenty of pipes to choose from. While I was disappointed that they didn’t have any 2019 Christmas pipes in stock, there were a good amount of 2018 Christmas pipes to make up for it. Their normal brands had plenty of shapes represented, but once you got into their more obscure lines like their Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde pipes, you were stuck picking from the few shapes available.

What wasn’t as clearly defined, and my one brief criticism I have, was figuring out the prices for the pipes. Their cases had some general prices listed, but some areas didn’t have tags available. This potentially wasn’t a problem, as the pipes did have tags stuffed in the bowls of their pipes, but about half of the pipes didn’t have a price listed, only a barcode. I can’t interpret a barcode, so I was out of luck. I wasn’t about to ask the clerks to price check every pipe, so I’d have to find out the price of my pipe once I picked it out.

After about forty minutes of searching through each pipe that caught my eye, picking them up and giving them a look over, I finally narrowed my selection between a charming Rosslare 68 and one of the Sherlock Holmes pipes that were available. Now, Peterson’s Sherlock pipes exude that classy Peterson look, but go a step further with their heftier size. If you’re buying a pipe from Peterson’s and have the budget, what better pipe to bring home as a memento from a trip to Ireland than a Sherlock? I mean there’s even a statue of the man in the store, so why not go for one?

Ultimately, the look of the pipe became the deciding factor for my purchase. The Sherlock pipes had style to them; no doubt about it, but the finish for each pipe resembled the average Aran or Rocky pipe. I love both styles, but I already own plenty of Peterson’s with those particular finishes. The Rosslare pipes, however, caught my eye the moment I saw them— with the glossy yet rusticated briar, silver band, and golden stem.

I’ll admit I almost walked away with a Sherlock Professor pipe. It had the same bent billiard shape as a 68, but larger for longer smokes. I had to pose myself a question— which of the two pipes would I look back and regret not buying once I got back from my trip? As cool as the Professor pipe was, I knew as soon as I got home I’d be thinking about that Rosslare finish, and make that my next purchase. Could I say the same about the Professor? The decision was clear as day, and I put the Professor back in the case and took the Rosslare 68 to the attendant at the counter.

As I checked out, I decided to pick up some pipe tobacco not available in the United States. While Mick McQuaid Plug was high on my UK pipe tobacco wish list, there was only one choice for me—Condor Plug. For years, I’ve read user reviews on tobaccoreviews.org for the classic British blends such as St. Bruno Flake, and Condor Plug was always up there as a tobacco I wished I could try. Now that I had the chance, I wasn’t going to miss my opportunity. I ended up picking up two 50-gram pouches and added them with the pipe.

I must say, I feel for my pipe brethren overseas. As annoying as it is to have large warning labels on our pipe tobacco in the USA, it doesn’t compare to the absolute fear mongering plastered on the European pouches. The pouches are pure black, with the name of the tobacco in plain white text. Instead of tin art, pictures of babies on life support, black lungs, weeping wives, and other guilt tripping images are front and center on the pouches. They gave the impression you’d suddenly keel over the moment you touched the pouch. It’s utter hogwash, and when I open my two pouches of Condor Plug, the original packaging is going straight into the trash where it belongs. I fear it’s a sign of things to come over here in America, if our moralizing politicians have anything to say about it, but at least they can’t control what we do with our tobacco once we have it.

After placing my new Peterson 68 and tobacco in my backpack, it was time for me to step back in the wet drizzly weather and make my way over to Trinity College. While I was sad to leave Peterson’s, I was equally as eager to see my favorite exhibit in the world— the Book of Kells and the Long Library. I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate my newest purchase than inside an old library with old, dusty books. Of course, I couldn’t leave without giving my regards to the great detective himself as he stood watch over one of the finest pipe shops in the world. It’s just a shame I couldn’t enjoy a pipe with him.

The Great Detective in the Wax

Overall, I had a wonderful time visiting Peterson’s of Dublin, and while I had a few nit picks, they’re only to help improve an already great pipe shop. The two clerks in attendance were cheerful and treated me well, helping every customer that came through their doors. If you happen to visit Ireland, you’d be crazy not to give Peterson’s a visit. I look forward to coming back and visiting their shop the next time I decide to endure another seven-hour flight overseas.

Further thoughts on Ireland

The Rock of Cashel

As I’ve said before, I’ve been to Ireland a total of three times now, and I still pine to go back and spend more time in the Emerald Isle. As a history buff, Ireland is chock full of castles, ruins, forgotten cemeteries, and old buildings that you’ll want to spend hours at. Here in America, it’s a big deal when a building is over a hundred years old, whereas in Ireland, that’s quite the norm. I’ll confess that when I’m at an old ruin, I feel like a kid again, climbing over the ancient stones and exploring every nook and cranny for little details some might completely miss.

I’m not much of an outdoors person, but when I’m in Ireland, that completely changes. Some of the most fun I’ve had has been climbing the rocks of the Giants Causeway, hiking up the seaside cliffs for breathtaking views, and taking in the magnificent views of the Ireland highlands. I’d gladly sacrifice a day of lounging around at home to witness the natural splendor of Ireland any time. It’s moments like this where I heartily advocate for an afternoon lunt amongst the scenery.

The people of Ireland are also exceedingly friendly and welcoming. During my time, I had many chats with locals and getting to know them on a personal level. Once they learned of my wife’s heritage, they all wanted to know her family’s story and her connection to Ireland. The people in Belfast were also very open about their history with the Troubles, filling us in on how Northern Ireland has progressed since the fighting ceased. It gave me a new appreciation for what they went through, and how the country has grown since those turbulent times. The Irish are wonderful people, and I hope all of my readers get a chance to have a pint with one over a good chat and pipe.

If I had only one disappointment, it was that I didn’t encounter any pipe smokers out in the wild. I’ve seen pipe smokers in all other countries that I’ve visited, so it’s odd to me that Ireland remains the one exception. Pipe smoking seems so tied to Ireland, as it’s in their artwork and photography. I even found a pipe smoker painted on the side of one of the pubs we visited up near Donnegal. I know they’re there, but I’ve had bad luck in all of my searching. Next time I hope to enjoy my pipe there, so maybe it’ll encourage another pipe smoker to come out of hiding.

Still, I had an absolutely wonderful time in Ireland, and this was the first trip where I wasn’t ready to head back to America by the end of my visit. It’s not easy for me to leave my garage and go travelling, but Ireland certainly left a piece of itself with me that will last a lifetime.

Top of the Mornin’/Evenin’ to Ye!

Until next time, happy puffing friends!

-TheBadgerPiper

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The Art in the Artisan Pipe Part II: Nate Rose of RosePipeCo and ‘The Willows Pipe’

“How would you like to own a badger pipe?”

This question came to me via Instagram this past January. I was in a conversation with Nate Rose of RosePipeCo about unusual pipe shapes; when out of the blue, he asked me about collaborating with him in creating a new pipe for my collection. Of course, I’d pay for it, as pipe carvers should be paid for their work, but Nate assured me that I would be involved in the creation process. I didn’t have the money at the time, but I told Nate that I’d be happy to for my birthday. As soon March came around, my wife and I set aside the needed funds and sent them to Nate.

Nate Rose, Pipe Maker Extraordinaire

Nate Rose

First, let’s get to know a bit about Nate’s story. Nate Rose is a relatively new pipe carver, having started his craft four years ago up in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Despite being new on the scene, Nate’s been featured on both the Pipes Magazine and Maple City Pipecast podcasts. In fact, I highly recommend you listen to the March 20th 2019 episode of the Maple City Pipecast, where my buddy Dave interviewed him for his carver series.

Nate has been busy since he picked up his first briar block, and constantly has new projects sitting on his workbench. His pipe portfolio ranges from smooth billiards and classy Bings, to craggy pokers and rugged bulldogs. Never satisfied with simply repeating his greatest hits, each pipe Nate has their own embellishments that give each pipe their own unique personality. Nate also dabbles with bamboo shanks on occasion, producing stunning pipes that catch the eye— and let’s be honest, pipes with bamboo shanks never disappoint. Although Nate’s carved a variety of different shapes, he’s always eager to stretch his creative muscles and venture into uncharted territory.

“I really enjoy my billiards, but there are so many shapes I haven’t tried,” said Nate, on which shapes he’d love to try carving. “[I’d] like to try prince or author, [that] would be different.”

From my time getting to know Nate over this past year, it’s easily apparent that he takes his carving with the utmost seriousness. Nate doesn’t just rely on his own judgment when carving his pipes, but shows his finished pipes to another, more experienced carver for a second opinion. “I have someone I look up to,” explained Nate. “He’s my mentor/master if you will. All my pipes go through his ‘grade.’ I call him my Qui Gon Jim. Honestly, I’ve been under his teaching for 2 years.”

For all of his impressive pipe carving skills, Nate’s pretty humble about what he’s accomplished so far in his short career. Though pipe carving is just his side hobby, it’s his true passion in life. “Pipe carving truly gave me some of the most confidence I’ve ever had as a human,” he told me. “[I] wasn’t great in school. I work a pretty standard blue-collar 9/5 factory job, but when I walk into the shop and throw my apron on, I come to life. It’s incredible.”

Since pipe carving is only a hobby at this point in Nate’s life, it’s not always easy for him to devote time to his shop. “The biggest challenge I currently have with running my business is honestly finding time to carve,” admitted Nate. “With the new baby and balancing life, kid, and my relationship, my carving time is limited.” As a writer, I can relate to Nate’s struggle with juggling a passion with work and family. Sometimes you have to put your passion aside and spend time with the more important parts of your life. But when there’s a free moment, you go out there and get to work.

I first became aware of Nate through Dave, as Nate was already working on a commission for him for a riff on the Missouri Meerschaum Cobbit pipe. Since Nate had a partnership going with Dave, I felt confident enough to take the plunge and commission my pipe through him. It also helped that Nate had an Instagram page where I could check out his previous work. Nate had countless pictures of himself working in his shop, as well as various photos of completed pipes from his portfolio.

As I mentioned in Part I of my Art in the Artisan series, it’s essential for pipe carvers to have some sort of presence on social media. Otherwise, their work gets lost in the void, overshadowed by tech savvy pipe makers that know how to market their work. Nate understands this, and uses social media to not only increase his brand awareness, but to interact with the wider pipe world.

“If it wasn’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t have become a carver,” recounted Nate on his social media use. “Instagram gave me a platform to learn and interact with other carvers. It’s also is my main source for sales. The only time I spend marketing is when I post general stuff going on in my day-to-day shop life.”

The Creation of Willows Pipe

Nate in his workshop

Once Nate received his payment, we went straight to work messaging each other over ideas for this badger pipe. Now, as a writer, I like coming up with stories for my commissioned pipes, giving them a kind of backstory so the pipe has meaning to it. In my head, I envisioned the pipe as something Mr. Badger from The Wind in the Willows would carve for himself. I wanted the pipe to look like Mr. Badger picked up a gnarled block of briarwood out in the woods and carved a pipe for himself, keeping most of it’s original appearance intact. The pipe itself would resemble tree bark, with a hint of green moss showing in the wood. I knew this would be a challenge, as an effortless looking pipe requires a lot of skill and craftsmanship. However, Nate was more than up to the task.

As for the shape, I wanted to do something a bit different than the norm. With pipe shapes on the market, it’s rare to find a pipe that veers from the standard shapes out there. Because of this, I like combining or mixing shapes for my commissioned pipes, just to try something different. For example, my Marvic commission pipe is a mix between an Egg and Cutty shape, something veering on the nautical side.

For the Willows pipe, as Nate dubbed it, I’d combine two of my favorite shapes—the Lovat and the Dublin. I love the almost stumpy quality of a Lovat stem, and knew I wanted to incorporate it into the body of the pipe. Instead of the usual Billiard bowl, however, the pipe would be in the shape of a Dublin. The cone shape of a Dublin pipe makes it a perfect selection for flakes, and mixing it with a Lovat body would give the pipe some originality.

After giving Nate my directions for the shape and look, I gave him complete control over the carving of the pipe. When I work with a pipe carver, I try to give them the bare essentials for a direction to go in, and set them loose. I wanted Nate to have fun carving the pipe and not bog him down with micromanaging every little step along the way. After all, this wasn’t just a pipe for me, but something I wanted Nate to show off to others and increase his business. As great as it is for me to get my commissioned pipe, I’d feel even happier knowing he got more customers out of working on my pipe.

As I guessed, Nate prefers having the freedom to take a commissioned pipe in the direction that speaks to him. “I really do prefer mostly freedom other then obviously picking the shape and maybe a particular colour you’d like incorporated,” he said about dealing with commissions. “But there is something pretty special when you are given super specific details and can manage to knock it out of the park.”

Of course, when you commission a pipe, you’re not just ordering it off a shelf and expecting it to arrive in a few days. Nate already had a few pipes already on his bench ahead of mine, so I’d have to wait a bit before he could get started on it. However, patience is the hallmark virtue of pipe smokers, so I bided my time as I waited for Nate to start working on my commission.

One of Nate’s strengths is that he’s a great communicator. I never had to send him messages inquiring as to the status of my pipe. While waiting for him to start, he kept me updated on how long he thought it would take before he could start on mine. Once he did, he sent me constant updates, from pictures of his sketches on the briar block, all the way to completion. With every message, he checked with me that I was happy with the direction he was going in, giving me plenty of chances to make changes if they were needed. Nate offered his input, and generally I’d listen to his suggestions. For example, I originally picked out a red stem to go with my pipe, but he thought a green stem fit better with the tree theme. However, Nate didn’t want to make the change without my consent. I agreed with his assessment, and we made the change.

It’s suggestions like this that reveals Nate’s thought process when he tackles a new project. When he picks up a block of briar, he doesn’t just go straight to work, but takes a thoughtful approach in how the pipe will end up when it’s all said and done. “I find when it comes to a new shape or style of rustication, I get over excited to dig in,” he explained. “So I have to make myself take a day or two just to look over my sketch and ideas on paper before I begin.”

“Also a coffee and pipe will slow me down,” he added. “That helps.”

After Nate finished carving the block, he went straight to work on rusticating the pipe. Playing off the tree bark theme, Nate came up with a complicated effect that he called a ‘Wasp Nest.’ This involved carving out multiple tiny panels into the pipe, while filling the grooves with countless tiny dots that went all the way down and into the stem.

“I find most of my inspiration comes from nature or pictures in general,” reminisced Nate, when I asked him about his inspiration behind the rustication. “I see something and start wondering ‘if that wasp nest was a pipe, what would it look like?’”

Satisfied with the rustication results, Nate next moved onto staining and finishing the pipe. Since the Willows pipe is supposed to look like tree bark, Nate went with a dark red and black color scheme. As an added element to the finish, Nate applied the tiniest hint of green shading to give the tree bark some moss. While the moss effect isn’t immediately apparent, upon closer inspection the shading adds a bit of whimsy in the design that is often lacking in pipe making. It’s details like this that elevates the Willows pipe in ways that few carvers think to include in their pipes.

With the Willows pipe completed, Nate packed up the pipe and shipped it off to the USA. As any pipe smoker will tell you, waiting for a new pipe in the mail can be an agonizing process. Each day I checked the mailbox, hoping to see that rectangular box waiting for me to open, but walking away in disappointment. The box showed up on a Friday afternoon in April, which was a welcome surprise to kick off the weekend. It didn’t take me long to open the box and admire the beautiful craftsmanship of the pipe.

From Carver to Customer, A Review of the Willows Pipe

The Willows Pipe

The first thing that sticks out to me when looking over the Willows pipe is how different it is from all my other pipes. The oval bowl is reminiscent to some of the Dublins I own, but the unusual sloping rim at the top is a wonderful touch by the carver. The swirling red and black colors on the panels is truly a sight to behold, with no two panels having the same color pattern. The hints of green moss in the cracks of the wasp nest shows Nate’s expert use of color, just having enough for the observer to notice without it taking away from the overall color scheme. This is a pipe you want to sit down with and study under a bright lamp, just so you can notice all the little details that went into the carving.

The overall weight of the pipe is just right, not too heavy to clench, but not too light so you have that nice “pipe” feel when holding it in your hand. The airway has been properly drilled, something some of my factory pipes can’t say, and easily passes a pipe cleaner without any issues.

If I have one criticism of the pipe, it has to be with the stem. The stem itself is nicely carved, and the added rustication detail Nate did on the portion closest to the shank is a fine touch I never would’ve considered. While the stem is a bit longer for a Lovat, overall I can’t complain. The silvery green stem dazzles the eye, and to lose any of it would be a crime according to pipe law.

The issue comes from the button, as the edges are a bit longer than they should be. It makes clenching the pipe a bit difficult, as the pipe jostles around if I bite down on it, and it’s not easy to keep my teeth past the button. Looking back on the stem, Nate concurred that he wishes he could’ve adjusted it a bit more.

“The only thing looking back that I might consider changing on Willow would maybe be her stem. I wasn’t in love with it when I was done, also the button wasn’t [what] I [can] do now.”

While the button has its issues, I found an easy solution to the problem that required no modification to the pipe. At the most recent Chicago Pipe Show, I purchased some rubber stem bits and fit it over the Willow’s stem. The soft rubbery bit instantly solved the button issue, and now I can clench the pipe without any hassle. No harm, no foul as far as I’m concerned.

As soon as I filled my Willows pipe with some tobacco, I sent Nate a picture of me enjoying his latest work. For Nate, seeing his customers enjoying their new pipe is his greatest reward as a pipe maker.

“The best part honestly about being a carver is seeing photos of people enjoying my work. That’s a pretty fulfilling feeling.”

When looking back on the Willows pipe, Nate is proud of his work, as he should be. “Honestly, lately I think my pipes have taken a whole different level, which is great. BUT I’m pretty proud of Willow, that pipe was the beginning of some seriously new things coming out of my shop. I love that pipe.”

As do I, which is why I’ve already commissioned a new pipe from him. While we’re still getting ready for the planning stage, I’m already thinking of different shapes I’d like for Nate to try. I can’t think of a better show of endorsement of someone’s skills than a repeat customer, and Nate has my full backing.

Without a doubt, Nate has an unbridled enthusiasm for pipe carving. It’s in his blood, and creating with his hands keeps him going every day. “I’ll never stop carving. Hard to give something up that fulfills you internally from a creative standpoint.” And you can’t argue with that kind of passion.

While Nate has multiple projects in the works, you can still commission him for a new pipe. “I’m currently working on a pretty special pipe that’s important to me for personal reasons, [so] stay tuned.”

If you’re interested in commissioning a pipe from Nate, you can contact him via direct message on his Instagram and Facebook pages at RosePipeCo. There, you can follow Nate’s adventures in pipe carving and see his latest work, as well as previous pipes he’s completed. Nate’s prices are reasonable, and within range of budget minded pipe smokers looking for an artisan pipe without breaking the bank. Send him a message, and you too can own the RosePipeCo pipe of your dreams. Be sure to tell him Badger Piper sent ya.

Until next time, you can find me here, enjoying my very own badger pipe as I write my next update. Happy puffing my friends.

-TheBadgerPiper

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No Boundaries for the Briarhood

Living out away from civilization does the introvert soul well, but as a pipe smoker, it admittedly has its disadvantages. Granted, I can smoke my pipe where I want and not have to hear any complaints, but there’s also a dearth of fellow pipe smokers in the neighborhood to chat with in person. Of course, you could live in a city where you never see any other pipe smokers, so that’s out of our control. However, most cities and suburbs have a brick and mortar tobacconist, which offers a better chance at meeting someone smoking a pipe. Even then, if the tobacconist focuses almost completely on cigars, then the pipe smoker is out of luck.

Now, where I live, there are good tobacconists that have nice pipe selections, but they’re all at least an hour away in different directions. Unless I feel like driving an hour each way just for the chance to maybe run into one of those rare pipe smokers, I’m stuck here at home with no one to chat with about pipes.

I have to confess sometimes I look back and pine for the past, when pipe smoking was a more universal hobby. You’d have a greater chance of meeting other pipe smokers and share in the community. Then again, the way we approach our hobby is different than how things were done in the past. Pipe smoking was a way of life, and most pipe smokers picked a favorite blend and smoked it in one of their handful pipes. With pipe smoking being the world of eccentrics and hobbyists today, our enthusiasm would contrast severely with the codgers of old.

It goes against my curmudgeonly pipe smoking ways, but I think I’d rather be a pipe smoker today than one from yesteryear.  As much as I hate to admit it, the internet has done a world of good for pipe smokers. The little computer screens might be rotting our brains, but at least we’re having them rot together.

See, we can be the only pipe smoker in a 100-mile radius and still be part of the pipe smoking community at large. Sure, we don’t have a buddy sitting next to us, puffing our pipes together while chatting about our favorite blends, but with web forums and social media, we have countless fellow pipe smokers sitting with us in spirit.

I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve smoked my pipe with a fellow pipe smoker in person outside of a pipe club or show. Yet every night I smoke my pipe, I’m chatting about it with people from all around the world. Heck, every week I record a podcast with Dave from the Maple City PipeCast while we smoke our pipes. Those are better odds than traveling to my closest brick and mortar. I can tweet out a blend I’m smoking, or post about it on the ThisPipeLife forums, and get into a conversation with multiple people about the tobacco and hear what they think of it.

Thanks to the internet, I’ve made countless friends with pipe smokers from all around the world. Almost all of my friends don’t even live in the same state as I do, and without the internet, I wouldn’t have these friendships. From Montana, to New Jersey, to Oregon, Canada, England, and so on, I’m surrounded by like-minded souls who enjoy the briar and leaf.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve truly come to appreciate the power that social media has to bring pipe smokers together. In contrast, it seems as if social media is dividing people further and further away over their differences. Yet in the pipe smoking community, I only see pipers sharing their love of pipes and tobacco, and encouraging each other when they need an ear to listen. I’ll go so far as to say the pipe smoking community is the best community out there on the internet. For all of our differences and diverse backgrounds, pipes and tobacco are the glue that brings us together to find common ground. Some of us might get into squabbles, but in the end we all can go back to our pipes.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not plugged into a pipe smoking forum or group on social media, I mean it with all sincerity that you’re missing out of the greatest and largest pipe club in the world. You don’t have to be an island, smoking your pipe alone with no one to share the experience with after a long day. So ignore the curmudgeon side of yourself and find a place to join and share your knowledge and experiences. Sure, you might not like everyone, or enjoy every community out there, but if you take the time to look, there’s a place to call your own.

You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time, happy puffing my friends,

TheBadgerPiper

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Tobacco Review: Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. – Black Irish X Unsliced

My apologies dear readers, as I had to put off my “Art in the Artisan Part 2” article for next month. I’ve been focused on making headway in my novel, but I didn’t want to let June pass by without an update. Instead, I’m cheating a bit and reposting my most recent tobacco review on tobaccoreviews.com.

I’ll be the first to admit tobacco reviewing isn’t my specialty. Yet I felt the same way about poetry, but that changed after spending some time on it. I tend to only review blends that leave a distinct impression on me, and boy did this blend do that and more.

I’m sure you already know this, but if you haven’t visited tobaccoreviews.com, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable website for pipe smokers, only second to The Briar Report of course. You’ll find reviews for every blend under the sun there, and I’ll often read it when I’m bored or researching for my next tobacco purchase.

There are two methods to writing a useful review. On one hand, a review should strive to be factual and descriptive, giving the reader all the information they need to make a well informed opinion for themselves whether the blend is something they would enjoy. The other method is to entertain the reader with humor or include anecdotal stories about their experience with the blend. The following review is more of the latter, but there should be enough information there for you to decide if this blend is for you. Now then, let’s take a trip to a place where pipe smoking angels fear to tread.

Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. – Black Irish X Unsliced

There are some pipe tobaccos out there that will test the mettle of a piper. Now, I’m no stranger to strong pipe tobacco. Old Joe Krantz and Haunted Bookshop are both daily smokes for me, and I love Kajun Kake and War Horse Green. Yet with all my experience with vitamin N, I’ve never had the courage to order Gawith & Hoggarth’s Black Irish X. I had heard of this blend’s ability to knock a man down to size, so I stayed away, giving the blend a wide berth.

Recently during a pipe trade with an online friend, he offered to send me a sample of Black Irish X. So for a laugh, I decided I’d throw caution to the wind and give the blend a try. After all, what’s the worst it could do?

After sitting on my sample for a week or two, today I gathered my courage and pulled the sample out. Black Irish X comes in a rope, so you need to slice it with a knife to smoke it. In a way, it’s fitting that you have to use a knife with this tobacco, as you’ll need all the protection you can get with this sucker. I cut a few coins off the rope, rubbed the coins into ribbons, and loaded it into a Canadian pipe that has a smaller bowl. If this is your first time with the blend, then a small pipe is a must, or you’ll be at the blend’s mercy.

Upon the first light, I noticed a unique smell that I’ve never encountered before with a pipe tobacco—BBQ. This has a good, smoky BBQ flavor, much like a dry rub. In fact, I’d compare smoking this blend to sitting down with a huge steak dinner right off the grill. And this isn’t a fancy steak dinner prepared with some newfangled culinary techniques. This is a huge chunk of meat, and you’re going to have to finish the whole thing like John Candy in The Great Outdoors.

So I sat in my chair and puffed away, not letting anything else distract me from my pipe. You’ll want a drink with this tobacco, too. I had coffee, but I’d imagine this would pair well with a good scotch.

The first half went by without any issues, but the further down I smoked, the more I could feel the effects of the tobacco seeping in. The BBQ steak flavor never left, but I never found it to be dull or boring.

By the time I reached the end of the bowl, I felt the threads of reality beginning to split. Somewhere in the smoky haze, I could see a realm in the distance, some far off tavern with wizards, knights, rangers, and clerics. They sat around long tables, singing songs of pipe tobaccos gone by as they drank from their tankards and puffed their pipes. I could see them motioning for me to join them, to leave this world behind and disappear forever. Had I smoked Black Irish X in a larger pipe, I don’t think I would’ve been able to resist the call.

Overall, I have to say that I have a healthy respect for this tobacco. It’s rich and flavorful, and unlike any other blend I’ve tried. Should this blend come back in stock, I’d gladly order a tin or two for my cellar. I would then lock said tins inside an old chest with heavy chains around it, and nail a sign that said “Beware.”

Take caution, dear piper, for this blend will sneak up on you like a bandit if you let it. Even if you smoke this in a smaller pipe, it will punch you in the head until you’re silly. Despite the risks, I’d say everyone should give this blend a try.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I realized I typed this all out using my toes. I think I better head to bed before something worse happens.

Pipe Used: A Small hand carved Canadian

TobAge When Smoked: Unknown

Until next time, happy puffing!

-TheBadgerPiper

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The Art in the Artisan Pipe

If you’re like me, when you took up pipe smoking, you started off with a factory pipe. For me, I started with a Peterson, but Savinelli’s, Stanwell’s, Nording’s, Comoy’s, etc are all great first pipes. Go on your online vendor of choice, and you’ll have all sorts of pipe manufacturers to pick from that are in your price range. Heck, you could just buy one brand of pipes for the rest of your life and be happy.

            Spend any amount of time on the pipe section of social media, though, and you’ll discover an entirely new world of pipes. These pipes aren’t made in a factory, but rather in the garages, basements, and workrooms of hard working and pipe carvers. All around the world, talented men and women spend all day taking blocks of briar and carving them into stunning works of art. These countless men and women have taken their love and appreciation for tobacco pipes to the next level, leaving their mark on the pipe world with their own personal style.

            I have a ton of respect for these entrepreneurial pipers, as being an independent pipe carver takes hard work and dedication. It’s easy to be a bystander and take independent pipe carvers for granted, but we shouldn’t. To be a pipe carver and survive in this market, one must wear many hats to succeed and make a living with their passion.

First, they have to have the talent to shape a briar block into a desirable pipe. Just one misstep or mistake, and that billiard that would’ve gone for sale now becomes their own pipe in a best case scenario. It also takes multiple pipe carvings before a pipe maker can start offering their pipes for sale. Some pipe makers even choose to live with another pipe maker to learn under them as an apprentice. That alone is an investment, as that takes time away from their families and their non-pipe carving work, not to mention money spent on travel, food, or room and board. Not to mention, a pipe carver must decide whether to follow the light side or dark side of pipe making in their apprenticeship. I’d say more on the subject, but George Lucas did a few pretty good (and not so good) allegory films for pipe making. Just replace “Jedi” and “Sith” with “pipe maker”, and you’ll understand fellow padawan.

            Then there’s the money investment to become a pipe carver. The pipe maker has to buy the necessary tools, briar blocks, and stem materials to make a pipe. Even if they already have the needed equipment, the supplies alone comes out of their pockets. That’s a lot of money to spend on following your dreams of having your own line of pipes.

            So you have the necessary equipment and supplies and can carve a billiard, so you’re set, right? Not so fast. After learning how to carve a pipe, next you have to develop a style, a signature look that’s all your own. This comes with practice, and lots of it. You carve a pipe how it’s supposed to look, and then look for ways to separate yourself from the pack. If you only carve generic pipes, you’ll easily lose yourself from the rest of the pipe makers out there. That doesn’t mean you have to create wild, out of this world briars, but you need something that screams you. You need a brand to distinguish yourself.

             Even if the pipe carver has the skills and style down, there’s still an uphill battle to become established as a successful pipe maker. The pipe maker has to juggle being a pipe carver, as well as a business entrepreneur and a brand marketer. The pipe carver can’t just worry about carving a good pipe, but learning how to sell their pipes. Otherwise those beautiful briars are going to languish on their shelves, gathering dust as they wait to be bought.

            What does this all mean? Well, the pipe maker can’t hide in their workshop and carve; they have to get out there and sell their wares. The pipe maker can’t put all their hopes into being picked up by an online pipe retailor; they’ve got to get noticed first. The good news is that there are a wide variety of methods to get your name out there to attract prospective buyers. The pipe maker isn’t limited to making a webpage or etsy store to sell their pipes. Some pipe makers have managed to make a decent business by simply selling their newest pipes on Instagram, even before they’re finished. It might take a bit of time before the pipe maker gets to this point, but the tools are there.

            Likewise, social media is a great place for a pipe maker to connect with a wider audience. It’s a way for the pipe maker to show pictures of their work as it’s being done, as well as adding a personal touch by being personable to commenters. By interacting with fellow pipe smokers, the pipe maker can develop lasting relationships with potential customers. The person complimenting your new Dublin might not buy that specific pipe, but later down the road when they’re looking for a new pipe, they’ll know whom to contact.

            This, of course, adds an additional wrinkle to the mix— customer service. The pipe maker has to reply to emails and direct messages, answering inquiries and potential commissions. And when the pipe maker sells a pipe, they also have to address possible issues the customer has with the pipe. The pipe maker can pour their heart and soul into a pipe, but if it’s not what the customer wants, well, then it’s back to the workshop and hope it doesn’t affect their future business prospects.

            Also, as a pipe maker, they’re at the mercy of what their customer wants. While they can make the kind of pipes they want to make, many take on commissions. The pipe maker might want to be creative and carve all sorts of shapes, but if it’s not what the customer wants, then they have to put those ideas aside and make their commissioned pipes. Want to carve an egg or cutty? Tough, you have to carve five poker pipes in a row for your clients. And if you make it big with a certain shape, expect to make more just like it.

            With all this in mind, I have the utmost respect for the hard working pipe makers out there. Having followed the pipe world on social media for the past five years, I’ve seen promising pipe makers come and go. Some pipe carvers will work hard to establish themselves from the rest of the pack, put out their hard work, and disappear a year later after failing to find an audience. It’s not an easy line of work, and the market is full of competitors, all looking to have a piece of the proverbial pie. And let’s be honest here, there’s not a massive amount of pipe smokers out there. To make it as a pipe maker, you have to be determined and be willing to keep going through some lean times.

            And these are all the possible issues that I, a non-pipe carver, can see from the outside. There could be other hurdles that I haven’t accounted for in this article. It’s a tough business.

            Now, with that preamble out of the way, why should you consider buying your next pipe from a pipe carver? Don’t worry, I’m not going to stand in some derelict pipe workshop and beg you to buy a pipe from a poor, needy pipe carver like I’m in some commercial in the middle of the night. I get it, it’s easy to just go onto a pipe website and simply pick a new pipe from what’s available. However, having purchased a few artisan pipes myself, I can tell you, buying a pipe from a pipe carver is a rewarding experience.

            Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. First, you’ll be paying more for an artisan pipe. Normally, you’ll find factory pipes priced around $100 or less, depending on the brand and finish. Some of those factory pipes can still cost as much as $150, but $100 is the baseline from what I’ve found. You can find some artisan pipes around the $100 mark, but for the most part you’re looking at $150 or more, especially if it’s a commissioned pipe. If you want one of those fancy schmancy blowfish or reverse calabash pipes, expect to pay more.

            It’s a simple matter of economics. A pipe carver doesn’t have the same resources that a factory does. They work at a slower pace than the factories, because it’s usually a one-person operation. While a factory can churn out many pipes in a single day, the pipe carver can take multiple days on one pipe, depending on what they’re making.

            Likewise, when you order an artisan pipe, expect to wait a few weeks before it arrives. This is especially true if you’re commissioning a pipe from scratch. You have to wait while the pipe maker finishes the pipes they have on the bench before they can get to yours. Then, the pipe making process can take a few days, depending on the shape and finish you want.

            Also, depending on the pipe maker, you might not have much to go on in terms of their general reputation. If you’re working with a new pipe maker, you’re trusting that they’re competent at their job. It’s an investment to their work, and sadly not all investments work out in the end.

            Finally, once you get your pipe, if you’re not happy with it, you have to deal with the pipe carver to get the issue sorted out. You can’t just contact smokingpipes and try to return the pipe. It all depends on the pipe carver you’re working with, and when you’re dealing with a person rather than a company, there’s a chance you might run afoul with the pipe maker. And should that fight become public on social media, well, no one wants to see that. Thankfully, I haven’t heard of too many instances of this.

            Now that we have the negatives out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff!

            When you’re commissioning a pipe, you’re creating the pipe YOU want! You’re not limited to the available stock on a website or in a pipe shop. If you’ve always dreamed of owning a full bent poker pipe, there’s a pipe carver out there that’ll make it for you. If you want a billiard with a grey finish with rustication, there’s a pipe carver that’ll make it. Want a Bing pipe with an apple bowl? There’s a pipe carver that’ll make it. The only limits with a commissioned pipe are your imagination and the skills of the pipe carver.

            When you work with a pipe carver, they’ll generally be in contact with you every step of the way. With all my commissioned pipes, I received constant updates of the progress of my pipe, with questions and suggestions of what to do next. I’ve never been out of the loop during the carving process, and every decision was made by me, unless I gave the carver the freedom to do what they wanted. From the rustication on the pipe to the choice of stem color, I had the final say. If I wanted a billiard with a neon pink stem, and they had that stem, they’d shrug their shoulders and do it as they questioned my taste.

            When you own a commissioned pipe, it’s completely different from owning another factory pipe. Every pipe has a story behind it, and with a commissioned pipe, you’re part author. You know where it came from, as well as who carved it. And one day, when you reach the end of your pipe journey, you have the chance to gift it to someone else. One day, I’ll be able to give my commissioned pipes to my son (should I have one), and tell him the story of each pipe as I pass it along to him to keep. You’re not just commissioning an average pipe; you’re creating an heirloom.

            By commissioning a pipe, you’re also investing in someone’s personal business. You’re not handing your hard earned cash to another company, but to a person who’s following their dreams. That pipe you ordered helps someone keep their business open, and the feedback you give helps the carver develop their skills. It’s a real win-win situation, you get a pipe to treasure, and the carver gets to make more pipes.

            If you’re buying a pre-carved pipe from an artisan pipe maker, you’re still helping them out. By buying one of their pipes, you’re not only helping them out financially, but also letting them know that something they made caught their eye. This helps them in knowing which styles and shapes to focus on in their spare time. That alone is valuable feedback to the carver, and they’ll appreciate your business.

            The relationship between pipe carver and customer doesn’t end the moment the pipe arrives in the mailbox, either. Once you have that pipe, you have the chance to support their work beyond the money you sent them. Take pictures of the pipe! Post the pictures on social media and tag the pipe carver. Talk about the pipe on your pipe forums and social media. Show the pipe off and tell people where you ordered the pipe. The pipe carver can only do so much in self-promotion.

When you tell people about your artisan pipe, you’re giving the pipe carver valuable help in getting their brand out to the pipe masses. A happy customer showing off their pipe does more for the pipe maker than countless Instagram photos of their work. There’s no better way of saying thanks to a pipe maker than spreading the word about their skills.

            Over the years, I’ve purchased four artisan pipes, three commissioned and one purchased from etsy. All four of them are fantastic pipes, and I couldn’t be happier with them. I heartily recommend that all pipers take a chance on an artisan pipe maker at some point in their hobby.

            So, for part 2 of this series, I’ll be talking about my most recent pipe commission. So stay tuned to learn more about the pipe, and more specifically, the pipe maker: Nate Rose of RosePipeCo. Hopefully, by the end of this series, you’ll consider saving up and taking the plunge with a pipe carver.

Until next time,

-TheBadgerPiper

The 100% Factual Guide to Pipe Smoking

Guest Article By Sargent MacBadger the Third

            [Sargent MacBadger marches into the conference room, dressed smartly in his fully decorated military uniform. The badger paces back and forth, puffing his MacArthur cob with a steely look on his face, glancing at the soldiers lined in front of him from underneath his helmet. He stops suddenly and pivots to the men and clears his throat.]

            Ah-ten-shun! So, you maggots want to start smoking a pipe, eh? Well, this is a man’s hobby, and if you lily livered crybabies show even the slightest hesitation, it’ll chew you up and spit you out like the dottle you are.

            To be a pipe man, you have to throw yerself into it like you mean it! I don’t want to hear any whiny excuses like “I have tongue bite” or “My wife says I spend too much money on pipes and tobacco.” Ha. By the time I’m through with you, yer tongue’ll think ghost peppers are candy, and the direct deposit for your paycheck’ll go straight to smokingpipes.com, as it should. If that’s too much for ya, you can go to yer local Vape shop and work on yer manbun with the other hipsters. Bah, hipsters. I’d spit on ‘em, but that would disrespect my saliva.

            Still here, eh? Heh, well, there might be hope for ya after all. Now then, pay attention and ya might learn somethin’ if I can get through that thick skull of yours. I’m only goin’ through this once, so take notes. Yer life might depend on it.

Selecting a Pipe

            Okay soldier, so first things first— and this is the most important part, ya need a pipe. Can’t call yerself a pipe man without ownin’ one, right?  Right. If you couldn’t figure that one out, ya might as well get outta my sight.

            Now, some blogs on that world web wide’ll tell ya you should start off with a cob or an affordable briar. Maybe some’ll point ya to one of those so-called starter kits. Sounds like good advice, right?

WRONG!

If yer gonna smoke a pipe, ya might as well dive head first into the hobby in the deep end of the pool. Sink or swim’s my motto, and I’m the lifeguard tossin’ ya in the pool without arm floaties.

A cheap pipe’s just that, cheap, and more importantly bo-ring. I don’t want to see any Kaywoodies stickin’ outta yer gobs, an’ Dr. Grabrow’s a quack. Fake news. If the pipe has a stinger, then it’s a stinker. Remember that, maggot.

No, whatcha want is one of those fancy shmancy ‘art-i-sanal pipes. Ya know, one of the ones with a pipe maker tied to it. Take a look at yer online pipe retail site of choice. What yer lookin’ for is a pipe with at least three digits in the price, preferably four. The more numbers underneath the pipe, the better it is. That’s pipe law.

Oh, I can hear ya right now. “But Sarge, that’s out of my budget.” Pah, hogwash an’ pipe mud. Get used to workin’ two jobs if ya want a pipe, or ya don’t really mean it.

Found a maker with a large price tag? Good. Now then, let’s find a shape for ya.

First rule of finding the right shape—if the pipe has the word “reverse” in it’s title, then yer on the right track. Reverse Calabash, reverse bulldog, reverse prince, any of ‘em will do. If the man upstairs grants me one favor, it’s that I can live to see the day some genius out there makes the fabled “reverse reverse” shape. I heard the pipe prophet Hacker wrote about it in one of his pipe books.

Second rule, the fancier the shape name, the better it is. I’m talkin’ ‘bout Blowfish, Tomatoes, Anvils, Hammerheads, Large Halogen Collider, all fine pipes if I do say so meself. So buy at least a month’s worth of those, an’ yer set to go. After all, if ya smoke the same pipe more than once a month, then yer ruinin’ it.

Of course, ya can’t go wrong with a good cob. If you ask me, though, there’s only one cob worth ownin’— the MacArthur. Nothin’ sets you apart from all the normies an’ civilians out there more than walkin’ down the street while puffin’ on one of these. It’s a statement that tells ‘em you don’t care what they think.

As for meerschaums, I don’t have time for ‘em. Unless of course it’s in the shape of a dragon. Come on, it’s a dragon pipe.

Now that ya have a dufflebag’s worth of pipes, we’ll move on to the next lesson.

Selecting a Tobacco

            Can’t smoke a pipe without baccy, otherwise yer an ignoramus. But all those blends can make a private quiver in fear in his foxhole. Don’t you worry that little head of yers, ol’ Sargent MacBadger’s here to help you out.

Let’s get this outta the way first. I see ya eyein’ those purdy smellin’ aromatics. Stop right there, soldier. This ain’t no vape shop with cotton candy or strawberry juice. So put that pouch of Lane 1-Q down. I’m here to show ya the real stuff. These blends’ll put hair on yer chest and tell the world yer made of stronger stuff.

Now, my own personal blend is a mixture of 90% Perique with some Latakia to scare away the riff raff. If the blend doesn’t knock ya right on your behind, knock the tobacco out of the bowl and try again. Some people, like my personal blender, have called me rabid over this blend, so out of respect of the weaker individuals out there, I’ll give ya my top five recommended blends for lightweights.

Cornell & Diehl’s Old Joe KrantzA loose-leaf mixture of Burley, Perique, and red Virginias. Old Joe’s like the old tuff guy drinkin’ his scotch in the back of the bar. His arms are covered in faded naval tattoos, and the stubble on his face is as coarse as sandpaper. Oh, he’ll share a drink with ya, but one wrong look an’ he’ll knock ya flat with one punch. He’ll then pick ya up off the ground and toss ya through the window, tellin’ ya you better not show your stinkin’ face in the bar again; unless you want your head mounted on the wall. Recommended for beginners.

Captain Earle’s Ten RussiansA Krumble Kake of Cavendish, Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginias. There’s no collusion with this blend. If you want to dip yer toes in the world of English blends, you might as well start here. Upon lighting this blend, you’ll summon the titular ten Russians, who’ll proceed to take you for a night on the town, drinkin’ more vodka than ya thought possible. Next thing ya know, you’ve been shanghaied on their ship, where the process’ll begin all over again. Remember boys, with Ten Russians, the pipe smokes you, so mind yer step. Recommended for Yakov Smirnoff aficionados

Samuel Gawith’s 1792 FlakeA pure Virginia Flake with Tonquin flavoring. Here’s a flake that’ll take ya back to the times of the great Revolution. Ignoring the fact this blend comes from the Crown, all you patriots out there won’t find another finer flake out there. Just stuff yer pipe with this flake an’ puff away with your tri-cornered hat on yer head. Don’t panic if ya start feelin’ dizzy, it just means you’ve found yerself in a time slip, goin’ back to the good ol’ days. Tell General Washington ol’ Sargent MacBadger sent ya. He’ll be just as confused as you are. Recommended for tea parties, revolutions, and bloodletting.

STG- Five BrothersA Birds-eye Burley Shag tobacco. They don’t make tobacco like this anymore. This is pure Burley goodness down to the last crumble. There’s a reason pipe smokers keep a pouch of this handy, it’ll exorcise any of those no good ghosts hauntin’ yer pipe faster that you can say “Who are ya gonna call?” Why, back when I was a Private, some of the boys back on base dared me to stay in the local haunted house fer a night. So I loaded my MacArthur cob an’ spent the night puffin’ away with my trusty side arm. After an hour, the ghosts came out wavin’ the white flag. To this day, there’s a court order that I can’t come within 50 feet of any ghost huntin’ shows, for fear of spookin’ the specters. Ya won’t need to burn any sage after smokin’ this blend, and that’s a badger promise. Recommended for Priests and Paranormal Investigators.

Gawith, Hoggarth & Co.’s Black Irish XXXA thick black rope of Burley and Virginia. Don’t let the look of the tobacco scare ya away from this blend. If ya ask me, all pipe smokers should cut their tobacco with a knife. It adds to the experience. As for the blend itself? Well, once while I was in the war, I was taken by surprise by an enemy squad. Luckily for me, they were all pipe smokers, so bein’ the gentlebeast that I am, I offered ‘em some of my Black Irish XXX as a sign of respect. Some pipe smokers they were, they all passed out from the nicotine. Took ‘em all captive an’ earned another medal out of the whole thing. Recommended for dreamers an’ those seekin’ visions, because after smokin’ this blend, you’ll have an encounter with the divine or one of those eldritch gods. Recommended for memory loss and madness.

Other Tools

            So you’ve picked out a blend to go with yer pipe, so think yer ready? Wrong! Drop an’ give me twenty! Well, much like a solider, a pipe smoker must always be prepared with the proper tools. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so let ol’ Sarge set ya straight.

            Now, if ya go onto these pipe sites, you’ll see ‘em offerin’ all sorts of pipe tools, tampers, lighters, an’ all that ballyhoo. Wanna know a secret? Its all jus’ to nickel an’ dime yer wallet.

            See that digit on yer hand you call a thumb? That’s as good of a pipe tool as any! You don’t need some shiny tamper to press down the pipe ash, jus’ use the thumb God gave ya an’ save that money fer somethin’ else. Likewise, when yer pipe’s finished, all ya need to do is give it a good whack, an’ all that ash’ll fall right out. I’ve even used it in battle to knock out an enemy soldier or two. Yer not jus’ knockin’ ‘em out, but yer blindin’ ‘em with the pipe ash. Best of all, there ain’t no rule from Geneva tellin’ ya you can’t do it. If ya ask me, the Swiss should jus’ stick with hot chocolate and step outta the way when it comes to pipe warfare.

            Pipe cleaners, ya ask? You mean the silly things kindergarteners use for an arts an’ crafts project that their parents toss in the trash when their brat isn’t lookin’? Don’t have time for ‘em. If my pipe starts actin’ up, I remove it from my jaw an’ give it a good tongue lashin’. If it still acts up, then it’s time for it to go to pasture with a well-placed slug in the stem. I can’t stand traitors, an’ that goes for briars.

            Finally, every pipe smoker needs a trusty knife for cuttin’ their baccy. While any ol’ pocket knife’ll do— here’s a tip between you an’ me. You want a baccy knife that gets the job done, the bigger the better. That’s why I use a machete to cut my rope an’ plug tobacco. A bayonet works, too, but you run the risk of accidentally shootin’ yer tobacco, an’ that would be a shame, unless it’s grape flavored. If that’s the case, then yer doin’ the baccy a favor.

How to Pack a Pipe

            If there’s one question I get tired of hearin’, it’s “Sarge, how do I pack my pipe?” It ain’t rocket science, idjit! Forget everythin’ you’ve heard about “the three pack method” or “the Frank Method”, they overcomplicate the whole dang thing.

            Here’s the trusted MacBadger method, passed on from badger to badger. Take yer baccy an’ stuff as much as ya can inside it. Is there still room at the top? Fill it some more! Every square inch in that chamber should be stuffed with baccy. Yer wastin’ good smokin’ time if ya leave any space in yer pipe. Trust me, it works. An’ if ya can’t get any airflow from the stem, puff harder. Builds up the lungs till they’re made of iron.

How to Light a Pipe

            Again, it ain’t rocket science. Don’t waste money on matches or one of them fancy doohickey pipe lighters. Don’t even get me started on those willy-nilly cedar sticks. Go drink yer soy latte in that case, hipster.

A humble flamethrower’ll do the job better than any of those fire makin’ tools. It not only lights yer pipe in one go; it also sends a firm message to the enemy that ya mean business. No need for a second light, too. Ah, I do love the smell of pipe tobacco in the morning.

Pipe Maintenance

            So you’ve finished yer pipe, how do ya take care of it? Simple, jus’ toss it in yer pocket, or fill it again. Too many folks out there pace around, goin’ “oh, I have to clean the stem an’ the bowl or my pipe’ll go bad.” Malarkey! A pipe doesn’t need any cleanin’. Ruins the natural seasoning.

            An’ don’t get yer drawers tied in a knot over this cake business. I smoke my pipes till I can’t fill ‘em anymore, then toss ‘em before buyin’ another one. It’s not like we’re in danger of runnin’ out of briar. I mean, there’s trees everywhere, so its one of them reusable resources. As they say, keep it simple soldier!

Final Thoughts

            There, I’ve taught ya everything I’ve learned in these long years since I started smokin’ a pipe. All these self-indulgent pipe metubers have made the whole thing a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Any knucklehead with a pipe an’ baccy can figure it out, it jus’ takes determination an’ ol’ fashioned will power.

           Now yer a red-blooded pipe smoker, ready to take on the world with briar in hand. Do me proud, soldier, an’ show those anti’s an’ hipsters out there how it’s done. Don’t ya fret one bit, Sargent MacBadger’ll lead the charge an’ bring you all to victory.

            DIS-MISSED!

Till next time soldier,

Sgt. MacBadger the Third

            Note: We here at the TheBadgerPiper pipe blog apologize for any misinformation mentioned in this piece. Sargent MacBadger has been reprimanded and posted to a base in the frigid Alaskan wilderness where he will hopefully reevaluate his controversial pipe opinions.

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.

Processed With Darkroom

Until next time, happy piping!

-TheBadgerPiper

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

~\U~\U~\U~\U~\U

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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