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Hartselle Enquirer

Slipping and smoking at 13

How long has it been since you were exposed to the smoke from a cigarette, pipe or cigar? It’s probably been a long time unless someone in you immediate family is a smoker. Even then, most smokers respect non-smokers and won’t light up unless they’re in a smoke-break area.

Unfortunately, that was not the case when I was a kid three-quarters of a century ago.

Both my parents were teetotalers when it came to smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages.  There were no ash trays in our home and no smell of tobacco or alcohol.  Smokers and drinkers were welcome inside only of they practiced their bad habits somewhere else.

Still, me and my siblings didn’t buy into that kind of safe, protective environment in the short term. Instead, we persisted in experimenting with any kind of homemade smokes we could find.

We’d collect a handful of grape vine joints, swipe a few matches from the big box hanging on the wall next to the wood stove and head out to our hideout to a deep drainage ditch a few hundred feet from the house. We’d light up one end and start puffing on the other end. Smoke would come out and we’d hold it in our mouths for a little bit and then let it out. The smoke was tasteless but it would burn our eyes and leave us with sore tongues.

We soon graduated to rolling our own from any look-alike tobacco leaves we could find. Rabbit tobacco was a logical source. The plants were easily found on our farm. We’d crush the dry leaves and store them in a genuine Bull Durum tobacco sack. We’d practice hand rolling the shreds in a piece of brown paper sack until we had one that would stay together long enough to light one end. The substance burned quickly and the smoke left a bitter taste in our mouths. It was more than enough to last for a day.

As the eldest member of the “Knight Boys,” I was left alone in by pursuit of tobacco as a habit of choice. At age 13, I managed to get my hands on my first cigarette. It was a hand-rolled smoke from a can of Prince Albert tobacco, which was provided by a classmate. The tobacco was satisfying but left a strong taste and smell in my mouth. I knew I had to get rid of the smell before I went home. A handful of pine needles, chewed vigorously for 30 minutes, worked.

You would think that a mouthwash with the juice from pine needles would be more than enough to turn me away from a tobacco habit, but it didn’t. I soon became addicted and

lived the advertisement:  “I’ll walk a mile for a Camel.”

One of the best things I ever did came several years later when I quit smoking cold turkey.

I gladly give a bow to all of the many smokers who have turned their backs on a dangerous habit and applaud the many who never had a desire to take up the habit.

 

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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