By Charles Towne
Kids watch adults. That is one of the ways we learn, isn’t it?
That’s how I learned the joys of smoking – by watching my good old pops shake a camel cigarette from a pack and light up. Oh yeah, how much fun could a guy have! And if he felt like entertaining us, he would blow smoke rings! That was a real blast!
But I never could understand, if smoking was so much fun, why was he was always warning me about the evils of tobacco? That didn’t make much sense to me.
Mr. Roy (not his real name) was a friend of my dad’s. He went to that great tobacco farm in the sky years ago.
Mr. Roy didn’t smoke though; no, he chewed tobacco. Red Man chewing tobacco to be exact. And he was the one that introduced me to ‘the evils of tobacco’. Good old Roy, he was always good for a laugh.
We were putting up hay at the time, and we had taken a break. You have probably noticed that I used the word “we” a couple of times there, but to be honest with you, there really wasn’t much a little boy pup of six years old could do other than carry water for the field hands. But I was there when Mr. Roy pulled that bag of Red Man chewing tobacco, with its picture of an Indian chief on it, out of his pocket. He was in the process of taking a pinch and stuffing it in his cheek when he noticed the kid watching him in great wonder and curiosity.
My dad had hiked off to the trees for an urgent nature call, and wasn’t there at the moment, so Mr. Roy decided to have some fun. He looked at me, smiled real big and friendly-like, looked at the pouch of tobacco in his hand, and held it out to me.
Now, I remembered something about my dad’s warning about the “evils” of tobacco, but I immediately rationalized, “This isn’t cigarettes, this is chewing tobacco! Surely daddy didn’t mean chewing tobacco was evil?”
I hesitated a moment longer, and Mr. Roy held the forbidden fruit a moment longer, and then he started to withdraw it. That was too much of a temptation for me to resist. I reached out and took a smidgeon, a miserly little bit. He frowned. And then he said, “Aww boy, ya need more then that! Take some!” So I took some. Then he said, “Good boy. Now you stick it in your mouth and start chewing. And remember – at first it won’t taste too good, but you are preparing your mouth for years of chewing pleasure!”
I stuffed that tobacco in my mouth and started chewing. I chewed and I chewed, and the more I chewed the more vile that stuff tasted.
I was about to spit it out but he stopped me and said, “Now that’s good boy, and it is about to start tasting real good. All you have to do now is swallow it!”
I swallowed it.
My entire body rebelled.
My stomach crawled out of my mouth and folded itself over my head.
I knew I was going to die, but then I was afraid if I did die right then, I knew I was going to go someplace that I wouldn’t enjoy.
I can still hear Mr. Roy’s laughter ringing in my ears to this day!
That was the first time I ever tried chewing tobacco.
That was also the last time I ever tried chewing tobacco.
That was also the last time I ever trusted Mr. Roy.
Thank you Papa God for giving me enough sense to know when enough is sometimes more then enough, Amen.
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.