I received a package from the UPS man the other day....and that is the subject of this blog.
The package contained several small items that only a few of my closest friends would even recognize or know the story behind. Included was a rather disreputable tobacco pipe. Age and harsh conditions tend to make to make even treasures appear to have been maltreated...unless you know differently that is.
This particular pipe had been: loved...treasured...helped ease it's owner's stress...and was damaged by the harsh conditions it was used in.
It was also rarely separated from it's owner.
I wouldn't even know how to calculate the number of pounds of tobacco that have been smoked in it, the hours it was held in his hand or has dangled from his mouth. I can still see and feel the owner's joy which would abound when a can of: Mixture 79 Cherry Brandy, Granger, or Kentucky Club pipe tobacco would arrive by mail. You knew that at the very first opportunity(normally shortly after the package was opened most of the time)the air would be filled with billowing clouds of sweet smelling pipe tobacco smoke.
I've also seen this pipe filled in desperation with stale C-Ration cigarette tobacco, which was older than any of us near it at the time the poor thing was filled and lit. I can't say I was thrilled with the odor from the pipe or it's owner's choice of tobacco any time the two of them were reduced to this level of subsistence. But I knew they were more than friends or lovers...this wooden pipe and it's owner were part of each other.
The only time I know for a fact they were separated during their long relationship was in Hue. The pipe's owner had been blessed with three AK-47 rounds to the chest and was in no mood to smoke...he was also(as we were to find out) in no mood to loose his pipe. When we could get a Med-Evac in...we had to promise to guard his pipe with our lives, before we could get him on the bird. I can't say that I blamed him...I understood his fear. He knew that in a contest between pipes versus lives...the decision will always go to the side of the human and he'd never see his pipe again.
A week later I went to the hospital ship off shore to visit with my friend before he returned home, via Balboa. Did he say hello or thanks for going to the trouble to see me off? Hell no!
His first words to me were, "If you've come to tell me you lost my pipe...I'll kill you." He, I, and his pipe were always close that way .... you can also tell just which of us he treasured the most from his greeting.
He's separated from his pipe now and I'll never be able to return it to it's owner. But I think the next best thing is to take it to where I suspect "The Gooch" is and leave it in good company. I'm going to visit that black slab with a long list of names on it. I'll go there at night because he rarely smoked his pipe till the safety of daylight. I will leave his pipe and three packages of tobacco...a man should have a choice at first light. It would be selfish to keep his pipe simply because it was a part of him.