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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Snipes, Remember Them

Chuck Hinman: Snipes, Remember Them. Chuck recounts that at about 11 or 12 he became obsessed watching men light up and go through the rigmarole of smoking.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Did You Ever Eat Dirt?

By Chuck Hinman

Snipes, Remember Them

I have written mostly savory accounts of myself as an average Nebraska farm boy growing up during the depression and economically depressed years of the 1930s. One of the things which is absent from my writings is how the desire to smoke possessed my life in those days.

Non-smoking family surrounded by smokers

I can't think of a single person in my immediate family who smoked. Dad didn't smoke, neither of my grandpas smoked, and it was a given in those days that ladies didn't smoke, so that ruled out Mom and Grandma Hiles. Sister Joy Ann was just a little tyke.

But even so, all the neighbor men smoked -- Guy Kinney, Albert Hurtz, Glen Price, Dil Dillow, George Fulton -- everyone except our family smoked. And when I became eleven or twelve years old, I became obsessed watching those men light up and go through the rigmarole of smoking. I surely must have made some if not all of the above named men self-conscious from my taking in every move of their smoking ritual. Out of their view, I would go through their exact moves but, obviously, it was only a dry run.

Imagining the ritual of smoking

I would reach in my shirt pocket, pull out an imaginary pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, my imaginary cigarette of choice, shake the opened package to dislodge a cigarette, put it in my mouth, light it with an imaginary kitchen match struck across the butt of my Lee bib overalls, take a deep drag, then remove the cigarette between my index and middle finer, inhale deeply and blow out the imaginary smoke. I proceeded until the make believe cigarette was mostly consumed and then flipped the butt ten or fifteen feet away in a perfect simulation of what I had seen the big guys do. No one 'butted out' a cigarette in those days. I guess it wasn't cool and it would have put me out of business, 'swiping snipes.'

The only problem was there was no real cigarette involved and I was frustrated. I knew all the moves bit I didn't have access to a real cigarette so I had to resort to second best - O. P. C. B. (other people's cigarette butts) commonly called 'snipes' by hoboes of the day.

First attempt to recover a snipe

Then one time Guy Kinney, our neighbor who I most tried to emulate in his smoking routine, visited us after a rain. There were puddles of water all over the ground and Guy flipped a pretty good sized snipe on the ground near one of these puddles and walked away. I stood nearby, mesmerized as an eleven year old boy wanting to get at this discarded snipe. On my first attempt, the moisture from the ground ruined it before I was able to retrieve it and it fell apart in my fingers burning my hands. Curses!

But in days to follow I became an expert at getting a few puffs off discarded snipes and soon learned who discarded good snipes and who smoked them so short, they were useless. Guy Kinney was my favorite snipe provider and he went to his grave never knowing how he endeared himself to me by leaving decent snipes for a wannabe Nebraska farm boy smoker.

Difficulty in stopping smoking later

In a future story I will recount the difficulty I had when I wanted to stop smoking some 20 years later. Now don't tell me, I am the only one at Tallgrass Estates who used to keep my eye out for a decent snipe.

Written by Chuck Hinman, Tuesday, 14 November 2006.

The future story about quitting smoking is - Chuck Hinman: IJMA 122 : Cigarettes In My Life

This story was posted on 2014-03-23 06:58:07
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