Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

October 13, 2012

My Childhood Vice

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

Confession today!  There were vices in my life as a young boy!  I understand a vice is a behavior considered immoral.  I guess I knew that since my vice was always done in secret . . . well, with cousins!

Even as I write, I fumble for more introductory words so that I don’t have to name the vice.  But, that is what this blog is all about.  So here goes . . . my vice was smoking!  Just had to have that smoke!  But in those days of being 8, 9, 10 years old, there was no access to cigarettes or cigars . . . unless you consider that ‘butt’ that others had thrown down.

My vice was more exotic than smoking the ‘throw-a-ways’ from someone else.  My smoking was also more creative!

There were two sources of smokes for us.  It depended on the season which was used.  In the ‘off season’ of the plants, I don’t know what we did!   Perhaps we did get a ‘draw’ sometimes from those discards!

My earliest smoking was with that strange-looking 8-12 inch bean pod! It was the Catawba bean.  Some know it by Catalpa, but in Georgia it was called Catawba because that is what the Indians who smoked it had named the tree.  (The large tree was known well for the Catawba worms — some of the best fish bait ever!)  The tree produced long seed pods that would dry and then the Indians would smoke them.

As boys, we thought Indians knew best.  Then we should smoke them also!  We would pull them off the tree after they had dried, but not cracked open.   Each end was cut as with a good cigar. We would walk into the woods where no one would see us.  Smoking, plus smoking these bean pods, would have certainly brought some “corrections” to our lives if our parents knew it.  Seventy years later I have learned why the Indians enjoyed these smokes so much.  They are hallucinogenic!  No wonder we enjoyed them!  They were called Indian cigars . . . and I suppose others knew the danger of them and that is why they were labeled Indian cigars.

I have also learned that they can be poisonous and cause allergic reaction.  But back then none of us were smart enough in the ’40s to know any of that.  But I suppose it can give excuse for my strange personality at times!

But these beans were available only seasonably.  We were driven to find other sources for a ‘fix.’  And that we did!  There was an abundance of rabbit tobacco!  If you grew up in our neck-of-the-woods, you could spot it easily.  You could see the stalks with the long leaves, silver green colored. When the color grey was visible, it was smoking time! The leaves were crushed in your hands or actually rolled between your palms to make it break down to small pieces.

The rabbit tobacco was then placed in the tobacco tissue — a rolling paper for tobacco.  Now as boys, these papers were not all that difficult to find.  Prince Albert had small packages of these papers that would be available free when someone bought tobacco.  As boys, we would often pick some up, “just-in-case” we might have need for them!

When you rolled the tobacco in the paper, you would lick the paper to make it stick to itself.  You would twist the ends of the paper to hold the tobacco in.  We would slightly cut the end to go in our mouth, and the other twisted end assured a good light from the match!

We also had some old cob pipes.  On occasions when rolling papers were not available, we would simply pack the pipe with the rabbit tobacco.  I can tell you that the rabbit tobacco had a very bad smell . . . that certainly insured you didn’t inhale!  We endured the smell because it was important to us just trying to act like an adult!

As with the Catawba bean, I have discovered there are some side effects.  Rabbit tobacco is said to have a mild sedative effect.  Perhaps our parents knew we were smoking the rabbit tobacco and were thankful for the side effect!  Rabbit tobacco has been known to be added to hot teas and other beverages.  Perhaps I was being “drugged” at times when my parents wanted a respite!

The rabbit tobacco was also added to hot beverages because it was believed to be good for sinusitis, head colds, and even congestion!  But that was not our reason for smoking it!  It was just the ‘grown-up’ thing to do.  It made us feel older!

But I must confess what was an option in the ‘off-season’ of the Catawba bean and rabbit tobacco.  It was the real thing!  Yes, real cigarettes!  Another cousin’s father owned a gas station.  This cousin would ‘steal’ packs of cigarettes from the store.  Under his house he had a good hiding place.  We would be invited over for the luxury of a real smoke!  Oh, those were the days!  We were really big men!

Fortunately for me, smoking never was part of my life . . . even as a teenager, except on occasions.  But addiction never captured me and I am so grateful.  Perhaps the only effect that those days of smoking had on me . . . the truth to the old adage, “Smoking will stunt your growth.”  Maybe it did . . . I was never taller than five feet-eight inches!



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