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.22 shorts, Indians, desperadoes & turkeys . . .

Papa John, my step-father, placed little emphasis on the yuletide season, whether regarding religion and the birth of Christ or on the spirit of giving at Christmas time. I can only remember two gifts he gave me.  I posted the story of his promise to my sister and me that he would get us a dog for Christmas, and how he kept his promise. Click here to read about that memorable Christmas. It’s a sad story, sadder even than that of Tiny Tim Cratchet in Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol—well, not really that sad, but it was memorable.

We lived on a small farm in Mississippi for a year or so, just long enough to sell off the cotton and a bit of timber, enough to give our stepfather a grubstake to return to a life to which he had become accustomed before marrying into our family. With the money in his pocket, he only needed to create a situation that would infuriate him enough to rid himself of the albatross around his neck, namely my mother, my sister and me. Click here for that merry tale, a story of violence and threats, including me and my sister racing to gain a hiding place and safety in the woods.

The only other Christmas gift my stepfather gave me over the seven years I lived with him, on-and-off for varying periods of time, was a .22 caliber Remington rifle in as-new condition, having been restored by a gunsmith. The wooden stock had been refinished and the metal parts re-blued. He also handed me a box of fifty .22-short rifle bullets. If you should ever have to be shot with a .22 caliber weapon, opt for the short bullet. Its casing is shorter than 22-long bullets and thus has less powder to propel the lead or copper tip.

In my boyhood I devoured the stories told in books by Zane Grey and James Fenimore Cooper. At an age somewhere between eleven and twelve years and with that rifle in my hands I became Natty Bumppo—Hawkeye—the protagonist in The Last of the Mohicans, moving silently but swiftly through the virgin Eastern forests, unseen and unheard, avoiding every twig, bush or loose stone that might reveal my presence to the wily Hurons bent on lifting my scalp, all the while protecting the white women that the author felt that renegade Indians coveted for whatever nefarious purposes.

I was also in pursuit of desperadoes, violent and dangerous men as depicted by Zane Grey including bank robbers, cattle rustlers, horse thieves and those that at one time or another had neglected to tip their hat on meeting genteel ladies on the wooden sidewalks in western frontier towns, nor did they step aside to the muddy street to allow the long-skirted ladies safe passage—the ladies were therefore required to raise their skirts to avoid the mud, thus revealing their ankles to the salacious men by deferring to them and stepping off the boardwalk into the muddy street—bummer.

As President George Herbert Walker Bush—Bush #1—might say, shortly after receiving the rifle I was in deep you know what—I was in a lot of trouble. Unknown to me at the time, our neighbors on our right some mile or so distant raised turkeys for the market. As I prowled through the forest in that direction looking for Indians or rustlers or bank robbers, I came upon a clearing with a dead tree in its center, stripped of its leaves and its branches festooned with turkeys. Since I had found them in the forest I immediately deduced that they were wild turkeys and commenced firing with the intent of putting meat on the table for my family, starving after a meager crop, with no money and a dearth of wild animals for food.

My turkey rifle was a single shot, and my stepfather had told me to never carry a loaded rifle, to load it when I was ready to shoot at something. This involved pulling back the bolt, digging a cartridge out of my pocket, inserting the cartridge into the barrel, closing and locking the bolt, then pulling back the firing pin and locking it into position to fire. Only then should the weapon be aimed and the trigger be pulled to release the firing pin that strikes the shell and ignites the powder, providing the force to propel the missile to, or at least in the direction of the target. My rifle was definitely not a rapid-fire weapon, and that feature probably saved me from disaster.

I laboriously reloaded after the first shot—the turkey I had aimed at did not seem to be adversely affected, so I took my second shot at a different bird. That turkey also seemed impervious to the bullet, but I was denied a third shot, whether at him or one of the others. I was in the process of reloading for a third shot when the owner of the turkeys entered the scene, running and shouting for me to stop shooting his turkeys.

I didn’t know that our neighbors had changed from a white family with a passel of kids, one of them a beautiful red-haired cross-eyed girl about my age, but a young girl that had all the attributes of a mature woman, or at least all the visible attributes of a mature woman. A black family was now living on the farm—yes, that’s what we called African-Americans back in the olden days—and the turkey-farmer was big and moving swiftly in my direction, shouting at me to stop shooting, so I wisely matched his speed in the opposite direction and headed for home as fast as my bare feet could carry me.

I never knew whether my bullets struck either of my turkey targets. I would hope that I missed completely, but I was afraid to ask my stepfather. I told him about my error in thinking the turkeys were wild, and he just laughed, then went into a long discourse on the use of firearms and safety after telling me that there were no wild turkeys in that part of the state.

I don’t know whether the neighbor ever came to our house to talk to my stepfather, or whether my stepfather went to his house. I have my doubts that either happened. As for my hunting efforts with my rifle, I never again went toward the turkey farm, with or without my rifle—I had lost most of my attraction for shooting at anything, whether animal, vegetable, mineral or otherwise.

The rifle is in my possession now. In the early days of our marriage, I used it for collateral to get enough money to buy gasoline for our 250 mile trip home from visiting my wife’s relatives. Many years later my brother-in-law returned the rifle to me for the exact amount of the collateral—five dollars. I realize that doesn’t sound like much, but gas was only 22 cents a gallon in 1954.

I treasure that rifle. I treasure it so much that it’s stripped down into three pieces, stock, barrel and bolt, and stored in three different places in my home.  Finding all three pieces would be a daunting task for a burglar—in fact, I’m not sure that I can find them—and should an intruder enter while the house is occupied the task would be even more laborious and completely unneccessary because I have a veritable arsenal of weapons readily available for such an occasion, as do most patriotic and conscientious citizens in my neck of the woods.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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Carnation Milk & Swanson Turkey . . .

The company that makes Carnation Evaporated Milk did not offer $5000 for the best slogan beginning with Carnation Milk is best of all . . . , nor did the company ever make such an offer, neither in the 1940s nor at any time before or after the 1940s. The company also did not award a woman $1000 for a submission that they loved but could not use for advertising. Snopes gives many examples of doggerel supposedly submitted to Carnation for the contest. Click here for the story as told by Snopes.com. The simple—and I really do mean simple—verse that I learned sometime in the decade of the 1940s is:

No tits to pull,
No hay to pitch,

Just punch a hole
In the son-of-a-bitch.

Now I would like to share with my legions of readers a tale entitled, What I had for breakfast this morning. This may seem to be a stretch from the Carnation ditty, but please trust me—the stories are related, so read on.

I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast this morning. I dined, alone of course, on roasted carved turkey with stuffing, carrots, whipped potatoes and brown gravy at 5:00 AM on this chilly December morning in south central Texas. My meal was beautifully displayed in a plastic shell with dividers between each of the various components, then covered with clear plastic sheathing and enclosed in a nicely decorated sealed cardboard box.

The box included the information that, if kept frozen, the meal could safely be consumed up to December 25, 1911 and I assumed that included Christmas day. Speaking strictly for myself, I believe that such items can safely be consumed centuries later—if kept frozen. However, pay no attention to anything that I say when speaking strictly for myself—I could be wrong.

In addition to the graphics the box gave directions for cooking, either in a conventional oven or a microwave oven, along with a plethora of nutrition facts including the fact that the meal constituted fully one-third of my daily value of sodium—bummer!

It also gave a brief but concise history of the Swanson Classics, entitled A Menu of Mouthwatering Memories, from its beginnings in 1954 through the year 2007. Swanson claims the title of The Original TV Dinner—based on my limited one-time experience with Swanson Dinners, I have no reason to doubt that claim, nor do I doubt its  claim for palatability and safe consumption if kept frozen—so far.

Thanks to Swanson’s turkey, my breakfast was a resounding success—a piece of cake so to speak, and I penned the piece of doggerel below to commemorate that success. I apologize in advance for any misery that may be caused by exposure to it, whether from the ode per se or by any consumption of any Swanson product by one or more of my readers related to their having read this posting. In fine, I am not recommending this product to anyone. I’m simply recounting my experience of a Swanson turkey breakfast on a chilly day in south central Texas—and simply is the operative word.

Ode To Swanson’s Frozen Turkey Dinner

No turkey to kill,
No gravy to make,
No ‘taters to peel,
No bread to bake.

No table to clear,
Nothing to freeze,
No dishes to wash,
I’m free as a breeze.

A fine turkey breakfast
And I’m on my knees,
Giving thanks to Swanson,
For meals such as these.

I have already apologized for foisting off the burden of my Ode To Swanson’s Frozen Turkey Dinner to my legions of unsuspecting readers, but I feel compelled to reinforce that apology through repetition—mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2010 in Family, Humor, kitchen appliances, television

 

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11th Street South and a Kool cigarette . . .

My mother smoked cigarettes from my earliest memories all the way to her eightieth birthday, and periodically during those years she said, I’ll stop smoking when I’m eighty. On her eightieth birthday, just as she had promised, she stopped smoking and she stopped cold turkey—no dependence on any system designed to control the habit. She lived another three years, then died following bypass surgery for an aneurysm near the heart—the doctors said that her lungs were in remarkably good condition, especially considering her past history of smoking.

Hers was one of the surgical situations in which the operation was a success but the patient died.

In my early years she smoked Kool cigarettes, those with mentholated tobacco and a cork-tip for filtration—smokers addicted to that brand probably believed that although they were damaging their body they were being medicated for the damage at the same time. As far as I know the maker never claimed that, but there is no doubt that some smokers believed it to be true—my mother was one of those believers. For those not familiar with the brand, it was represented by Willie the Kool Penguin, beginning in 1934 and ending in 1960, and there is no doubt that Willie sold a lot of Kool cigarettes.

The first cigarette I smoked was a Kool—well, it was the first cigarette I attempted to smoke—I couldn’t make it go. My mistake was in trying to set fire to the filter-tipped end instead of the tobacco filled end, the part that was supposed to be lighted. All I got was a really nasty taste and a really bad smell in the area where I tried to light the cigarette, a smell composed of burning cork, burning tobacco and burning mentholatum, a real bummer. I was a first-grader somewhere along in my first year of schooling at Miss Mary Stokes’ Elementary School in Columbus, Mississippi. Click here for an excellent posting, even if I say so myself!

You can also find the information on Miss Mary Stokes’ school by clicking here.

Following my failure to light the cigarette I quickly consigned it and the burned match to our outdoor privy—toilet—and opened doors and windows throughout the house and fanned a magazine all through the house in an attempt at fumigation. It must have been effective, because none ever knew about my first attempt to smoke—my family may be learning about it with this posting.

I hate to admit it, but my next attempt to smoke was highly successful, accomplished at age fourteen, establishing a habit that continued for more than twenty years. I ran out of cigarettes one night and simply never bothered to ever smoke again—I never bought another carton or another package of cigarettes, nor did I ever bum a smoke from another smoker—I simply quit—cold turkey. I’m unsure why I stopped, but I may have heard a silent voice saying ominously—it is time—shudder, shudder!

Now travel with me back to Eleventh Street South, a street block on which I lived at one end and Fuqua’s Grocery stood at the other end. Back in those days—the good old days—one could purchase a cigarette with one penny—any brand of cigarette. If the proprietor had no open package of the brand desired, he would open a new pack in order to satisfy the customer and make the sale. There was no prohibition on children smoking—it was a practice generally frowned on, but nobody ranted and railed at seeing children smoking, nothing more than a tsk, tsk, perhaps.

I had the requisite penny and I decided to buy a cigarette. My mother had often given me a penny and asked me to go to the store and get her a Kool cigarette, so my request for a Kool came as no surprise to Mr. Fuqua. Of course, I took no chances—I lied and told him that my mother had sent me for the cigarette, and he had no reason to think I was being somewhat untruthful.

As an aside, in those days the owner also maintained a supply of saltine crackers available for purchase by the piece—for the price of one penny, a customers could get sausage or cheese and two crackers. Five cents for an eight-ounce Coke, a 12-ounce Pepsi or a 12-ounce RC Cola, then five cents more for ten crackers and five slices of cheese or sausage made a sumptuous meal for many people, including workers, during the days of the Great Depression—a depression that lasted far longer in the southern part of our nation than in other parts.

That’s it—that’s the story of my first attempt to smoke. I can pinpoint the year and almost to the month and day when I smoked the last cigarette. It was definitely in 1967 in the wee small hours of a Saturday morning in the spring—it was a filtered Winston cigarette that I huffed and puffed right down to the filter while fishing on Medina Lake, a fisherman’s paradise some thirty miles northwest of San Antonio, Texas. My fishing companion was Charley, a friend from work that smoked Swisher Sweet cigars and—-well, I’ll stop there and finish the story in a later posting. Stay tuned!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Letter to Kaye and Gary, 1993 . . .

This is the complete text of a letter written to a couple in south Georgia—the state, not the country—we had recently returned from visiting relatives there. As the saying goes, there’s been lots of water under the bridge since then. The couple has since gone through a tumultuous divorce—as are most divorces. They now live in different states and their sons are grown and married—with children. My, how time does fly and how things do change—and not always for the better!

Yes, I wrote this letter on government time, but in all fairness please know that I had mastered all the rules and regulations pertaining to my duties, and was ready to spring into action should some unforeseen event occur. The time I spent waiting for work in my profession was down-time, comparable to the time fire fighters spend waiting for a fire and a call to action. For those professionals, there is a limit to how much time they can spend polishing the fire engines—eventually they’ll take the paint off the metal—and much of their time is spent sleeping, playing cards, writing letters, etc. On my watch the fire engines glistened in the overhead lights and were at all times ready to go. I feel no remorse for having used government time and government equipment for personal use.

San Antonio Int’l Airport

November 29, 1993

Hi, Kaye and Gary,

Is it Kaye or Kay? Can’t really tell just by hearing it, so I’ll take a guess at it and spell it Kaye. Either way you’ll know who I’m talking to, right? Given the fact that you’ve never gotten a letter from me it may take awhile for the shock to wear off. I’ve even shocked myself at some of the letters I’ve written recently. I’m doing the writing at work because I am bored, and I am bored because I have nothing to do—at least there is nothing I want to do. I’ve read books and magazines and worked crossword puzzles and played computer games until I’m tired of all that, so now I write letters, mostly to people who don’t expect them. All on government time, using government equipment, and drawing a government salary, even 10 percent extra because I am working nights. It’s your hard earned tax dollars at work.

I’m the supervisor on the 3-11 shift, and we only work the incoming international arrivals—passengers and baggage. There are no administrative functions to be performed after 5 pm, and we have long periods between flights, sometimes several hours. The inspectors have a television with cable in the break room, but most of them read during those down times.

We really enjoyed our visit to Georgia this time, especially the cookout. We counted 45 people there, including the little ones and the inlaws and outlaws. We don’t even know that many people here. Of course, now that I think of it, I didn’t know a lot of the people there either. I thought that you did a masterful job cooking the fish, and I’ll cheerfully recommend you in case anyone asks. However it’s my opinion that the ice chest filled with beer in the back of your pickup truck helped a lot.

We had a good trip back home. Stayed just two days with my two sisters in Mississippi, then back on the road to San Antonio. The ignition actuator broke in my truck, so I had to raise the hood and use a screwdriver—out here it’s called a Mexican ignition key—to restart the engine every time I had to shut down for gas or food or the restroom.  We hit heavy rain coming through Louisiana, but I was lucky because I didn’t have to stop for anything.

Say hello to Andy and Jacob for me. Those two have really grown since I saw them. Given enough time and enough hints, I may have been able to identify Andy in a crowd, but there wouldn’t have been enough time or hints in the world to help me recognize Jacob. He had changed so much there’s no way I would have known him.

Kids seem to grow up a lot faster these days. I think it took me a whole lot longer. And seeing all the kids at the cookout, and seeing the kid’s kids, and knowing that the kid’s kids will soon be having kids made me wonder where all the years went. I guess they just slipped by while I wasn’t looking, or maybe I was looking and just wasn’t paying attention.

And a bunch of those years have flown by. I am now one month into my 45th year of government service, 22 in the Air Force and working on 23 with the Customs Service. No wonder I feel a little bit tired. I guess when I retire I’ll do nothing—after that many years of government service, a change of pace would be impossible!

We are having all kinds of weather here. Fall and winter do not bring a lot of change to San Antonio. The leaves fall, of course, but we never get the kind of cold you folks get in Georgia. The Chamber of Commerce claims that “the sunshine spends the winter in San Antonio,” but if it does it hides out behind the clouds a lot of the time. Right now we are hurting for rain.

Hope Thanksgiving was everything it’s supposed to be for you folks. We had a good turnout here. Everybody was at our house except Cindy—lots of turkey and all the other goodies. Turkey isn’t such a treat any more. We eat so much chicken that a turkey is just another chicken—it’s just a lot bigger. I heard a television comic say the other night that he and his wife had eaten so much chicken that they threw away their mattresses and were roosting on the bed slats. We haven’t gotten that bad—yet!

Gary, you need to take time and smell the roses. Take a little trip out here. See the Alamo, do the mission trails thing, take a ride on the river barge, go broke in the River Center, take a run up to see the LBJ ranch—possibly the best bargain in the country—interesting, lots of fun, and all free—drink a few cold Lone Star beers, visit the Lone Star brewery, see the Buckhorn Hall of Horns, take in Fiesta Texas and Sea World, and maybe even fit in a trip to Nuevo Laredo to buy some Mexican junk.

Well, let me shut this thing down. I have a plane due in a few minutes. This will be the last one for tonight. It’s a Continental flight from Mexico City, with a reservation count of 64 passengers. Those flights usually have a high no-show, and this one will probably come in with about 40 passengers. We really had the passengers over Thanksgiving, coming in for the big sales after the holiday. Don’t let anybody tell you that all the visitors from Mexico are poor.

They come through here with lots of cash and every kind of credit card imaginable, and according to the Chamber of Commerce they spend millions. The planes are full and the highways coming up from Laredo and Monterrey are packed with private autos from Mexico, some of them from as far away as Mexico City, just for the after-Thanksgiving sales. By Monday everybody is gone, and we settle back and wait for the Christmas shoppers.

I said I was going to shut this thing down, but started  rambling again. Using a word processor to write letters is similar to eating peanuts, running down hill and sex—it’s hard to stop once you get started. I just had a call from the Continental people. The plane is late because of maintenance, and will be in at 15 minutes after midnight, so I’ll get home around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning. This doesn’t happen too often, but even once is a pain. There’s some consolation, though—I’ll earn overtime for the late flight.

Tell Andy and Jacob to save some of the big fish for me for our next visit to Georgia.

Best regards to everyone,

Mike and Janie

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Kudos to Kathleen, Re: Teacher Letter to Obama . . .

Subject: Fw: Teacher letter to Obama

The following paragraph prefaced the “Teacher letter to Obama”:

“This is one very angry teacher—her letter is awesome. How many millions of Americans across this country think exactly what she thinks and has said in this e-mail? What scares me is that every day something surfaces that has been signed as a Presidential Order or suddenly just appears as law. Who does this stuff while we’re all sleeping at night? Those printing presses in DC must run night and day. These first (heaven help us) 100 days have been the most destructive period of time in our nation’s history, and we don’t even know the half of it.”

A Disclaimer from thekingoftexas.wordpress.com:

This complete text of the teacher’s letter follows, much as I received it in a friend’s e-mail. I took the liberty of cleaning up some of the problems the teacher’s writing accumulated from being passed around the Internet—items such as missing punctuation, incomplete sentences, broken paragraphs, etc. However, I added none of my thoughts, nor did I change any thoughts expressed by the author, nor did I express agreement or disagreement with the author’s opinions—I merely expressed admiration of her eloquence.

The letter is apparently real—a search on http://refdesk.whitepages.com shows that the purported author of the letter, Ms Kathleen Lyday, is a real person—a real school teacher, one who lives in Missouri and works at a real elementary school. Whether she actually wrote the letter and whether she actually sent the letter to the president is unknown—I would like to believe that she did write it and sent it, and that the president responded to it. However, whether the letter was written and sent by her, and whether it was received and answered are all moot points—the Internet has given it some tremendous exposure. My purpose in posting it to WordPress is to perhaps broaden that exposure even more.

Kudos to Kathleen for expressing her concerns so eloquently.

Subject: Fw: Teacher letter to Obama

April 17, 2009
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. Obama:

I have had it with you and your administration, sir. Your conduct on your recent trip overseas has convinced me that you are not an adequate representative of the United States of America, collectively or of me personally.

You are so obsessed with appeasing Europeans and the Muslim world that you have abdicated the responsibilities of the president of the United States. You are responsible to the citizens of the United States—you are not responsible to the people of any other country on earth.

I resent that you go around the world apologizing for the United States, telling Europeans that we are arrogant and do not care about their status in the world. Sir, what do you think the First World War and the Second World War were all about, if not the consideration of the people of Europe?

Are you brain dead? What do you think the Marshall Plan was all about? Do you not understand or know the history of the 20th century? Where do you get off telling a Muslim country that the United States does not consider itself a Christian country? Have you not read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States?

This country was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics and the principles governing this country are from that heritage, and were governing us until you came along. Do you not understand this?

Your bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia is an affront to all Americans. Our president should not bow down to anyone, let alone the king of Saudi Arabia. You don’t show Great Britain, our best and one of our oldest allies, the respect they deserve yet you bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia.

How dare you, sir! How dare you!

You can’t find the time to visit the graves of our greatest generation because you don’t want to offend the Germans, but you make time to visit a mosque in Turkey. You offend our dead and every veteran when you give the Germans more respect than the people who saved the German people from themselves.

What’s the matter with you? I am convinced that you and the members of your administration have the historical and intellectual depth of a mud puddle. You should be ashamed of yourselves—all of you.

You are self-righteously offended by the big bankers and the American automobile manufacturers, yet you do nothing about the real thieves in this situation. What about Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelic, the Fannie Mae bonuses and the Freddie Mac bonuses? What do you intend to do about them? Anything? I seriously doubt it.

What about the U.S. House members passing out $9.1 million in bonuses to their staff members, and the $2.5 million in automatic pay raises lawmakers gave themselves? I understand the average House aide got a 17 percent bonus. I took a 5 percent cut in pay to save my job with my employer. You haven’t said anything about that. Who authorized it? I surely didn’t.

Executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be receiving $210 million in bonuses over an 18-month period—that’s $45 million more than the AIG bonuses. In fact, Fannie and Freddie executives have already been awarded $51 million. Who authorized that, and why haven’t you expressed your outrage at the group that is largely responsible for the economic mess we are in now?

I resent that you consider me and my fellow citizens brain-dead and not caring about what you idiots do. We are watching what you are doing and we are getting increasingly fed up with all of you.

I also want you to know that I find just about everything you do and everything you say offensive to every one of my sensibilities. I promise you that I will work tirelessly to see that you do not get a chance to spend two terms destroying my beautiful country.

Sincerely,

Name, address and workplace deleted

A visitor to this posting (see comment below) said that the teacher did not write the letter. A quick check of http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/ihavehadit.asp confirms that it was written by someone else.

The following excerpt is taken from Snopes.com:

Origins: This letter to President Obama began circulating in May 2009 as something penned by a fourth grade teacher from Hillsboro, Missouri, named Kathleen Lyday. However, Ms. Lyday has disclaimed being its author; her name merely became attached to it when she forwarded it to others. An earlier version circulated in mid-April 2009 credits authorship to one Franklin T. Bell of Columbia, Maryland.

Regardless of the author, it’s a good letter and I’ll stay with this posting.

 

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Going cold turkey on a fishing trip . . .

I have received an e-mail request from my daughter, a self-employed graphic designer and photographer who lives, loves and works in Alexandria, Virginia and blogs at www.cindydyer.wordpress.com.

I kicked the cigarette habit in 1967. Over the past forty-two years I’ve told my daughters the story, many times, of how I escaped the clutches of the tobacco devils, a pox on them, and she is urging me to share my secret with others. She suggests Going cold turkey on a hot summer day as the posting title, but I actually went cold turkey on a fishing trip on a cool summer night.

Here is her e-mail:

Going cold turkey on a hot summer day (or something like that)…I’m reminded of the story you tell about how you stopped smoking after so many years…fishing and then going to the store and forgetting to get cigarettes, etc….and how much you dislike smokers to this day (and the way you express seeing a stunningly beautiful woman light up a cigarette—-ruins the entire image, etc.).

In the spring of 1967 after ending our work day on Friday, a co-worker and I loaded up our fishing tackle and our 15-horse Evinrude outboard motor and headed for Medina Lake some 30 miles northwest of San Antonio, Texas. We had to rent a boat at the lake but we owned the motor, having purchased it at a south-side San Antonio location which levied no tax on us—the seller declined to tender a receipt for the sale, so we were always in doubt as to whether the transaction was legitimate. A few months later my fishing partner relocated to South Carolina and I bought his interest in the motor for $32.50,the same amount he originally contributed.

This is not a plug for Evinrude, but that motor was a fine piece of fishing equipment, one that could be configured with the flick of a lever to produce three, seven or fifteen horsepower. If they don’t make ’em like that anymore, they should.

Friday night was our fishing night, year-round, rain or shine, heat or cold, sick or well—we overcame every obstacle (except sickness in his family or mine) to make the outing. We usually left the lake around midnight, but on one very special night early in the spring of 1967, we fished into the wee small hours of the morning, and I inhaled the poison from my last cigarette several hours before we returned to the city. We lived in the suburbs and in our area nothing was open at that hour. Convenience stores (they were called “ice houses” in those days) were all closed and all-night restaurants were rare—I had no place to go for cigarettes.

At this point I did not intend to stop smoking, although I was well aware of tobacco’s effect on health. Of course, I planned to stop at some point—in fact I never bought cigarettes by the carton—I bought only one pack at a time, rationalizing that if I bought a carton I might decide to stop smoking and the money spent on the unused cigarettes would have been thrown away—some really bright reasoning, right?

Somehow I made it through Saturday without cigarettes. Saturday was lawn-mowing, shrub-clipping, car-washing, child-tending and house-keeping day (my wife worked on Saturday), and I delayed going for cigarettes until late in the evening. At that point I began to seriously consider breaking the habit—rather I seriously considered trying to break the habit. I decided to see if I could make it through Sunday without smoking. I was buoyed by the fact that I would, on my way on Monday to work at Kelley Air Force Base I would pass near the Lackland Air Force Base cafeteria where I could get cigarettes (cost on base back then was nineteen cents a pack, $1.90 a carton).

You can probably guess my secret for kicking the cigarette habit. Having entered my second day without smoking, I decided to see if I could survive for two days without cigarettes, so I breezed past the cafeteria without stopping. The rest is history—I kicked the habit by going without nicotine one day at a time—days became weeks, weeks became months and months became years, forty-two of which have passed since my last cigarette, and only God knows how many more years I will have to tell my story of being a non-smoking, non-wheezing, non-coughing ex-smoker—regardless of the number of years I may have, I suspect it would be far fewer had I not stopped smoking in 1967.

So this is my secret—this is the system I used to break a killer habit:

In my brief—very brief—service in the Boy Scouts of America I learned that one can successfully reach a destination—any destination—by establishing and reaching a series of goals. On a 12-mile hike away from town and back, I learned to establish a short-term goal and look forward to its attainment, rather than looking forward to arriving at my destination. On the hike I looked ahead and picked out a goal—a large tree in the distance, or a hill or a bridge or any other object on the horizon, a goal that I could easily attain—I only needed to keep walking, telling myself that if I needed to rest I could rest under that tree or bridge, or at the foot of that hill. And when that goal was attained, I selected another, and another, and another until I arrived at my destination.

That’s my secret, and each of us has the ability to do the same—simply never say never—never say that you will never smoke another cigarette. Set a goal to not smoke for just one hour, then for one day, one week, one month and one year and continue to attain and set new goals—the chain of smoking will be broken and will remain broken if you continue to set your sights on another goal—I have set my sights, after smoking for 22 years, on completing 50 years of not smoking, and when I reach that goal I’ll select another, and if I fail to reach that goal it will be for some reason other than returning to the cigarette habit.

So far there is nothing spectacular or unique about my breaking my dependence on tobacco, but there is a Page Two of my story. In the same year in which I stopped smoking, I reduced my overweight nicotine-saturated body from 175 bloated pounds to a trim 140 pounds, completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree and was graduated by the University of Nebraska, and stood by and supported my wife during her two major surgeries, all without the comforting solace of the smoking habit I had cemented into place over a period of 22 years.

I firmly believe that if I could break the habit without resorting to therapy, nicotine patches, psycho-analysis, hypnosis, joining an anonymous tobacco-oriented group similar to AA—in short, if I could stop smoking under all that pressure without any outside assistance at all, and forty-two years later remain free of nicotine’s grip, anyone can do it.

As an afterthought I will now address my daughter’s statement that my “seeing a beautiful woman light up a cigarette ruins the entire image.”

I must rebut that statement, at least in part—the entire image is not ruined—I still look, but only in fascination of the manner in which the smoker acts, from extracting the cigarettes from the purse, then from the pack, then the lighting, the trip to the lips, the drawing, inhaling, exhaling, flicking the ashes and finally grinding out the cigarette.

All hard-core smokers have their personal way to indulge their smoking habit. Over several years of duty at Kelly Air Force Base, I took frequent morning coffee breaks at the base cafeteria. On many mornings I had the privilege of watching (surreptitiously, mind you) a stunningly beautiful woman enjoy her coffee and a cigarette. She was always alone, and always smoked just one cigarette with her coffee, finishing both at the same time.

Other than enjoying her stunning beauty (surreptitiously, mind you), I was fascinated by the practiced way she smoked. On every draw from the lighted cigarette with her pursed lips, she inhaled deeply and held the smoke for a seemingly interminable length of time. Finally a small puff of smoke escaped from the left corner of her mouth. A few seconds later a second small puff from the same outlet, and a final small puff (same source) emerged after a few seconds more. After those three small puffs, similar to the manner in which Native Americans (Indians) covered and uncovered a fire to produce smoke signals, her mouth remained closed for another thirty seconds or so and then her lips parted slightly to slowly set free the rest of her draw, at least that part which did not remain in her lungs.

I wondered then, and continue to wonder, whether the timed sequence of puffs could have actually been a message, something akin to, Hey, look at me, I’m here, let’s get it on!, but unfortunately I had no Native American (Indian) friends—as a matter of fact, I did not then know, nor do I now know, any Native Americans (Indians).

I’m not making this up—on several occasions I told the person or persons who may have been having coffee with me to watch the smoker. I told them exactly what to expect, from the draw to the exhaling, and I was right-on every time. My daughter is correct—I am affected adversely when I see a beautiful woman light up a cigarette. Although the act does not ruin the entire image, it is definitely a turn-off for me.

Of course at my age and my stage of life, a turn-off is really not necessary, but if it were, the cigarette would do the job.


 
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Posted by on June 27, 2009 in cigarette smoking, Humor

 

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