Talking about bad habits


The fact I do not recall women smoking cigarettes while I was young does not mean, however, that women were not heavy users of tobacco products. Snuff was in wide use among the women of that time. The three brands that I remember were Garrett, Skoal, and Copenhagen. I am sure there were others, but as I was not a user and did not buy the product I have limited knowledge in this area. I know this little tidbit because those are the only brands that we stocked in the small grocery store where I worked part time. The same is true with chewing tobacco. Only those brands most asked for were kept in stock. What I do remember is how the old ladies would sit on their front porch in a rocking chair where they would rock and spit. They always had a rhythm while sitting there. They would rock until they got a mouthful of spit and, without breaking rhythm on the forward rock, put a finger on each side of the mouth and spit. Through a lot of practice, they could propel that wad of spit a long distance, clearing the porch where it would land in the yard below. Often after a long dry period the yard would be covered with expelled snuff.   

There is an interesting story that I can insert here as it is one that I will always remember. An elderly lady everyone called Aunt Beulah (she was somebody’s aunt but not ours) lived in a house near where we caught the school bus. Aunt Beulah had a high front porch on which she would sit and enjoy her early morning dip of snuff: rock and spit, rock and spit! Many times while waiting on the bus I would sit and talk with her until the arrival of the bus. We would talk about any and everything, and I enjoyed doing it because she could tell some intriguing tales of her childhood. Aunt Beulah was quite old at that time, and she grew up in an entirely different world than the one which was developing into our modern age. One day as we were talking, after taking a long spit which practically emptied the remaining snuff from her mouth, she stopped rocking, got a mouthful of water she had next to her in a quart fruit jar, rinsed her mouth out, propelling the water off the porch onto her used snuff pill, and started back talking to me. She said something like this. “Wheeler, I have been thinking and worrying about something, and I am going to ask you what you think about it.  I read in my Bible that Jesus said that it is not something that goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but that which comes out defiles a man (Matthew 15:11). Now I have been thinking about this and my snuff dipping. I take the snuff and put it in my mouth and then I spit it out. Does that mean that I am sinning when it comes out of my mouth? I sure don’t want my snuff dipping to send me to hell, and I can’t swallow it. What do you think I should do?” I was in my younger years then and certainly not a Bible scholar, but I attempted to answer her question. “Aunt Beulah, I don’t think that Jesus had snuff dippers in mind when he said that, but if it is worrying you maybe you ought to quit.” The next morning Aunt Beulah was back on her porch in her rocking chair rocking and spitting. I suppose she decided that she would take the risk that her spitting would not send her to hell.

I have focused upon smoking as being one of the habits which should be avoided. There are so many more, such as substance abuse and disorderly behavior, that I could not possibly include them all in this writing. The closest place to get alcoholic beverages when I was young was twenty or so miles away in Jefferson County, and with little transportation there was no temptation to start drinking alcohol. I think that I was fortunate that the temptations were not there to entice me to take up many bad habits. Parental guidance, however, has been the key factor that steered me away from harmful practices. We enjoyed watching boxing on Wednesday nights following our return from Bible study. We had no television at that time, and we habitually stopped at the home of our grocer who could afford a television to watch it there as he enjoyed having company while watching the boxing matches. I remember that the two major sponsors of the program were the Gillette Safety Razor Company (“Look Sharp, Feel Sharp, Be Sharp. How are you fixed for blades? Gillette Blue Blades we mean”) and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (“whata you have, Pabst Blue Ribbon, whata you have, Pabst Blue Ribbon, whata you have, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer”). If you are old enough, you can put a tune to those words. Dad was not too high on us kids being able to watch beer commercials. Thankfully. some commercials are not permitted to be aired on radio or television now. The Blue Blades are also now a relic of the past, and Gillette has moved on to sharper and better things.