Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Man Cave: Teaching Children to Avoid Tobacco

1972. Richard Nixon. Watergate. American forces were still in Vietnam. The Godfather was released in theaters. Apollo 17 landed on the moon. 1972 was also the year I turned four years old....and it was the year my grandfather introduced me to tobacco.

My grandfather was an uncompromising, strong-willed, and opinionated man. He wanted things his way, always. He was as cantankerous as they come. He also loved his family fiercely. He smoked cigars most of his life. After bypass surgery he was advised to stop by his doctors. From that point on he simply chewed on them. He also chewed tobacco.

Chewing tobacco to a four-year-old is almost irresistible. Especially in 1972. Remember candy cigarettes, circa 1972? Remember Big League Chew bubble gum?

One summer day in 1972 I decided I really wanted to share my grandpa's chewing tobacco. After nagging him relentlessly for a "bite", he finally took me out in the back yard, behind his Winnebago (so my Mom couldn't see, I'm sure) and offered me the tin. I was ecstatic. I reached in with my tiny hands, grabbed some, popped it into my mouth, and proceeded to chew with all the vigor a very grown up feeling four-year-old could muster.

I learned a few things that day. First, tobacco may smell delicious, but like vanilla it is one of those things that doesn't taste nearly as good as it smells. Secondly, the name "chewing tobacco" is completely misleading. It isn't supposed to be chewed at all. Lastly, chewing tobacco is waaaaay too intense for the hypersensitive taste buds of a four-year-old.

I remember Grandpa asking me if I liked it. I said "yes" while doing my best to hold my composure. I remember him laughing as he walked away, and I spit it out the moment he was gone. I spent the next hour discovering new shades of green. I've never used tobacco in any form since that day.

Well done, Grandpa.


  1. I have to admit, this post kind of choked me up a little bit thinking of your grandpa. Cantankerous, yes; but one of the most loving and protecting to his family one will ever have the privilege of knowing. Jeff REALLY enjoyed looking at the picture again - a great man indeed!

  2. I too enjoyed that post! I smelled Grandpa while I was reading it (wet cigar) and when you said he laughed at you I heard his laugh! He sure did teach us many good lessons. I've never tasted tobacco but I do agree that they smell wonderful! Maybe it is only because the smell reminds me of Grandpa.