There existed a pipe of certain dimensions and character that became known as a Blowfish Nosewarmer. In some circles I have heard this pipe referred to as a Blownose or Fishwarmer. In any case, it is a beauty to behold. It is a Tsuge pipe and with that name comes fine reputation.

It must have been some time ago that I first heard of this pipe. A well known writer and pipe collector who traded stories for pipes was known to own this small gem that held birdseye grain on each side in waves that would make one dizzy. On one of my recent journeys around the island of Ohio (not to be confused with the non-island of Ohio,) I saw this pipe, and the story that follows tells it's tale. Be warned, the ending is not one to lift the spirits.

We dropped anchor at predetermined coordinates and waited for his ship. The writer was bringing stories and I pipes. We were both hoping for good trading that day. The winds were out of the north and stronger than anticipated. So strong that we began to drift, so the first mate had to swim down to the anchor and hold us in place. This afforded us a solid trial of the latest underwater pipe and waterproof tobaccos. It wasn't long before I could see the bubbles surface, bringing the fine smell of a good English blend from far below.

Soon the writer's ship appeared and dropped anchor near ours. Calculating the winds better than my own group, the writer's crew immediately sent their first mate down to steady the anchor. It had been some time since I had seen this fellow, but his legend for smoking very slow was well known. We set the bridge plank across the ships and he and I met in the center to discuss wares, trades and deals.

He was smoking a small reddish pipe with a black stem. I could see it was a blowfish shape. "How long have you been smoking that one?" I asked. "Three days." he said. "So it's new then?" I inquired. "No, I've had this pipe for years, I've been smoking the same bowl of tobacco for 3 days straight without outage or interuption." I was in disbelief. "How many matches?" I had to know. "Two. You know the drill." Obviously, his next slow smoking contest was on his mind.

Just then, the wind whipped up. I imagined the first mates on the sea floor having a time trying to keep these clippers from roaming. I didn't see it approach, but once it was near, you couldn't miss it. A large white bird the size of a first mate was diving right toward us. I had never taken cover from a sea bird in my life and wasn't going to start now. The giant albatross flung us both down onto the bridge plank and nearly into the black water below. Bruised and battered but nothing more, the writer and I both made it back to our feet.

Once righted, we both realized that something horrible had just occured. The blowfish was gone. Snapped from the writer's mouth, the gigantic bird had found what he came for and left us and our respective crews puzzled. The writer was so shaken by the theft of the blowfish nosewarmer, that he called off all possible transactions and spoke what we both already knew to be true. "The soul of a dead sailor plucked my pipe from me today." He then said, "There must have been albatross in last night's stew. Baron, safe weather back to your home. My cook dies today." Till this day, I comb each albatross nest I find for the Tsuge blowfish nosewarmer. I may never find it, but if I do, it will remain as safe as all future cooks on this little clipper. There is little more important than knowing what food you are eating when you are a pipe collector at sea.

—Olie Sylvester
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

There was the blender, the tobacconist, and the friend. Together, the three worked as a wonderful trio, producing not music, but instead, fine pipe tobaccos. The harmonizing of flavor and texture through this glorious plant was no simple chore. Each designate was responsible for his portion of the task which brought nuanced blends to the pipe smoking public. Usually, their work was the source of joy, not only for themselves, but for all who realized the pipe for what it was, a tool for transcendence, a vehicle of peace.

Most often, the blender began the process by working with his hands, raw materials and years of experience to find the right components and balances within his tobaccos to shape something different and new, with a taste, feel and smell that would leave the pipe smoking community with great happiness and a feeling of being content.

Other times, the tobacconist would compile the requests, hints and overheard commentary of his patrons to surmise what the pipe smoking community was in need of. The tobacconist would bundle all of this information together expertly, then compose a graceful suggestion which would float through the mail service as a gentle bird and land lovingly on the desk of the blender, full of ideas and insight privy only to the likes of a tobacconist.

Once and again, the friend would offer up bold conjecture as to what the next project should be for the blender. This was always based on the specific tastes of the friend and the friend alone. Always, these ideas involved latakia. The friend's main duty was not to offer up anything, however, other than his deciphering of new blends as they became available from the blender and before they reached the tobacconist. The friend was one of the best, at least in the blender's mind, at deciphering what else could be adjusted to a final blend. In many ways, he was the main tester for the blender, and therefore, had a very important role in the trio.

No matter how an idea sparked, the blender, the tobacconist and the friend worked together in various dynamic ways to come about with fantastic delights that would stir the imagination and help one grasp the tools for contemplation. Often, these new blends became old standards once the recipe settled into the public over the course of years, not unlike the ritual circle-walk a dog will perform before retreating to the bed beneath its paws.

It was a cool January morning that found a strange kink in this finely formed chain. The tobacconist felt the chill in the air when he opened his storefront door. The tinkle of a little brass bell marked his entrance, as it would mark nearly everyone's entrance that day. On a normal day, his patrons came and went as freely as the breeze. Most bought tobacco, some purchased fire lighting mechanisms while others came in search of a new pipe. Some patrons were such regulars that the tobacconist could tally the required items on a list prior to the guest stepping foot inside the store. After the tobacconist turned on the lights, he adorned himself with his aged apron.

Across town the friend was enjoying an old favorite blend in one of his beloved billiards while watching some light snow fall outside his window. He was deep in daydream while rocking in his creaking black rocker, built by a good friend many years prior. Once he finished the bowl, his plan was to head across the way to visit the blender to see what his days work looked like, and offer any help while there.

The blender worked best while listening to classical music. It played now as he worked. Seemingly in a trance, his hands moved in one direction, while his eyes another. Something akin to a dance was happening as he moved and poured and blended and worked. Then his liquid movements came to an abrupt halt with a knock at his door. Expecting the friend, the blender unlocked and opened his door with a cheerful, "Please come in!" before realizing it was not the friend, but a new person, whom he had never seen before.

Crossing his threshold now was a beautiful creature with a wonderful smile. The new friend came in and immediately began to speak. The words slithered around the blenders ears in a comfortable exciting way. The new friend looked quite unique, unlike anyone the blender had ever seen before. Something about the new friend reminded the blender of a unique and strange bird. While he was unsure why, he nearly expected the new friend to have a beak, or fly away at any moment. Instead, and to the delight of the blender, the new friend kept talking.

The blender's mind worked diligently to compile all of the words together into a comprehensive batch. Tobacco blends of old seemed to be the topic. A call to the past was missing in today's blends, so said the new birdlike friend, in words that were as eloquent as they were quick. The blender found himself agreeing with nods almost immediately. The palpable charm that infused the air was undeniable. The blender was breathing it in now.

The bird friend produced a small leather pouch from the pocket of a topcoat of sorts and untied it with a single finger in such a way that the background music might have been conducted, just for a moment, by the movements. Once open, the bird friend sprinkled a very small pinch of the contents over the tobacco laid out on the blender's mixing table. The question had to be asked, what was this stuff? The blender inhaled and began to rally his questions, but they were much slower to answer his call than was normal. Some call this phenomena a daze, while others call it a haze. Either word was very close to the name of the land the blender was now visiting. Everything he tried to do was slow and difficult.

Finally, a word came from the blender, "What" then another, "was" then the last in the group "that?" It seemed like such a simply constructed sentence, but in his mind it took immense building effort and even more to launch the little ship of words from his mouth. His eyes moved from his blending table to the bird friend who was no longer there. The blender's door was shut and locked, his classical music still played in the background and everything seemed to be quite normal.

Suddenly, his head was very clear and the thought of someone having been there, just a few moments prior, felt like a dream he may have had in the past. This new blend he was working on was suddenly very important. His idea of bringing back an old blend from days gone by was genius and he had to share this with the friend.

Not far away…

It isn't often that a bird flies into your window as you're staring out of it. It can be startling. For the friend, it was startling, very much so. He leapt from his old rocking chair only to watch the bird fly in an awkward circle and do it again. Unsure of what to do, he opened the door. As he did he felt the bird fly past him, barely brushing his arm. All of this happened very quickly. About as quickly as it took him to jump up and say, "Get in here!" when opening, then slamming the door.

The friend turned on his heels and looked upward toward the bare rafters expecting to catch a glimpse of the fluttering guest. Instead, standing quite on the ground before him, was a person, or at least, some thing that seemed like a person. Somehow, it had beautiful, bird like qualities. He caught himself staring at its features, but as he did, the information he was receiving was not clear. He saw feathers, which, upon closer examination, were actually just hound's-tooth patterned material. He saw a wonderful little pale reddish beak, which somehow, was really only a nicely smiling mouth, now that he looked more closely.

He needed his pipe to sort all of this out. There it was, sitting in wait upon the cold window sill, a steady plume of smoke rising from it and floating upwards. Slowly and deliberately, he walked to his perched companion and picked it up. Only after clenching it in his teeth did he turn to see his new guest was not a bird, nor was it completely human. The term bird friend came to mind.

The bird friend began to speak and as it did, the friend's ears heard something more like music than speech. The words curled into his ears and nestled in his heart. He hoped the bird friend would never stop talking. Somehow quick and flitting, while remaining absolutely elegant, the bird friend's prose wove a story of age old tobaccos now missing from the world. Exotic tastes that were once the mainstays of pipe smokers around the world, were now out of reach. This was a travesty, explained the bird friend.

The friend was nodding in agreement so soon, that, for a moment, he inwardly debated whether he began nodding with the very first word uttered by the bird friend, or not. Soon this debate in his head dissipated, leaving no trail that it ever was there. Now the friend was simply filled with warmth and goodness and a feeling that he and the bird friend were very much on the same page about these concerns. He couldn't agree with the bird friend more about the lost loves of those old tobaccos.

No one would ever do something as outlandish as pluck the pipe from another's clench. It would be a most jarring, awkward and brash thing for anyone to do. However, this is exactly what the bird friend did next. The bird friend's shapely hand made a fluttering advance which reminded the friend of a fish swimming in water that was slightly too shallow. Then there was a strange pulse of warmth accompanied by an absence of sound as the pipe was pruned from the friend. Normally, this action would be followed by fist-to-cuffs, but violence was very far from the friend's mind right now.

The bird friend pulled a small sack, possibly made of leather, from the pocket of a very odd kind of topcoat. The bird friend then loosened the sack with a fluid motion, as if writing in the air. The bird friend then sprinkled a very small pinch of the sack's contents into the pipe. The new ingredient was tamped with a claw, or maybe it was the smallest finger of the bird friend's right hand. Suddenly, and almost without notice, the favored pipe was back home, in the clenched teeth of the friend.

The friend called upon his wits to ask the obvious questions of the origin and make of this introduced ingredient. It seemed his wits were needed elsewhere and could not heed his call. He wanted to use only a few words for the question. The birth of the sentence became desperate, but it would never pass his teeth. Soon, those needed words vanished from his thoughts and there were no words at all to pick or choose from.

Then suddenly, all was quite clear. He was sitting in his rocking chair, enjoying his pipe on a very normal winter's morning. Something about his tobacco reminded him of one of his old favorite blends. The flavor swelled until it was exactly like days gone by. Then as quickly as it came, like a finicky humming bird, the taste and smell of that old tobacco was gone. The memory lingered until it fused with an idea and prompted the friend out of his home and towards the blender's hovel.

Only blocks away…

The tobacconist was having a slow morning. He supposed the cold was keeping away most of his patrons. He imagined them in their homes, weighing out the good and bad of venturing out to find solace in his shop. It was certainly warm in his quaint little spot, and few would attempt to dispute how wonderful the atmosphere felt with so many pipes and tobaccos nearby amidst jovial conversation and good friends. Hopefully soon, his patrons would trickle in and the day would feel more normal. Then came a thud. It was the kind of thud you hear when something smallish, but with weight, collides with something largish like a door. This thud sends shopkeepers like the tobacconist into a heightened sense of speculation: was the thud a product of some neighborhood kid throwing snowballs, or was it possibly something else that needed investigation?

The tobacconist advanced towards his front door. As he did, his door flew open and snow, wind, cold, and a patron all hurried in at once. The patron immediately said, "Crazy bird!" To this the tobacconist replied, "What?" "Some crazy bird flying into your door when I came in. It may have flown inside." said the patron. Immediately they began scanning the shop for the bird that may have flown in. "Well I never said that bird could come in here!" exclaimed the Tobacconist with a grin. Soon the men spotted the flitting little bird above the shelves of bulk tobacco towards the back of the store. "I'm not going to bother with it now. I'll find a way to get it out later." said the Tobacconist to the patron. With that they cozied into some well worn chairs and commenced upon the rituals of pipe lighting. Soon, waves of lovely smoke, laden with complexions of interesting aromas, danced around the room and mingled with the warm conversation, also now adrift about them. The bird watched.

The blender and the friend, each on their way to see the other, met in the cold outdoors nearly exactly halfway between their abodes. "I have an idea!" exclaimed the blender. "You have an idea? Well you'll have to wait, I have an idea, and you're going to love it!" decried the friend and began unloading his secret immediately. "You need to make a blend that harkens back to the age old blend that we all miss so much. It can live again, through you! It will be a great success and make us all very happy!" The blender's smile was telling as he said, "But that was my idea I was just bringing to you! How much we think alike, it's nearly hard to believe! I have already begun blending and am ready for you to help test this new/old blend dear friend. Come back to my place and we shall both test this blend and discuss it's needs."

Upon arriving at the blender's quarters, the men filled their pipes with a test bowl, full of the new/old blend that would change the world. A change occurred indeed. Every pore on them began sprouting hair. Each tooth in their mouths pushed out, away from the gum. Their noses grew small and dark and all the while during this transformation, they noticed not one thing of themselves or each other. Within moments, they grew into well dressed beasts of some sort, but knew it not. Finishing the smoke before telling the world was not an option. With pipes clenched in their newly fanged mouths, they set out together, towards the tobacconist's shop.

The few townsfolk they passed on their way to the tobacconist were, for some reason, in some sort of hurry. One woman even screamed, but when they tried to fun and help her, she ran much faster, away from them both. It was very strange. The friend beast caught site of a squirrel on a nearby tree and pondered on it's plumpness. Something he had never done before. The blender beast thought of how very mild it felt, even though snow was falling. He had a strange urge to relieve himself on an upcoming tree, but he fought the urge and continued on.

As they arrived they threw the door open with excitement. The blender beast called out to the previously relaxed tobacconist and patron, "We have a secret! It is a plan like none other and will change the world of pipe smoking!" The bird, still near the bulk tobaccos in the back of the store, flitted wildly. The tobacconist and patron sat bolt upright in great surprise. While still looking at the beasts now standing in his shop, he muttered from the side of his mouth to the patron in low tones, "Be calm and act casual, if you do not, we may be dead men." Then the tobacconist remarked, "Great blender and good friend, I see something has changed you indeed. Tell me all about your inspiration, but first, sit down and allow me to pull a special mixture of mine for you both."

It is well known that while the great tobacco blenders create the magical wonders that delight the palate of all pipe smokers, tobacconists also concoct their own varieties in order to further adjust those great tobaccos on the whim and whimsy of the patron. This can be a great service when you find a tobacconist who can understand and read your choices and influences. This is why blenders tend to be of the genius inventor variety, while tobacconists tend to have powers of clairvoyance which seemingly come from beyond this mortal coil.

As the tobacconist left his comfortable seat to fetch the special mixture he mentioned, he whispered "Offer them a seat." to the patron. "Why don't you two take a seat?" the patron said, as calmly as he was able, which was not very calmly at all. The snarling beasts looked strange standing up as straight as the men they once were. They gave one another a quick glance and a nod of their very hairy heads before sitting down.

When one becomes a beast, as these two men, things change. The way one breathes and moves and thinks, among other things, changes dramatically. Their breathing was heavy and audible, their speech was rough and slurred. Their gate was drunken, however, they kept their pipes lit without problem. The friend beast called out to the tobacconist, "We don't need your mixture now, that is why we're here! We have something new for you to introduce. It has changed us dramatically and will do the same to you!" An approving kind of snort came from the blender beast. The patron was shaking visibly. The bird refused to stop flying and flitting wildly. "We have brought some for you to try. We have enough for many of your patrons to try as well." growled the blender beast. And then he produced a fairly large pouch from a coat pocket.

The tobacconist was now standing on a small step ladder and unlocking an old wooden box. "I don't think that will be necessary." said the tobacconist. "Surely, good blender, you bring the finest gems for our tastes into this world, however, I will have to pass this time." "Wait!" piped up the patron. "I want to try some!" he said. The bird stopped moving and stared at the scene. The tobacconist remained focused and calm, bringing an old brown bag down from the lock box.

The blender beast and friend beast rocked back and forth with this news of a soon to be convert. "Will it change me, I mean, will I look and act like you?" asked the patron to the two beasts. "What do you mean?" snarled the friend beast. The blender beast looked equally confused. "How do I look to you?" growled the friend beast to the patron. The tobacconist was now at the patron's quivering side with the old brown bag in hand. A quick nudge from tobacconist to patron was followed by the words, "He's being silly, you are the same person today as you were yesterday." "Yes, that's right, just a joke." the patron said, voice wavering.

The blender beast put his pouch of new/old blend on the small round table in front of him. Next to it, the tobacconist put his own special mixture, the old brown bag. "The choice is yours good patron. There are no wrong decisions here." the tobacconist said gently to the patron. Pulling a fresh pipe from a pocket, the patron put down his previous pipe and deliberated over the pouches while occasionally glancing back and forth between the beasts and the tobacconist. The patron filled his bowl with the old/new blend to the delight of the blender beast and friend beast. The tobacconist sighed and slowly returned his brown bag to it's locked home, but not before filling his own pipe with some of his special mix.

As the patron lit his newly packed pipe, the tobacconist took the large sample brought by the blender beast and readied it for sale in a very large ornate humidor jar. He placed the large ornate jar in a prominent place on the old wooden counter, then began to write something on a small card. The patron, as suspected, quickly turned into a beast as well. His change went unnoticed by all except the tobacconist and the bird. The bird was now hopping from side to side in a gleeful kind of way. The tobacconist walked slowly and calmly toward the door. He opened the door and said to the air, "My door is always open. I bid no one entry nor do I ask them leave." with these words the bird flew immediately out of the little shop, apparently seen only by the tobacconist.

The three beasts puffed quite contently on their pipes and spoke loudly of the remarkable nuances that made this new/old blend not only close to the old beloved mixture, but embodied it totally and completely with nary a miss in texture, taste or room note. The blender looked to the tobacconist and spoke in his rough way, "I'm still not sure what to call it." The tobacconist affixed the hand written card in front of the large ornate humidor which held the much desired new/old blend and said, "How's this?" All three beasts turned and read as quickly as beasts can, which is none too quickly. The two words on the placard read, "Transformative Mixture."

Howls erupted in the little shop, a sign of joy and agreement. "My how everything changes, while everything stays the same." said the tobacconist. He then joined the small group and lit his pipe.

—Olie Sylvester

Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

It is in Alexandria, Virginia, of the United States of America where we find that James Ponel lived most of his adult life. A cousin's brother's cousin's brother only once removed from yours truly, I can attest to unending and lively stories of this not so well known pipe carver who was also known as Jimsey and Po-Po. As a child I fondly remember playing Jimsey Po-Po pipe-a-doo on the family pipe organ at Samhain and Michaelmas. No doubt some of you have played the popular child's hide and seek game, Marcus Po-Po. 

Jimsey, or Po-Po as he was oft called, had a way with woods. He began working with wood around 5 years of age when, a splinter as large as an adult male duck, became lodged in his thigh while playing cat-cat-dog (later renamed duck-duck-goose from this very story.) As it happened, Jimsey used his knife to carve a goose decoy while waiting for the barber/doctor/piano tuner-man to arrive and remove the splinter. The barber/doctor/piano tuner-man was so impressed with the carving that after he extracted the piece from Jimsey's leg, he purchased it from the boy, used it that very same hunting season, and consequently bagged more geese than any other goose hunter had bagged in previous years. There was such an abundance of goose meat that year, that the surrounding villages had very easy going winter and gained, on average, 4 pounds per inhabitant. 

After Jimsey's first famous goose carving, his next big project was his aunt's false teeth. His aunt's teeth were said to be so exquisitely carved that on any given day, she would be asked to produce her new lovely smile at least a dozen times, most often by artists and poets who would later include the interaction in their art form. Once Jimsey's talents became known through his aunt's teeth, Jack Poe, the local carpenter/pipesmith came calling. Jack Poe, known by many as Sir Jack or Jack Ogden Poe or Sir Jack O. Poe (not to be confused by the fantastic Italian brand Sir Jacopo, the similarity is simply coincidence I'm sure,) made many pipes but his strength was in numbers more than artistry (the opposite I might add, of the Italian company aforementioned.) Jimsey, or Po-Po as Mr. Poe liked to call James, quickly found work in the employment of the carpenter. Together, Po-Po and Poe began a small pipe company in Alexandria, aptly named PPP (not to be confused with the historical BBB pipe company of British fame.) 

In the wonderfully challenging world of woodworking, Po-Po found himself drawn to geometrical shapes. Many of his non-pipe works made strange use of triangles, rectangles and hexagons. It didn't take long for Po-Po to begin carving clumps of the specially treated Heath tree, a wood specifically imported for the making of pipes (also commonly known as briar,) into strange geometrical shapes for pipes. One of his favorite designs showed the pipe's bowl as a rectangular shape, something previously unheard of. This shape became known as the James Ponel shape, then later, simply the Ponel pipe. It should be not much surprise to you then, good reader, that over the years, this term would blossom into what we now know as the Panel pipe. James Jimsey Po-Po Ponel carved pipes for many years, right up until the great briar embargo that many of our forefathers somehow lived through. Luckily Jimsey had been such a prolific carver that he easily rode out the rest of his nice long life of 30 years, selling all of the pipes he had already made and stored prior to the horrible briar embargo. And that is the story of the James Ponel pipe, now known as the panel pipe. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

From the guarded vaults deep below the Oom Palace comes another bit of forgotten pipe history: The Fox light.
Common knowledge among pipe smokers is something called the "charring light" followed by the "true light." Even in smoking competitions, 2 lights are allowed, the first for the initial light that curls the tobacco but often does not catch. Then comes a tamp and the real light which should carry the bowl for sometime, if tended properly. Some call the initial light that curls the top tobacco the "false light." This is truly a mistake from the earlier "fox light" which was indeed in it's inception, the "Fawkes light." In 1605, Guy Fawkes was caught as the instrumental fellow who nearly carried out "The Gunpowder Plot" a scheme to overthrow the Protestant ruled government (of England) by way of igniting gun powder in hopes of destroying the parliament building. Fawkes was caught guarding the gunpowder and so was never able to get the flame going, not unlike the initial "charring light" or "Fawkes light" coined by those British pipe smokers of the time.
While somewhat off topic, it is also good to note that Guy Fawkes had a number of items and ideas named after him, presumably by other Catholics who felt akin to his struggle. "Crazy like a Fawkes" as well as "Guayabera" which comes from the earlier, "Guy de Peril" which was a type of shirt known to be worn by Catholic rebels who supported Fawkes' ideals.

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

When clipper ships were as prevalent as muskets, there was a captain who gained some fame for successfully fighting off pirates of many treacherous waters. Captain Aderman (said to be a descendant of none other than Sven Aderman) was a man who loved his pipe. The Captain was later promoted to Poobah, a title that is now known as Admiral. On a side note, Poobah Aderman was also a rather eccentric man as he had penchant for honey and rarely wore any clothing below the waist. Depictions of Poobah Aderman were often ones with his pipe in his mouth while holding a pot of honey wearing (some) clothes befitting a tough Captain of the sea. Those closest to Aderman lovingly called him "Pooh Bear" a play on "Poobah." Some historians claim there to be a connection between Poobah Aderman and the lovable character Winnie the Pooh which came along many years later sans pipe, however, I believe any similarities to be purely coincidental. 

Back to the subject of Poobah Aderman and his uses for pipes...One of his favorite pipes, nicknamed "Gigante" (pronounced Hee-ghan-tay) had a massive bowl in a shape closely resembling what we might call a Zulu today. The stem was custom made to be a tapered round end with only a slight lip. It has been noted in ship digests that Captain Aderman used this pipe, or one very much like it, in the following ways: 

- "...he threw his pipe at me in the same fashion I have seen Mohawk Indians throw a styled ax. This pipe, it did stick, mouthpiece first, into the wood of the door just next to my ear. In shock I looked over to not only smell the burning tobacco, but see it's embers burning bright as if it were the heart of the thing. I was not ever late for deck duty again." 

- "I have heard men say that he carries no weapon on his belt because he has no belt, but the truth is that he carries his weapon in his teeth. I have seen Poobah Aderman take the eye from a man using only his pipe and from a distance of no less than a mature beluga." 

- "I had never seen a war hammer but had only heard of them. But when I saw Pooh Bear Aderman unleash the fury of his pipe upon the head of a would-be mutineer, I knew that a war hammer I had finally seen. The heavy portion of the pipe came down and made that massive man a fine lunch for the locals of the water." 

And now you surely know, Poobah Aderman showed us that there are many other uses besides the obvious for our dearly beloved pipes.

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

From the guarded vaults of the Oom Palace far below Auburn Georgia, another bit of lost history concerning pipes arises: Snakes and English Blend Tobaccos 

While snakes may not immediately come to mind when considering a great English blend tobacco, it should. The history intertwining snakes and this fine stuff is a rich one that wraps each subject together tighter than a constrictor's pre-meal exercise. Having snakes as household free-roaming pets was at one time, not only accepted over much of Africa and the Middle East and some points Far East, it was expected. The snakes would keep the rats and mice away, and rats and mice were the thieves of people food. Snakes became well suited guardians of many meals far and wide. 

Those households that held snakes as pets were more likely to have at least one pipe smoker in the family. There was a belief widely held by those who housed snakes that their reptilian friends enjoyed the smoke from pipes and even (not unlike myself) had a preference to English blends. A little digging will tell us that curing English blends years ago (and occasionally in present day) meant burning the dung of camels or horses. Where there is camel or horse dung, there will likely be a host of other fine foods for snakes to dine on including birds, dogs and even small horses or camels. 

Those curing English blends are known to have a higher number of snakes hanging about their locale than any adjacent establishment. Indeed English blend curing sites were oft called "Snake House." Those looking for a new snake for their home and even snake charmers would journey to English tobacco curing sites in search of their next slithering companion. Snake charmers are known to smoke English blends more than any other blend during their routines. From the snake's point of view, the aroma might be similar to an intoxicating dinner bell of sorts, causing one to sway this way and that way not unlike the swagger seen in humans (of the US) on their way to the Thanksgiving feast table. Many of the snake charmers that I have been fortunate enough to meet end their routine by placing the snake in a woven basket where a snake feast awaits, which usually consists of three large rats, five mice and either water or beer.

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

There are many strange things in this world. There's the Platypus, the Madagascan Hissing Cockroach, the Pink toe Tarantula, people who don't like pipes, etc., etc. Just recently I happened upon one such strange thing. It was someone who didn't like pipes. Ah, but with a little whisper in the ear of one of my young sons, that person within just moments was holding their left shin and hopping around in a painful little dance. My obedient if not like minded son and I side stepped the dancing downer with a nearly simultaneous "Sorry, excuse us." But on to my initial serious strange item that I've discovered. 

Recently, one of our distinguished listeners, a Mr. Nelson Pidgeon of the SHPC fame, sent in a most wonderful electronic correspondence asking about the obvious hiatus in podcasts. I thought, "What pause? What hiatus is this that he's asking about? Are we not on a schedule of every few weeks?" It turns out that indeed, we were not. After conducting some quick research, it was discovered that all persons outside of the compound believed that it had been "quite a few weeks" since the previous podcast, while all within the compound believed the podcasts to be on track. Something had gone awry. Immediately, I reached for the telegraph and played a tune of Morse music to seven of the scientists available on premises. Once they were all in one room, I put forth the dilemma and set them to work on finding the problem. I suspected the worst. Possibly one of those ne'er-do-well anti smoking pro conniving party stallers related to or employed by Moriarty had something to do with the mess. 

In what felt like Record time (Record time being very fast, the island of Record is known for their naturally caffeinated water,) all seven scientists called me into the Rhodesian room (only Rhodesians are smoked here) for a conclusion that proved to be nothing less than startling. Directly above the compound there exists a time vortex, which, through means of magnetism, has been holding the compound in a delayed time field. This is nothing new as I distinctly recall The Missus telling me last summer that I was moving slower than normal. By all measurements, predictions, micro and macro quantifications and tea leaf readings, the compound, because of it's location in Auburn, Georgia, will continue to experience this slowed pace each summer, ending sometime in the Fall once pumpkins are visible on at least one third of the porches within a half mile area. Because of this, listeners may notice a slightly slower pace to the release of podcasts. Rest assured good listener, we are diligently working on many fronts within the walls of and have even attempted to speed up distribution of pumpkins to the surrounding areas through various legislations.

AuthorOlie Sylvester

By John K. Offerdahl 

Some may find my two hobbies, or perhaps I should call them obsessions, to be quite far apart. Dissimilar. Almost at odds. And certainly two huge drains to my meager librarian’s income. I’m a pipe enthusiast (and dabbler at pipe making), and an orchid grower. 

Today I received a wonderful box in the mail, postmarked in Virginia. I knew, of course, what was inside. For years I’ve been trying to obtain the orchid plant Paraphalaenopsis denevei, a Malasian species which I had once been told was now extinct. One of the first orchids I ever bought, in 1980, was this species. However, through some long searching – the search has lasted about 8 years, I found not only a nursery able to supply me with two of these exquisite, exotic plants, but able to do so for about $100. In the orchid world this is a bargain price. My plants are only a couple of months past living somewhere in Malasia (so I guess they are NOT extinct, even in the wild). 

When I picked up the box, held it in my hands unopened, I felt the same excitement that I’ve felt when, for example, I received my first true high grade pipe, Jan Zeman’s beautiful Dorado. In neither case was opening the box a let down, anticlimactic, or in any way less than thrilling experience. They arrived in what is called “bare root” condition, meaning that some moist moss was wrapped around the roots but they were not in pots. I carefully removed them from the box, looked them over, and smiled. The plants arrived in fine condition. This, too, was a feeling not at all unlike Dorado’s arrival from New Zealand. 

I selected clay orchid pots as the plants’ new homes.  The potting medium had been readied before the arrival, knowing that they should come today. And again I was struck by a pipe similarity as I carefully potted my new beauties. The medium I used was a mix of orchid bark and sphagnum moss which I “blended” myself. A bit was added to the bottom of each pot, about a third filled, before the plant was put in. Next the plant was carefully placed on the medium and more mixture added, almost filling the pot before being tamped down around the roots in a way to provide support for the plants without actually choking the roots. Finally, the last third of the pot was filled and carefully tamped in to create a surface even with the base of the plants. One third, followed by one third, followed by one third. Sound familiar? 

And now these lovelies are resting among their new family, almost all species (and a few hybrids) of the Phalaenopsis alliance, my favorite orchids. In a similar way, Dorado was given a new home among the other pipes of my pipe collection, which just happens to include about a dozen other Jan Zeman pipes. 

The daily care of an orchid is a process which is slow and takes patience. Each plant, just as each pipe, has its own needs and so must be tended to as an individual. They need to be kept clean, given just the right amount of light and water, occasional fertilizer, and love. The grower must check them for disturbances caused by insect, fungal, and light damage (yes, too much light can harm an orchid just as too much light can harm a fine ebonite stem) and cared for if any signs of problems may appear. The care is given slowly, patiently, and very carefully. 

A well cared-for orchid, though, rewards the owner just as does a well cared-for pipe. Sure, the rewards come in a different way. With a pipe that has been loved as it deserves the reward comes with each smoke. A clean, well tended pipe gives a cool, sweet smoke which lasts until the last bit of tobacco burns away to ash. When the smoke is finished, having been savored, sipped, and enjoyed, the feeling upon reflection is one of absolute satisfaction. I’ve never gotten less from Dorado, and expect I never will. An orchid provides a similar, though slower, reward by offering a flower, or several flowers, or even a delightful, long spray of blooms, perhaps even a fragrance from those blooms. The flowers can last literally for months; in fact, some orchids are almost perpetually in flower when large enough and healthy enough. And the reward is, again, one which, with reflection, provides a world of satisfaction. 

Now, obviously I can’t work on carving a pipe while around these lovely plants but I can enjoy a good smoke while admiring them. And I don’t personally need to see a flower to feel satisfied. I can discover a new leaf coming – a Phalaenopsis only grows one or two new leaves in a year – or just from finding the tiniest beginning of a flower stem growing from the side of a plant. I can load a pipe and enjoy it while tending to the orchids, or while simply sitting and looking at them. 

Thus, for me, I find a world of parallels between my pipes and my plants. There is the search for just the right one. There is the relaxed pleasure of taking care of either a pipe or a plant. And there is the bliss of the reward given me by either, telling me that I have done right by both.

AuthorOlie Sylvester

By Todd L. Platek 

After a lengthy hiatus of many years, I have returned to pipe collecting and pipe smoking with glee.  The reasons may be several, but it’s good to be back. 

I grew up in a home filled with pipe smoke.  East 89th Street in Manhattan, and, from my earliest memories, dad smoked his pipe with black coffee starting at about 6:00 a.m. each morning, except for weekends when he woke a bit later and lit up at about 8:00 a.m.  He didn’t have many pipes by a collector’s standard, maybe a dozen.  Nothing too fancy - some Jobeys, Wally Franks, and a Cavanaugh.  Bought Brindley’s Mixture and Carter Hall in big cans.  Used a plastic tobacco pouch.  In the evenings, after work and dinner, he’d sit in the recliner reading and watching television simultaneously, pipes going furiously.  Smoke wafted in the room, and we could see the layers of smoke dancing their way higher, then lower, then replaced by ever-new streams.  My mother loved it, and whenever my brother or I would complain, my mother quickly interrupted, defending dad’s right to enjoy his relaxation.  She thought he looked great with a pipe, and often told him how good he’d look with a cigar, but he was a pipe man, through and through. 

Before I went off to college in 1970, I asked him if I could have a pipe, and he gave me a Jobey full-bent, and that was my start.  When I moved to Washington, D.C. to attend George Washington University, I quickly found National Pipe and Tobacco Shop a few blocks away, met Ed Love, and bought my own first pipe – a black, sandblasted Savory.  It probably cost me a week’s allowance.  Six months later I bought a Ben Wade poker there, and smoked Borkum Riff.  Within two years, I was working part-time at National Pipe and making my own English blends.  I bought a few more Ben Wades, a Dunhill and a Barling with my paychecks.  When Jack Weinberger came by, toting his carrying case to sell his creations to National Pipe, I bought one for my dad’s birthday, and later bought him a Charatan.  He enjoyed both and I was pleased.  He later bought a few Knutes because of the fabulous, and, I suppose, novel Danish freeforms which were unusual in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in comparison to the standard shapes with which he had grown up. Then fell in love with Butz Choquins and Morels, claiming they reminded him of his wonderful trips in France.  He never did change tobaccos though, nor those plastic pouches.  Pipe smokers are an independent lot. 

When I left college and returned to New York, I still smoked a pipe.  Then came stints in the Far East, marriage, children, and a hectic life of lawyering.  Somehow, the pipes came to rest and I rarely smoked for over 20 years.  But I never lost my fondness for my pipes and what they meant to me. 

My dad is no longer with us, but his pipes still are.  The pipes are part of the legacy he left, and I think of him when I see and smoke them. 

Maybe that’s why I returned.  Time catches up with all of us, and that’s usually not a bad thing. 

Now, as I get older, I find solace in a good bowl of tobacco.  It’s that time of the day for relaxing, reflecting and focusing.  It can be while sitting at home, walking outside, or driving the car.  Puffing while writing.  Smoking with fellow pipe lovers.  All the joys of the pipe. 

It’s also the appreciation of the beauty of the briar.  The sweet smell of briar before the tobacco fills the bowl is a pleasure in itself.  The thought of craftsmen toiling, with their equal appreciation for the briar, to create the many pipes that now sit before me, or indeed the very pipe in my hand, is humbling. 

Discovering only very recently the fascinating and illuminating world of eBay, and meeting pipemakers and fellow enthusiasts, has brought me tremendous satisfaction.  
Each pipe I buy is special to me, and I suppose I never met a pipe I didn’t like.  From Dunhills, Ben Wades and Parkers, to old Knutes and all those sexy Italian pipes and stylistic French pipes, to the wonderful world of briar crafted by individual American makers like J.M. Boswell & son, Tim West, Mark Tinsky and many others whom I am encountering, my pipe world continues to expand in many-splendored ways and directions. 

On April 5, I attended my first pipe show, held in Newark, New Jersey.  The people there, exhibitors and attendees alike, filled me with a feeling of brotherhood in their glorious enjoyment of our shared love of pipes and tobacco.  As I write this, I am smoking the tan Caminetto I bought that day from Matt Hayes.  Paige Simms and Bob Palermo contributed to my collection that day, and we all keep in touch.   Helpful friends such as Dave Neeb have been met on eBay, and it's only a matter of time until, at a pipe show somewhere and sometime, we place the faces with the emails and phone calls.  It is a warm and welcoming community, and I am proud to have joined. 

My daughter’s recent Spring Break occasioned a car trip which I planned, without complaint from her or my wife, around J.M. Boswell’s shop, Matt Hayes’ shop, Pipe & Pint, and few other shops.  My daughter can’t wait to go back to J.M.Boswell’s, so she can play with his Labrador Retrievers and see all of Gail Boswell’s birds.  My sons want to visit J.M.’s pipemaking shop in the back.  And me?  I just want to sit and smoke and pass the time of day with J.M. and Dan and whatever other briar lovers stop by to smoke and chat. 

We pipesmokers, we happy few. 

It’s good to be back. 


AuthorOlie Sylvester

The heavily guarded underground libraries at the headquarters in Auburn, Georgia contain numerous secret histories of the world, waiting to be uncovered. As I'm sure you are aware, all history is in some way related to the tobacco pipe and in most cases, the pipe changed the presumed course of each event. 

One little known fact of the pipe world is the exisitence of two very different pipes, often confused: the opera pipe and the rodeo pipe. Many folks confuse these very different pipes and even use the terms interchangeably, and therefore, wrongly. There is a supposition that an opera pipe and a rodeo pipe are any pipe containing an oval bowl. This is simply not the case. 

It was thought that in both instances, the fellow attending either the opera or the rodeo required a low profile pipe for carrying in the jacket pocket when not in use. While this is a wonderfully artistic invention of either a single person or possibly the Jungian collective unconscious, it is far from the solid and sturdy ground of the land we call truth. 

Let us begin with the oval bowled, so called, opera pipe. The oval bowl is indeed fashioned in a low profile, but not for the opera. Many documents found in the libraries shed light on its earliest formation, in the United Kingdom. The oval bowl was conceived (to hide the pipe, lit or without flame in the pocket) for a group of discerning pipe smokers with the job title of au pair. The term is French and generally means "equal to." An au pair is typically a young woman who watches the children of another family and stays with that host family. Some allowance wages are given to the au pair in exchange for taking care of the children. 

Au pairs are notoriously savvy pipe smokers, however, in the earlier days of au pairs, pipe smoking was not usually allowed around the children. Au pairs are not only known for their love of pipes but are also known to be quite inventive. While the identity of the first au pair who contracted the first oval bowled pipe remains a point of contention, a large volume of supporting documentation shows notes from au pairs to famous pipe makers of their day requesting, "the au pair pipe, the same as you made for..." Diagrams accompanying the notes invariably show the oval bowl. 

Consider this letter from one au pair to another: "...the design makes great sense. I can finally, easily hide my pipe should unexpected company descend upon me and the children. I detest the stares I would receive from the uninitiated. You should consider wearing a similar jacket to mine, regularly, which contains the smoke, should you need to conceal your lovely little au pair pipe while still with flame. I am in great debt, not only to the brilliant pipe maker, but also to the crafty tailor who has fashioned this smoking jacket of mine. I will send you the patterns posthaste!" 

Take note, in this one correspondence we see the blossoming of two terms: the au pair pipe, which later morphed into the opera pipe (au pair, au paira, o-per-a, opera) as well as the smoking jacket. 

So there we see that the modern day opera pipe is truly, an au pair pipe. Once the modern vernacular tightens its grip on a term, it rarely lets loose and often contaminates other objects or terms in it's vicinity. 

This is what happened to the rodeo pipe. Once the idea of an opera pipe "for going to an opera" was falsely established, it spread quickly and without regard to the great au pair pipe smoking tradition. The term rodeo pipe, already established in the mid-western United States, would fall victim to a false association with the mis-named opera pipe. 

As it turns out, we can attest the misunderstanding of the rodeo pipe to what some would call true love. Documentation in the libraries of contains memoirs of a famous pipe collector and a story of a gift from his wife. 

As the collector's birthday grew near, his beloved wife questioned him as to which pipe he preferred of those advertised in the circulars of the day. After much deliberation, the collector pointed to a pipe he much desired in that age-old printed showcase we all know and love, the
Uptown's Catalog

Unfortunately the collector was in a bit of a hurry and rushed out of the room just after indicating his choice. The wife inquired, "I didn't quite see, which one dear?" and on his way out of doors and towards his horse, he said, "The rodeo pipe my love, the rodeo pipe." 

With this information, the lovely and thoughtful woman had to make some decisions. Which one of the pipes on this page must be a rodeo pipe? The opera pipe was a widely misused moniker by this time. She decided that a rodeo pipe must be one and the same, so that the rodeo enthusiast might keep it in his jacket. After presenting what she believed to be a rodeo pipe to pipe collector for his birthday, they shared words until the story was clear, and hence brought them both much joy and laughter. 

The collector, wishing to relive the heartwarming story often, referred to his new gift always as, his rodeo pipe. Not considering the consequences, the collector used this term openly and often in public, and even at his local pipe club. Eventually, many other folks in his surroundings and certainly his kin, all knew of an oval bowled pipe as an opera pipe or a rodeo pipe. These terms henceforth became synonymous very soon far and wide. 

The pipe that the collector had actually pointed out that day, was a rodeo pipe. A rodeo pipe is a pipe fashioned in the shape of any animal typically seen at a rodeo, but usually a horse (although many rodeo pipes were fashioned into bulls and calves.) The problem with the generic term is obvious but those problems go deeper still. Depending on your locale, the rodeo you attend may have very small ponies, as in Shetland, or very large horses, as in Clydesdale. Because of all of this confusion, the collector of the rodeo pipe would have many, many options. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

The following is a report brought to us by the worlds only rodeo pipe expert who also holds the position of
 Librarian and Curator of The Oom Paul Historical Library, Museum, and Archives, none other than Mr. John K. Offerdahl.

The Rodeo Pipe

by John K. Offerdahl, Librarian and Curator 
The Oom Paul Historical Library, Museum, and Archives 

It is, in fact, a rather unfortunate misunderstanding which has led some pipe aficionados to believe that the Opera pipe and the Rodeo pipe are similar. This misunderstanding is, indeed, one of many which involve the increasingly rare but absolutely magnificent family of tobacco smoking pipes known as the “Rodeo”. 

My effort to end this misunderstanding must, of course, begin with a recounting of the history of the design form. My esteemed compatriot, Mr. Sylvester, has done a fine job of telling the history of the Opera, nee “Au Pair”, pipe, including a fine elucidation of the bastardization of the name from the original. This bastardization, sadly, has led to what many consider to be the “sissification of what was once merely a ladies’ pipe into a form now used by mostly brow-beaten, spineless, opera-attending husbands” [Bowie, 64]. 

The Rodeo pipe, on the other hand, has developed as the traditional pipe for a man’s man. The earliest known examples have been traced to the western United States, where rough riders, explorers, and cattlemen selected briars which would hold up for them under the worst conditions a man could encounter. Often it was necessary for these men to quickly set aside their pipe, usually stuffing it into their gun belt or under the horn of their saddle, so as to free both hands for roping, shooting, or fighting [O’Bashaun, 127]. 

Men who lived the rugged life were, when not actively pursuing outdoor activities, subject to long hours of little activity. It was during this free time, especially at night while by a campfire, that they began to challenge one another in carving their pipes into somewhat ornate shapes. These men carved what they knew, thus the likeness of their horse, or of the cattle they worked, was incorporated [Bowie, 77]. 

As frontier life calmed the rodeo show developed as a way for these men to still challenge their wrangling skills. It was at these shows where those outside of the lifestyle first took note of the pipes smoked by such unusual men. Unlike the gentrified Opera pipe, the Rodeo pipe, it was observed, typically had a deeper, conical bowl; the Rodeo is similar to the Opera only in that both may be quickly stashed away in a belt or a pocket. The Rodeo pipe’s name was permanently coined in 1891 by none less than Annie Oakley, who, when referring to her husband Francis “Frank” E. Butler, said, “Yep, he’s got a hot rodeo pipe and an even hotter shootin’ iron” [O’Bashaun, 129]. 

There are, of course, several main subtypes of the rodeo pipe which have developed over the past 100-plus years. The two most common forms remain, of course, those carved to resemble either the head of a horse or the head of a bull. Here it should be noted that while meerschaum pipes have been carved in these shapes as well, these are absolutely not Rodeo pipes [Bowie, 82] being far too fragile and delicate to survive the use typical of a true Rodeo. I will now examine the primary less typical forms of the Rodeo Pipe. 

 Tombstone is a larger, handsome Rodeo pipe, usually with silver ornamentation. Some consider it to not be a true Rodeo as they are made only in Canada (rather than the United States) by carver Julius Vesz, and carved of deadroot briar – hence the name Tombstone [Stummel, 187]. 

 Alamo is a Texas original Rodeo pipe. Often mesquite wood is used in place of briar, and the typical Alamo utilizes turquoise insets in the stem and even shank. The style used to be unpopular outside of Texas, though tourism has spread it. 

 West Virginian is a very unusual subspecies of the Rodeo pipe. Rather than being carved in the likeness of a horse or a bull it is carved as a sheep. Interestingly, it closely resembles an Opera pipe in that the bowl is generally ovate (even ovine). 

 Bulliard is a traditional Rodeo pipe where the bowl height and shank length are exactly equal. Generally this design is now smoked by city dwellers upon visits to dude ranches. Frequently they are purchased in ranch gift shops [Stummel, 189]. 

 Oom Tex is a full bent Rodeo pipe. It is believed that this form was first used by cattle ranchers who wanted to keep both hands free and so needed a pipe which would be comfortable when clenched in the teeth for long periods of time. The design was popularized by singing cowboy Tex Ritter, for whom it is named [Stummel, 193]. 

A newer variant of the Rodeo pipe is called the
 Bullhorn. Rather than resembling an actual animal, the Bullhorn closely resembles the horn of a Longhorn bull. While a very artistically accomplished shape, the Bullhorn is actually impractical for use as a rodeo pipe. It is difficult to light as the bowl can not be seen by the smoker, and the shape is such that the tobacco load may jar loose on a galloping horse, leading to either the horse or rider receiving a serious burn. 

It is unfortunate that my space here is limited. The Rodeo pipe is indeed a delightful variant of the tobacco pipe family, and one which rightfully deserves attention. My hope is that, having read this brief report, the reader will have gained a greater appreciation for this, the manliest of pipes. 


Bowie, Sam.
 Manly Pipes for Manly Men. Austin: Atlas Publishing, 1974. 

O’Bashaun, Pete.
 The Lore and the Lure of the Smoking Pipe. Dublin: Lucky Charms, 1963. 

Stummel, Frank “Drill Bit”.
 A History of the American Tobacco Smoking Pipe. Denver CO: Rocky Road, 1997. 

AuthorOlie Sylvester

Springtime in Auburn, Georgia is something to see, especially at headquarters. Just beyond the gates and about 60 or so miles into the compound, you can begin to smell that familiar scent of the tinned tobacco fields. The hybrid tinned tobacco plant varieties you'll find here grow pre made blends originally orchestrated by the greatest blenders the world over. Of course, it's not harvest time yet. These tinned beauties are still growing and won't be ripe until late October, but even now, they sure smell good. 

The pipe trees are starting to really show the beginning of their pre-bloom bulbs also known as pipe socks. These socks, once fully mature, will eventually hide a lovely pipe inside ready to harvest. If one doesn't pick the pipe socks at the right time, one could end up with a draft hole that's too small or a thin wall that could cause a burned out hot spot. Each of these hybrid pipe trees grows a number of different name brand pipes. Our chemists and botanists work very closely with the original pipe artisans to ensure that these pipes match their original specifications. With spring in such obvious full bloom, it's no surprise that is growing and changing. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

This is a question which arises fairly frequently on various web discussion sites and so one I’ll address (again) here. I know that you are a father, just as I am, so perhaps you’ll easily relate to this thought: asking me to choose a favorite among my pipes is like asking me to choose a favorite among my children. Sorry, I just can’t do it. There are times when one pipe, or perhaps one shape, will be more in favor with me, just as there are times when one child, for whatever reason, is more on my mind than another. For example, right now I’m on a kick of looking for old, English-made bulldogs and Rhodesians. Yet none of those in my collection are any more loved than any other pipe, they are simply what I’m enjoying right now. 

John K. Offerdahl 
Librarian and Curator

The Oom Paul Historical Library, Museum, and Archives 

Write to us and tell us if you have a favorite pipe and why it's your favorite. Send us a picture of your favorite pipe or rotation. We want to hear from you!

AuthorOlie Sylvester

A man sits down at an aged picnic table miles away from civilization. The table's old brown and amber bolts, now barely holding it together, show signs of weeping rust down the face of the gray wood. He rests his hands on the warm prickly top that patiently awaits the release of a splinter into an unsuspecting host every so many years. Today would not be it's day to make satellites. 

The man takes a deep breath and looks around. To his right, the quiet lake surrounded by swaying pines gently moved by the warm breeze. To his left, the palmetto scrub, the undergrowth that is much of Florida's self styled jungles. In front and behind him, the dirt path in and out of the secluded area. He waits for the better part of ten minutes, soaking the sun into his pores and smelling the specific fragrance that nature has in this lush and green part of the world. Slowly, he produces the following from his well worn pockets: a duck call, a pipe, a tin of tobacco held shut with a rubber band, a pipe tamper fashioned from some kind of bone, and a box of matches. 

He chooses the duck call first and immediately employs the old smoothed wood with air. His breath, so recently wild, expels from all areas of his lungs and is born into three sounds parted by pause. The three almost identical sounds divide the space with an audible energy as far as the invisible waves carry. Without hesitation, fourteen other men and women materialize from the surrounding area like ghosts suddenly live again. The man finally speaks…"Afternoon brothers and sisters." Each of the fourteen who are now slowly, calmly approaching the picnic table where he sits, offer up their own unique responses while producing their pipes. Some of these lovely instruments are made of Turkish Meerschaum. One is made of cherry, but most are made of the very rare wood commonly known as briar. The first man speaks again, "I welcome you to Florida, I welcome you to Spring, and I welcome you to our pipe club. Should the need arise brothers and sisters, remember these words…Yosemite, August one, north of Old Faithful." 

The art of packing and lighting a pipe happens now, fifteen times over. Lighters and matches can be heard conjuring fire over and over again. A new calm resounds and the small billowing clouds of tranquility rise from the small chimneys in praise of the old Goddess, Lady Nicotina. For almost a solid twenty minutes, old friends enjoy each others company with conversation, with memories, with an easy going demeanor nearly lost in the world. Then it happens. The distant barking is heard, first by few, but eventually by all. As quickly as this group shape assembled, it dispersed, back into the surrounding nature. The pieces of the whole will split, but will move likewise away from the dogs now hunting their tobaccos. Not until August one of the Summer will the kaleidoscope happen upon a similar shape again. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester
A Canadian Lumberman originally from Liverpool walks into a Billiard bar with a Pickaxe in one hand, a Horn in the other, and his Bulldog Prince, at his side. The bartender says, "Mr. Calabash, doesn't look like you've got a Freehand, but so good to see you sir. We have a new special for the rest of the week and I guarantee you'll Lovat. Blowfish!" 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals 
Send us your pipe jokes, even if their as bad as the one above (or somehow worse.)
AuthorOlie Sylvester

 Can you break the spell of sentimentality? It's is a strong spell to be sure and one that I've found to be unmoving where pipes are concerned. A pipe bought is a fine thing. A pipe given to you is bundled with some otherness that elevates it's status and makes it something more. There are ingredients though, and as with any recipe, the varying amounts makes for stronger or weaker sentimentality. Thought and timing and other more subtle bits of things we can not touch combine and become infused in the gift as it manifests itself until the point it is given. The pipe may not be anything you would have ever even considered previously, but somehow, you see it now in a new and different light. I thoroughly enjoy the small collection I have. Just looking over each of them from time to time gives me a real sense of pleasure. But those within the group enchanted by the spell of sentimentality truly hold a very special place in my heart. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals 
Send us your story of a sentimental pipe. Click on the "Post a Comment" link below to get started.

AuthorOlie Sylvester

From the heavily guarded vaults beneath the Oom Palace comes another gem of pipe history, the Lamentation Artist. Many of you may still employ the work of a Lamentation Artist from time to time, but for those of you who have never heard of the task, allow me to explain. The art of professional lamentation of pipes was widespread in the late 1800s in America. There were so few good repair persons, that when a pipe was broken or out of commission in any way, the owner of said pipe would hire a Lamentation Artist to perform a small musical ceremony lamenting it's passing. An illustration of such I've provided for you. You will notice the broken pipe on the floor near the violinist. While there are few Lamentation Artists still available, they do exist and will travel to your place of residence for the time honored ceremony that barely still exists. The few Lamentation Artists that I know personally are currently overbooked for the year of 2009, and so have asked that I not provide mention to their services at this time.


AuthorOlie Sylvester

It was a great many years ago that I last came across the word Shaman. At that time, it came to me after being tucked neatly away for goodness knows how long, in an adventure book for youngsters. In the story it seems brothers Bill and Jim decided to sneak away from their campsite, which happened to be near the heart of the Amazon jungle, while their parents were sound asleep in the family's current housing, if one can call it such, a tent. Each daring the other to go on, as brothers apparently do, which by the way I have no way of knowing the validity of that statement for the sheer fact that I was an only child, a single star in my parent's heaven, if you will. 

So Bill and Jim find themselves dared straight into the deepest and darkest parts of the formidable Amazon jungle which is practically the living room, nay the den of animals like crocodiles and caiman and many other ferocious things no doubt that with "C" as well as a slew of nefarious cretin that begin with other letters as well. At some point it becomes apparent to one that they may very well be completely lost. He points this out to the other and the anxious feelings rise not just with Bill and Jim but with the reader, too. Now a funny thing happens. These two hapless boys stumble upon a Shaman and what I mean to say is that they don't literally trip over the fellow but this native witchdoctor of sorts jumps out at them in all of his tribal regalia and coaxes if not scares the bejesus clean out of them. While I personally wouldn't have much bejesus left to scare out, they, being younger, apparently had quite a sum. I'm fairly sure, however, that they were quite exceedingly low on bejesus after this fright. Now what I find very strange here, is that Bill and Jim begin trying to communicate with the Shaman and he actually attempts to communicate back to the boys. Ah, if the world were only so docile. It's more than safe to say that I would not receive near this kind of working relationship if I were to do anything even close to this to a Shaman in the jungle, the likes of whom I had never had the pleasure of meeting prior. 

Let's say I were to jump out from behind some bushes, even in a downtown setting. Chances are, that the poor soul or souls whom I might surprise would commence to locating the life within me and squeezing it out post haste. But here, in this amazing story about these two lost brothers who come across a Shaman deep in the jungle, they start straight away with attempting to establish lines of communication. Now what I'm not saying is that this is impossible. What I am saying is that the likelihood is so rare that you'd be filthy rich if you put your money on that horse and it "came in" as they say at the track. 

So as you can see, my knowledge of and association with Shaman's is, at very least, something one might describe as limited. Which is why I was a bit taken aback when, very recently, this word Shaman came up in casual conversation at The Bow Tie Club. As I'm sure you know, The Bow Tie Club is wonderful place where one can go and have a sip of his or her favorite poison while sampling some of the finest pipe tobaccos from each and every tobacco blender worth their salt. Oh but it doesn't end there. The club is a cozy respite with low lighting, dark and rich green walls and a black trim that upon very close inspection, looks like it may actually be the darkest of browns ever made. As it's name suggests, bow ties are another facet of the establishment. One can buy the finest of hand cut bow ties right there on the premises. If you like bow ties, you become a member of the club and soon you have begun a pipe collection (yes they sell pipes as well,) you find your favorite poison, and you find some good friends. Should you like pipes and tobaccos, you join the club and soon you have a bow tie collection, you find your favorite poison, and you find some good friends. There are so many ways that folks have found themselves within the establishment. Once there, extracting yourself from those delights is a chore not easily accomplished even by the most brave among us. 

There I was during a rather normal evening at The Bow Tie Club when, in the midst of casual conversation pops up the word Shaman. I was conversing with Stan Morgan who I might normally describe as a chaste fellow. He was speaking to the many and varied complexities of married life. The one complexity he was honing in on happened to be children. You see, Stan and his wife already had two young boys who, as far as I could tell, were right fine gentlemen. I had the pleasure of meeting them a few times and never did they show anything more than the normal exuberance for life and mischief befitting young lads. Stan seemed a bit worried that his Missus might be once again with child. He went on to say that while he would certainly love another child in the house, the budget for a third child was hardly there. He said he didn't understand how she might be pregnant since the dance went so well. "Dance? What dance", I asked. "We had a Shaman do the dance of infertility once we decided to stop having kids." 

I am a calm, even collected man, however, I don't believe there is a thing in this world or any other that could have kept the scotch in my mouth at that moment. I suppressed the grin, offered up a few "Sorry about that"s and dabbed up the scotch from the surrounding area. I followed up with, "Come again?" Stan explained, "Shaman's are just people who know the old ways, ways people like you and I have forgotten all about. They can do many amazing things. The idea though seems so absurd at first, that people just don't give them a chance and this stuff works. I just hope this dance worked." I had to know, so I asked, "Stan, if you don't mind my asking, where did you find a Shaman?" "Oh, in the paper." he said. I felt like continuing the conversation about finding Shaman's in the paper, but his answer was so matter of fact and flat and not at all embarrassed that it stopped my wishes cold. I only could muster the retort of "Alright." Stan finished his drink, which I believe was a Rum and Coke, and said, "Say Karl, I'm off to see the Shaman to talk with him about all this and could use the company, not to mention support. Care to join?" I've been asked to be the announcer at raffles. I've been asked to be the judge at pedigree rabbit and hare competitions. I've even been asked to choose the appropriate gift for the wife of statesman, but I have never been asked to come along as support to a meeting with a local Shaman. So of course, I had to say yes. "Absolutely." I said. I finished my scotch, and off we went. 

It took us about half a bowl of G.L. Pease's Blackpoint (some of the finest tobacco in current production) in an Ardor Chubby Billiard (one of my very favorite stout renditions of a classic shape) before we were there, that is to say, about twenty minutes. The Shaman's shack was more like a penthouse sans furniture. It seemed odd being "buzzed in" to climb stairs to the Shaman's place, but there we were. While I expected a grass skirt and some sort of headdress when he opened the door, the Shaman was instead, wearing the following: dark mustard yellow pants with cuffs made of linen, leather sandals, a white linen button up and collared shirt and a nose bone. His hair was mostly dark with some gray throughout. He wore his hair longish, but not quite to the shoulders. His skin was a dark olive. I found myself trying to look at the bone through his nose more often than would be polite, so I tried to limit this as much as possible. He welcomed us with a hearty, "Welcome my friends, it is my pleasure to see you today." He was grinning widely. I don't believe he stopped grinning once for the duration of our visit. 

Stan, the Shaman and I sat down on a round rug on the floor. Stan introduced me to the Shaman and explained that I was only accompanying as a friend for support. I then learned the Shaman's name. Kevin. If someone would have asked me to make a list of all the possible Shaman names that I could come up with, I'm quite sure that Kevin would not have been even at the back of the pack. I sat there quietly as Stan laid out his concerns to Kevin the Shaman. Kevin looked concerned and understanding. Once Stan finished, Kevin spoke. "The dance was a good dance and holds our intentions well. So long as your intentions and your wife's intentions have not changed, the power of the dance holds. I believe you have nothing to worry about. Put it then out of your mind. Have some ginger in your meal tonight. Rest and relax. Everything is fine." With that, Stan said, "Thank you very much." Then I took note from Stan's lead and we stood up, he offered another thank you with a small bow to Kevin, I followed suit as best I could and we left the happy Shaman's abode. I don't believe we were in his home any more than ten minutes. 

After that day, my good friend Stan and I didn't discuss this topic again for quite some time. When we did, he had this to say. "Karl, the Shaman was right. We had nothing to worry about." Honestly I was shocked. My mind had wondered into a future where Stan's wife was pregnant again, Kevin couldn't be trusted, and Stan would have to stop coming to The Bow Tie Club due to the high cost of diapers. Thankfully this was not the case. I said to Stan, "I'm so glad it worked out the way you and your wife initially wanted." Stan and I immediately moved onto other topic including cuts of tobacco and more specifically, cube cutting and our likes or dislikes of the matter. Personally I've never been a fan of the cube cut and I say that un apologetically. 

Not much longer, Stan had to leave and I was there sitting with my thoughts, a lit pipe, a scotch and a decision to make. I had been eyeing a few pipes in the case at The Bow Tie Club for some time. One of the pipes was a figural antique meerschaum with an amber bit. The scene was a hunting theme and the entire piece was elaborate and intricate. The other was an unassuming sandblasted black Canadian by Kirk Bosi. It's simple straightforward elegance was one that I found captivating. I asked the good fellow behind the counter if I might borrow them just for a half hour or so with the understanding that I would bring them straight back without a scratch and unsmoked. He agreed, and so, after finishing my drink, I set out with pipe in mouth and two others in pocket. 

I arrived at the Shaman's house where he buzzed me in. I apologized to Kevin for showing up without notice or warning, and explained that I thought he might be able to help me. I could be wrong, however, I believe his smile was larger than normal. Kevin beckoned me in and asked me to sit down on the familiar round rug. He asked me what brought me back to him. I explained, "Sir, I am in need of your help. I understand that you know many things and I have a dilemma. I am at odds about a purchase I wish to make on a pipe. They are both very beautiful, but I can not seem to choose." Kevin the Shaman stared into my eyes and then said, "I would go with the Bosi. His work in classic shapes is really nice. It would be a shame to pass on an opportunity like that." I don't mind telling you that a smile found it's way across my face while my eyes teared. I could only find the words, "Thank you." in my currently vocabulary which I uttered immediately before leaving the holy apartment. Upon arrival back at The bow Tie Club, my mission was clear and soon the Bosi Canadian was burning full of Blackpoint and I was in a strange and wonderful place in the Universe. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

I believe it was in November when the thing occurred. No, strike that, I'm quite sure it was October as I seriously considered taking to the neighborhoods come Halloween night, dressed, as it were, like a racing greyhound dog. You see, the greyhound dog part is what I'm getting at. I've always been a horse man myself, putting out a bet here and a bet there since I was an awfully young chap. After a spell, you get to looking at these things with a knowledgeable eye. One picks up on how a horse looks, or even how the owner looks the day of the race. I recall once having to change a bet after catching the owner of a horse shrug his shoulders about something or other. No winning man shrugs his shoulders in conversation. 

So there I was, talking to a good friend of mine over a cup of coffee, or a cup of joe as some of my American friends call it, when this good friend of mine Benson begins going on and on about this racing of dogs thing that apparently is a rather large deal here in the United States. Benson went on to say, "They only use greyhounds, which are incredibly fast dogs, like cheetahs, but without all of the problems of being a feline, and they race them about the track like horses do." I didn't know what to say, I was dumbfounded firstly and then went headlong into being thoroughly appalled. Who had ever heard of such a thing? I mean to say, it is entirely possible that some such sport has been going on in jolly old England for a good spell, but certainly not to my knowledge. I pictured these poor groaning beasts attempting to make their way around the track with those proud, snooty jockey fellows in all of their glory with pressed silk shirts and flashy hats and real glass racing goggles and whatnot, riding atop them. Horrific to say the least! This was certainly akin to the cockfighting that I had heard of in my younger years wherein some member of the dregs of humanity take two roosters or chickens or something of that nature, and puts them in a sort of battle to the death in a ring surrounded by thugs and bookies and thug bookies and those sorts, all betting on the duck or bird or whatever it is that they think will escape with their feathery life in tact. Absolutely horrid thing, this business. 

"So the next dog racing is coming up in a few nights, would you like to accompany me down to the track?" Benson asked. I imagine my face must have turned a shade of green, or at least a sea foam hue, when Benson said, "Are you alright mate?" I said that I was feeling a bit on the queasy side and informed Benson that I would have to pass on the dog racing bit, but thank you very much. After a quick "Have it your way." Benson began on with a totally different subject, spiders. 

You see, Benson is one of these blokes that is an absolute grain of wheat blowing in the wind, this way and that as the wind blows. He has these monomanias, as I call them, wherein he will absolutely latch on to a topic like a starved tick, and talk about the item until one might think his jaws incapable of going on, and yet, miraculously, they do. They absolutely do! He gets one of these obsessions or monomanias and before you know it, is a card carrying member of the group. 

I remember quite clearly that not too very long ago, Benson was very big into depression glass. I had no idea what the stuff was at the time but, as it sounded like it might make one withdrawn and sad, I really wasn't too very keen on hearing about it. Well as it turns out, it's this spiffy kind of glass that was made a while back and much of what I saw was fashioned into various kinds of fauna in every color of God's own rainbow. 

I'll have to admit, however, that it did not help the old cause when the first piece of depression glass I fixed the peepers upon was a jar made to look like a sad puppy. I inwardly thought that it was awfully bizarre that a group of glassmakers would get together and start making a bunch of sad animals and call it depression glass. Then I thought of how odd it was that there was ever a market for it in the past, much less now! Well once Benson showed me a pink chicken, which looked, not really sad, not particularly happy, but possibly only mildly content, I had to ask, "Benson, why on earth does this bird not look sad or even fatigued if this is supposed to be depression glass? Just over there you have that little pup doing a bang up job on the sad bit now don't you? I think you've been taken on this purchase Benson. This carver must be second rate!" It took Benson a few moments to compute what I was getting at, but once he came 'round, he did so with a hearty bang. The laughing that ensued was deep and seemingly endless. Once the mirth subsided old Benson tipped me off to the true information behind this collectible product. Come to find out, it had everything to do with the glassware being made during the years of The Great Depression and not a spot about sad animals. 

I believe Benson had acquired what some would call a complete slew of depression glass. There were cobalt blue deep dish lambs and pink covered plate sleeping cats and green butter dish hens which all added up to looking like a formidable army poised in readiness all about his flat. One received the feeling that numerous translucent beasts of the field were eyeing you, if not sizing you up, waiting to hear if you were either for them or against them. Then, without notice, for some unknown reason, the fire of that monomania flickered out. 

So Benson left the topic of the dog racing and picked up his latest monomania, spiders, and did not stop for some time. I believe he went on for a solid 15 minutes about the jumping spider - Sitticus palustris (if memory serves,) and it's keen eyesight as well as it's ability to spot it's prey from some distance and jump on top of the poor thing with stunning precision. This description began to remind me of a cousin who was not as distant as I would like him to be, with very similar tendencies. I, the prey item, could be a hundred yards away and Timmy, as we would call him, could spot me, hunt me down, and bleed my billfold for all that it was worth, and then a bit more. What was worse than the begging, however, was the boy's speech. Now when I say speech, what I mean is grammar, vocabulary and all the rest rolled up together like a damned burrito. Timmy, you see, was what one might call a butcher of the English language, if one felt like being so kind. Allowing my ears to wade through such muck was quite worse than the parting with bills bit, which always followed. As a matter of fact, if I could find a way to get this jumping spider of a relative onto a payment plan in order to keep him from attacking me for funds whenever I was within a rifleman's range of him, that would have been top notch in my plan book. 

A day can become absolutely dreary once you are introduced to a mass of poorly constructed sentences peppered with ill chosen and horrifically spoken words. You see, fellows like Timmy the jumping spider do not navigate the waters of language but paddle from here to there on whatever detritus floats by. Like I said, a butcher that boy is, which says nothing poor about our good meat butcher Mr. William Younghusband, mind you. A fine fellow who knows his trade incredibly well and whom I would recommend to even the most discerning of meat purchasers, whether they were buying beef or bird. 

After Benson filled my head with more facts and figures on jumping spiders than anyone should ever really need, unless they were either an entomologist specializing in jumping spiders, or they were someone possibly courting an entomologist specializing in jumping spiders and wanted to look incredibly well versed to their possible potential mate, he then began on the topic of tarantulas. Now, I don't know about you, but when I sit down for a relaxing cup of coffee and a chat, that chat should be of something equally relaxing. Spiders of all sorts, whether they jump or are completely unable to jump, do not fall into the, talk which relaxes me category. Even so, I acquiesced and he filled me in on the distinct and not so distinct differences between New World and Old World tarantulas. 

I felt like giving old Benson a few minutes to talk as lately, he had been a bit down about his new neighbor. This new neighbor fellow was apparently from Cambodia or Cameroon or some such exotic place, and had been giving Benson a real hard time. It seems that everything Benson did irritated this Kiri fellow to no end. Now Kiri is this chap's first name, which he insisted everyone use. I am told that Kiri means mountain or mountain peak in Cambodian or Cameroonese or whatever, and if that's the case, his folks were spot on with this name as the fellow scuffs the tallest of door frames with his noggin each and every time he attempts passage through them. It is because of this sad fact that I've always felt bad for dear Kiri as he could never wear a decent hat without roughing it up first night out. 

Kiri's objections were apparently ever-present in the world of Benson. If Benson played a bit of music, Kiri would declare it much too loud. If Benson had a few friends over, Kiri would state that the group was too very large. If Benson leaves for work earlier than normal, Kiri questioned him as to why, the list was simply unending. Poor old Benson tried to invite him over a few times to smooth out the edges, but to no avail. He had gone to even combing the papers for other flats to rent just to get away from Kiri. In short, Benson was beside his old self. This Kiri fellow was the thorn in Benson's side, hat, shoe, sock and goodness knows what else! 

Benson eventually finished his bit on the tarantulas, looked at his wristwatch, and informed me that he had to be leaving if he was going to get to baking tonight. Baking was not a monomania of Benson's but a long time hobby. He was very good at it and the cakes and tortes and whatnot that this fellow could produce from his little stove were nothing less than magical. "Ah yes." I said. "I too have an appointment I simply can not miss." This was not entirely true as Mr. Hinckley of The Bow Tie Club wasn't exactly expecting me at his shop. It was true, however, that if I did not get 'round to The Bow Tie Club, I would have certainly missed the treat. So Benson and I parted ways for the moment, he towards his night of baking and I towards my favorite club. 

Now, if I haven't told you, The Bow Tie Club was, at it's inception, a shop that sold the best bow ties that money could buy. Mr. Hinckley, who was the proprietor, was the kind of fellow who would allow nothing but the best pass through his establishment. The product was top notch and the service was even better. Before accidentally stumbling into The Bow Tie Club, I really had no idea just how important a good bow tie was. I remember those days of simple naivete. I will have you know that since becoming a bow tie man, my journeys and adventures have become ten times more thrilling and twenty times more dangerous. This is a clear and true fact. Looking back on my pre-bow-tie days I almost get sad for that fellow who was me, living the much more dull and dreary life, comparatively speaking. 

Over the years regulars began frequenting The Bow Tie Club so much, that Mr. Hinckley installed a small bar, some handsome little tables, and a stock of his favorite pipe tobaccos. If you were a member, the drinks and tobaccos were on the house. I have always thought that this was the perfect place for them. If you weren't a member and you had even an ounce of style within your blood and knew a good bow tie when you saw one, you would soon be shamed into becoming a member. It was the perfect spot to, tie one on while tying one on, if you will. 

John Jacob Belsome was the first one to greet me as I walked through those hallowed doors of The Club. "KES! If it isn't old Karl Eric Stanwell in the flesh! You are just in time K fellow, as our dear Mr. H. here has just broken open a fresh bag of the newest English blend from G.L. Pease. It's going to knock your socks clear off, friend." To this I volleyed, "Don't mind if I do." and produced with something like a magician's hand, my current pipe in rotation, a lovely billiard shaped pipe by the brand name Ardor, made in Italy by a certain Rovera family. I am not much at prestidigitation, however, I do what I can to keep things lively. The Rovera family of Italy make absolutely incredible pipes of which I am more than fond. This one in particular was getting to be an all time favorite very quickly. 

Besides myself, and JJB, there was of course Mr. H. and about a dozen others there at The Bow Tie Club. Most of the occupants had a pipe in hand and were conversing with the others on this or that, often going in and out of discussions on tobacco blends or pipe carvers or companies. I ordered a scotch on the rocks as I normally do at these little gatherings and began to, shoot the breeze, as they say. 

I brought up the fact that my good friend Benson had asked me to the dog races and asked JJB what he thought of races in general and possibly dog races more specifically. What was said next completely took me off guard... 

"Oh I go to the dogs all the time." he said. "You do?!" I questioned. "Then maybe you can explain a bit about it to me." John Jacob went on to say that each of the dogs in the race wore a little jacket of sorts with number on it and that's how you knew which dog you were betting on. I was puzzled. "How on earth," I began "do these dogs manage to run a track length with one of these little blighters, these jockeys, on their backs? It's got to be nothing less than grueling for the poor things." JJB let out a, not entirely small, chuckle that I did not particularly find kind, and explained that there were no jockeys in these dog races. "Well don't go running around and telling everyone that!" I told him. "There's bound to be repercussions to the tune of lawsuits brought about by some jockey union somewhere. Keep it down will you?" "Right." John Jacob said, this time in almost a whisper. He must have known I was serious.

"So you've been attending these dog races have you?" I asked JJB. "Sure thing. Loads of fun too. Do you know they sell beer and pretzels and hot dogs there?" John Jacob's eyes had an undeniable gleam in them which accompanied a small smile. This told me he delighted in these specific aspects of the event. "I did not!" I honestly said. "Say, the next race is tomorrow night, you should go." he said. My mind was made up. I was going to talk to Benson as soon as possible and arrange to duck back in to the invitation to the dog racing. I relaxed for a bit longer with my Ardor pipe puffing on the newest G.L. Pease English blend and my scotch warming my soul. Once time had seen these two luxuries to a current close, I bid JJB a hearty farewell, and did the same to some number of other kindred spirits at the club. Before leaving I put in an order for an absolutely smashing new tie that Mr. H. recommended. He is a god among men, that Mr. Hinckley. 

It may come as no surprise that my next stop would be good ole Benson's flat. I might even pick up some fresh baked goods if my timing was right. Upon arriving Benson greeted me at the door with a bit of a hurried, frazzled look on his face. "Come in, come in, I'll be right with you." "What gives Benson? What's the matter? Is it anything I can help with?" I asked. "I'm afraid not Karl, not unless you're a born spider hunter, and I'm wagering you are all but that very thing." I was beginning to see the whole picture here. "So what you're telling me is that you've got a spider on the loose? You've got an eight legged member of your army gone AWOL?" "Karl, I'm afraid you've got the front and back, top and bottom of it in the shell of a nut." "Good heavens!" I exclaimed. "Good gracious!" I exclaimed. "Good..." "Enough with the goods already mate, help me look or else start a new topic!" Benson was an even keeled fellow most of the time, but I could see he was getting right upset. "And what's more is that in a last dash effort to reconcile differences with neighbor Kiri, I've asked him over to try out some of my baking. He'll be here any moment!" 

"Well old friend, I just wanted to pop in and see if I could snake back into the dog racing bit with you coming up shortly." "Sure, sure, you're on." said Benson. "I'll help you look for the beast until Kiri gets here, then it might be best if I made myself scarce and you did your best with the pastries or muffins or whatever it is your cooking." "Well if you're going to help look, just know that the item in question is large, brown, furry, and has eight legs." "Right." I said. "I'm on task, on the job as a spider hunter. Here we go." I began a line of questioning not unlike Mr. Sherlock Holmes might have used. If I were a spider, where would I hide? Then I realized, why would he hide? He might just be out for a stroll. Aha! This got me to comb all the hallways and passageways within the flat while looking into the open places, which was, as far as I could tell, the exact opposite of what Benson was doing. He was in corners, lifting pillows, moving bookcases and the like. 

Then, I heard it. It was as clear as a bell, but more dull like a knock. As a matter of fact, it was a knock. It was Kiri no doubt at the door ready to be served some special baking delight by Benson. Benson looked at me and I at him. We both were waiting to see what the other might say about the predicament. Finally, I began. "Just act naturally, the spider probably won't even show up the entire time he is here." "I'm afraid that's going to have to be the line." Benson shot back. "Well then, I'll be seeing you come race time if not sooner. Good luck with Kiri and the baking." 

I let Benson see his guest in, we shook hands and said a few words when Kiri sniffed the air. "Oh my goodness, what is it that you're cooking Benson? It reminds me of home somehow." "Well it's a special pastry I've made that I think you'll really enjoy. It's actually about ready to come out of the oven." As Benson pulled the baking sheet out of the oven, I had an gut feeling that I should pause my exit and I'm glad I did. What came next no one could've bet on. 

Benson let out an "Oh my God!" which was followed up by Kiri running over to the oven and saying "Oh my God!" This led me to mutter, "Oh my God!" under my breath as the phrase was apparently incredibly contagious. 

Then Kiri belted out "It's wonderful Benson! How did you know?!" Benson turned to me, eyes half opened, white as the best sheets I own, and in a voice that told me he was near to fainting, said, "How did I know?" In front of Benson I saw the baking sheet topped with two ceramic bowls with some kind of pastry covering the tops of each. In the dead center of one of those pastries was a large brown blot of a thing. It took me only seconds to realize what this was. It was Benson's missing spider, baked to a crisp, curled up on top of one of the pastries. 

Kiri went on to say that Benson must be a great man of the world to know that back in Kiri's home they ate spider just like this all the time. I have greatly misjudged you Benson. You are Kiri's good friend and have gone out of your way to make me feel at home here. I am in your debt. Now let us sit and eat this marvelous food you have prepared for us." Kiri's speech left both Benson and I in a kind of short trance which one goes into headlong when amazement overpowers all other senses. Slowly, the blood came back into Benson's face. I said my farewells and escaped while things were still on the up and up hoping they would stay that way. 

The next night was dog racing night. I popped by Benson's flat at a prearranged time so that we could set off to the track together. He informed me that the mishap with the spider was the best thing that had happened to him in a very long time and that Kiri was now his good friend. He went on to say that he would now most likely not have to move at all and that things were all on the up and up, thanks to the sacrificial spider. 

Once at track, Benson explained the ins and outs of the betting and racing to me. It was all similar to horse racing, but there were certainly a few things that were unique to the sport. I carefully eyed the dogs prerace each time. Since they allow bets all the up until just before the race, I decided to put money on any four legger that had the nerve, the guts, and the initiative to relieve itself in any way just before the race. I imagine this would make the beast lighter and full of newfound energy. I was mostly right and came out ahead of the game at the end of the night. 

Benson, unfortunately did not do as well. He placed his bets based on the odds, but also on the names of the dogs and owners. The name of a dog or owner that stuck out always trumped odds, therefore, most of Benson's bets had nothing whatsoever to do with the calculated odds at all. A dog named Spider was chosen one race. On another race, an owners last name was somewhat similar (in Benson's mind that is) to Arachnid. On another, a dog named Terrance made him think of Tarantula, and the list went on and on like the writings of a mad man until the races, and in Benson's case, the betting money, was no more. 

I have learned from all of this that the divinities can step in and make a thing right if they see fit. I've also learned that the seats nearest the snack bar at the dog races are superb. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

The sound of a fork hitting a plate after it has been dropped from a distance of approximately five and three quarter inches (nearly fourteen and a half centimeters) from the hand that previously wielded it, oh so naturally, can be a startling thing. When the fork is one with some weight to it, as you will find is customary at some of the finer eateries, and when the plate is similarly substantial, which again, is the standard at the better joints, the experience is magnified to a level that is not unlike having someone expertly and suddenly make the peacock's piercing call Of "NOW-WAAYAH!" into your left ear. This ridiculously powerful fowl's foul sound, which I am told by a good friend named Archer Martin, who holds a PhD in something or other, is so loud that it regularly causes otherwise genteel folks to curse like seasoned sailors while at the same time, throws any infant within a three mile radius into jags of hysterical crying. 

Archer one day went on to tell me that the daft bird's screech has a "...fundamental at about 700 Hz, with a wavelength of about 40 cm or 15 inches, with heavy overtones going up well over 10Khz, and having a wavelength of about 3 cm or 1 inch." In short, what I'm sure he was getting at, was that it is absolutely ear splitting. The restaraunt had been quiet. This I did not notice until I dropped my nearly burdensome fork. At this moment I was sure that my ears were in some way, damaged. Who knows what notes I would be missing next time I went to the symphony? The fork dropping action was not out of the thin blue air, mind you. It was brought on by a misplaced impetus. Obviously misplaced as if it had been thrown into my world five minutes earlier when the world and all of its brothers were deep in loud discussion, no one would have noticed. The culprit, in this case, was a phrase, which, even now, in the comfort of my home, as safe as the Bank of England, when I think of it being said aloud makes my hair stand on end. The phrase was, "white water rafting." Once allowed out of mouth and into air, this phrase rocked my psyche and nearly brought on a fainting spell. 

The problem with these three words was this, I have experienced this sometimes death cheating, so-called pastime. Our guide‹guide in this instance meaning fellow paid to smell of cheap beer prior to 10 in the a.m. sits in the back of the boat, and when you get to a particularly nasty part of the river, tips the vessel over in order to watch its human contents go every which way into any number of dangers in the immediate surroundings. Our guide, supposedly named Neil (which I have my doubts about to this day since his parents would have certainly named him something of a denser tone, like Bubba or Cleatus) had a habit of saying "See ya!" each time, just as he threw us into the arms of fate. There was something about this practice that was particularly annoying. 

Eventually, I got sick of my life flashing before my eyes every time I got dumped out of the boat and thrown into a boulder or whirlpool or any number of death traps that they line those rivers with. I imagine the boat makers, who must have spent a lot of time and energy making a good raft that wouldn't tip over or sink easily, would have taken this yahoo to task for using their product in such an antithetical way. I seriously considered ringing them up and letting them in on Neil's misuse. But as I played out the scenario in my mind, I saw Neil, pleasantly tanked on cheap brew, basking in the knowledge that his antics were successfully bringing folks to within an inch of their perfectly happy lives. Post phone call I imagine he might have even stepped up his tipping practices. If I am one thing, that thing is sensitive to my fellow man, and imagining Neil increasing the number of humans he caused to be flung ever so near Death's door, (I believe I made it to Death's mailbox once, and Death's carport twice) well, I simply could not make the call and do that misdeed to my brothers and sisters. 

So there I was, a moment after hearing the words, "white water rafting" and consequently, a moment after those words caused me to make a horrible sound with dropped fork onto plate. Every man woman and child in the establishment took a moment out of their day to stare directly at me. If only the fork would have been a nice lightweight little skimmer and the plate would've been made of some paper product, then I would have been spared this torment. Like any good man worth his weight, I offered up an apology loud enough to grace the ears of the diner farthest away. No sense in leaving anyone out. 

At this point my nerves were shot. My waitress, Veronica was alert and knowledgeable about these things and answered the call. Within moments I was finishing the scotch and soda that she brought as remedy. This lovely beverage reinstated my will and stiffened my spine just enough to lean over with pardon at the ready, and inform my fellow diners who uttered those horrific words to the ugly truth behind them. The looks I received from that table might have been taken for disinterest by the untrained eye, but I am sure that the deed I had done by pulling the faux visage of fun and joy from the true face of impending horror, was very, very welcomed. By this time, my good deed coupled with my now second glass of rejuvenation via lifesaver Veronica, had me in fine form and ready for the world at large, once again. It's hard to believe that my lunch date and I were only on our salad. Ah, the world and all of its unending loveliness! To think that pork chops were yet to come gave a fellow the warmest of feelings. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester

I remember the ring. It was the most ominous ring a telephone could muster in the middle of a perfectly good and normal day. I hesitated picking up the business end of the tele, but after some deliberation, committed, and as I do in things I commit to, I followed through and put receiver to ear. "Ahoy!" said I. I often rotate my greeting between "Halloo!" and "Ahoy!" as these were two of the left behind greetings once used (Alexander Graham Bell used "Ahoy, Ahoy!" or "Hoy, hoy!" while Thomas Edison used "Hello") when eventually "Hello?" as boring as it is, somehow won out. I like to, in my own small way, give a nod to these forgotten heroes of yore. 

So, "Ahoy!" said I. "Karl, hurry!" Within a split second, my incredible mind deciphered who it was on the other end. It could have been any number of three or even four women whom I knew at the time, yet there I was, quick as a whip with the answer. "Sarah, what is it?" Sarah, who was a good friend even though her ways could be categorized as, eccentric, was nearly in hysterics as she went on to explain that her kitchen was currently occupied by an insect of some sort that she needed assistance with getting out of doors. As hard as I tried to hold back the oncoming laughter at the thought of such a small thing getting to her very core, my struggle was in vain and my mouth produced the smallest of chuckles. It did not pass by her. "This is serious!" she stated, and then went on to plead my company post haste. 

A damsel in distress, even if said distress seems trivial to the rougher, tougher more cunning sex, is still a damsel in distress. It was clear that my duty was before me, so like the chivalrous character that I have always been, I ended our telephonic correspondence quickly and made for the door. 

Sarah's apartment was not far away and it was only moments later that I arrived in slightly less than top form after running a few feet. It seems I am not the track runner that I once imagined I could be one day if only I trained similarly to a track runner. The door to the Sarah's apartment flung open and Sarah grabbed my stylishly coated forearm a bit more haphazardly than I would have cared for, and off we went, more via Sarah's locomotion than mine, to the kitchen in question. Not a word came from her lips, only a motion from her arm. She pointed downward to the floor where sat some sort of tannish brown shiny beetle looking thing. The bug didn't move and I imagined it was either resting after its long journey or trying desperately to become invisible. Either way, it was perfect time to spring into action. 

I explained to Sarah my plan. I would step on the thing and clean it up and that would be that. Sarah was horrified. "Absolutely not!" said she. "The thing hasn't done any wrong, just move it, get it out of my kitchen!" This time, I didn't even try to hold back. I chuckled and chuckled noticeably. "I'm serious Karl! Just move it out! Don't kill the poor thing." Sarah said. At this point I had to remind myself that women are a very different breed than men. I explained to her that moving the thing would be too much trouble and that getting rid of it from the face of the earth would ensure that it would not be back again. I had made up my mind. I'm a take charge kind of fellow and once a thing is in my head, you can't extract it with the best pliers on the market. 

I grabbed the nearest cutting board I could find, reasoning that its weight and flatness would be the murder weapon of choice. I got down on my knees to get the best angle possible, pulled the cutting board up over my head while keeping my eye on the target (something one learns playing cricket), started my come-down swing like a pro bug smasher, but then stopped at the last moment when something, more than peculiar caught my eye. The beetle cocked its head and looked at me. 

Now I can't say if it was coincidence or not, but I feel the ole chap was, in his own buggy way, pleading with me. Immediately Sarah let out a "Thank Jimminy!" and while I don't know who Jimminy is, I assume he's one of these many and multi faceted gods from the Empire's far reaches, It was a reminder that the Union Jack was on top of the world, and so I smiled. Then I got back to business. A man might be able to end a bug's life if it is staring away into the distance and you can imagine it might be plotting your demise, but when the soul turns to you and without words makes a case for its life's work, what is to be done but save it? 

I eyed the playing field and said, "Cup!" To this, Sarah said, "Cup?" I repeated, "Cup!" to this Sarah said, "What are you saying?!" It was time to get stern as a man sometimes has to when women, especially ones in the throws of hysterics, are concerned. "Sarah, listen to me. I need a cup of some sort immediately." To this Sarah said, "Oh, a cup, right." She produced a fine transparent acrylic tumbler that looked like it could hold about a half pint of Guinness. This was about a fourth of the sum that I could use at the moment, however, it would have to wait. 

Expertly, quietly, deftly I crouched with the cup and placed it over the bug. "There!" I said with a sigh. "There what?" said Sarah. I thought it would be obvious, but again, I had to remind myself that this was not one of my brethren I was speaking with , but a woman. This meant an explanation of my meticulous and near genius workings would have to show itself. "Now we wait for him to pass out." "Pass out? What do you mean pass out?" said Sarah. Supposing she wasn't following me due to a regional dialect, I am from finer places of course, I said, "Passing out is akin to blacking out." I said. "You can't make a bug pass out!" she said. Chuckle released, I said, "Darling girl, let's leave the technicalities of the workings of the bodies of man and insect to the professional." To this Sarah said, "What professional?" I thought about it, and I didn't know, so I simply said, "Well, let's leave it up to me then, c'mon let's have a drink." 

After drinks and talks we took in a movie at the local movie house. After the show we had a wonderful supper at Vincent's, a very quaint Italian restaurant over on 2nd street. After supper we came back to Sarah's and the bug was still there and still in tip top shape. He was holding out much longer than I had anticipated. The following exercise took some time, a little over two hours, but the fact is I accomplished the task. I took to scooting the cup, centimeters at a time across the kitchen floor being careful not to cause harm to the current inhabitant. Once I made it all the way to the side entrance to the stairway, I worked it through the open door and down each of the 32 steps until finally we hit green grass, which at this point in the night was looking rather bluish gray and fuzzy from the lighting and from fatigue. 

At last, I lifted the cup and the bug was free. He was free to do as he wished whether that meant fly or buzz or do whatever bug of his sort do. He decided to sit. Regardless, proud as punch I was that my manly ways were the ticket, the key to solving this complex situation. What would Sarah have done without me? Goodness knows. Thank heavens for me, I thought. 

Just then, a passerby saw me getting up from my previously kneeling pose and asked what in the devil I was up to. I explained the whole thing in summarized form. I'd like to say that he held back a chuckle. This however, was not the case. He nearly fell over with laughter. "That's not a bug you twit! That's a locust shell! It's a shedding!" I had never seen, except for in the movies, a man walk so far and remain laughing the entire time. I followed his shape all the way down the street as it staggered to and fro with seemingly unending mirth. Finally this giggle geyser, after numerous minutes, faded completely away. 

I bent down to look at the thing, and sure enough, it now looked like a shell instead of a bug in it's entirety. I picked the thing up carefully with pointer finger and thumb. As I brought it to my eye for closer examination the street light shown down on it just right so that I could see its comparatively massive jaws draw back and sink its hooked looking beak into the soft flesh of my thumb. "Yyyyyyaaaaaahhhhhh!" I cried out and shook the thing loose. In doing so, I'm afraid I flung the blighter straight into the window of the bottom apartment where it stayed, in it's new, lifeless form. 

Just then Sarah came to the door, she had left me to free the bug way back at step one, which I was now very glad of since it kept her clear of seeing all the goings on of the past half hour or so. "Is there something wrong?" Said Sarah. I answered, "Absolutely not, tip top shape," as I hid my thumb behind my back. "I'll see you later then." I said. "Alright." she called out, and shut the door. 

But I could not go, at least not in that state. My remorse for what had just happened was overwhelming. I climbed the steps slowly and asked Sarah if I could stay a bit longer. I explained that either the salad at the eatery or the picture show had caused me to feel blue and her shoulder was immediately offered. Eventually, I felt good enough to make it back home and to bed. 

The next day James Higgle Bakersmith, the local man of the cloth, assured me, in confidence of course, that the creature was in a better place and that my actions, even though should not be repeated, were useful in speeding the good soul off to a bounty of untouched leaves and various other items which bugs adore, in the sky. This speech, which was not shorter than three quarters of an hour, did me well and restored my constitution just enough to go down to the local tap for 
one of the best games of darts I or any man, could ever play. 

—Olie Sylvester 
Baron, International Oom Paul Society of Non-Typicals

AuthorOlie Sylvester