Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Smoking" © By Abraham Lincoln


We've heard a lot on the subject over the years. The first thing I can remember ever trying to smoke was crunched-up, dead, grapevine leaves back in 1944 when I was ten years old. It didn't kill me but I didn't get addicted either.

My next try at smoking actually involved a theft. We were letting a married couple live with us during The War. She was the grocer's daughter and he was in the Navy--a Seabee, just back from Guam and World War Two.

They rented one room in our house. I went in there and swiped a carton of Lucky Strikes and took them to our chicken house. I took along some matches and opened a pack of cigarettes and lit one.

I thought you were supposed to suck in and blow out. Amid lots of coughing, each time I sucked in, and lots of spitting when I blew out, I went through 20 cigarettes in no time flat.

I do remember being dizzy and feeling odd, but I didn't know that smoke was filtering through cracks in the old chicken house.

The neighbor lady was nosey but good-natured. She was always looking at our house and this time she saw what she thought was a fire in our chicken house. She was old, but fairly swift, and somehow got to our house in no time flat.

She told my mother that her chicken house was on fire and smoke was pouring out of the cracks.

Mom pumped a couple of buckets of water and ran to the chicken house with the old neighbor lady in hot pursuit.

Mom didn't know that I was inside still puffing on stolen Lucky Strike cigarettes. I was, at this time, a bit green around the gills and getting dizzier and feeling sicker — the door flew open and to my surprised mother, there I sat — her pride and joy, looking cross-eyed and obviously sicker than a dog.

I don't remember much after that except that I had to take the leftover packages of cigarettes back to their owner and apologize to him and her for stealing his cigarettes. Mom paid him for the pack I had puffed away and he took the money with a stern look on his face.

Mom whipped me with something. I suspect it was with a peach tree switch that would not break but left neat, red, stripes on my back — it also hurt like hell — I do remember that.

I never stole anything after that and I promised to give up smoking. Since I was still sick and puking, and crying, and sniffing, I never thought I would ever smoke again.

Then I got free cigarettes in C-rations in the Army. We got a free pack of cigarettes in each package of C-rations (our food for the day) and some kind of candy bar.

The 1st Cavalry Division and the 101st Airborne Division and the 5th Cavalry Regiment all gave us "Smoke em if you got em" breaks — so I always had cigarettes and by 1954 I was hooked on nicotine.

I did switch to a corncob pipe back in 1976 when I was still teaching at school and I thought I could puff that and get along without any side effects.

I was wrong. I not only got heart disease, but also have two ruined lungs. The surgeon told me both of my lungs were, 'Shot.’ I am not eligible for a lung transplant because both lungs are bad.

To breathe I have to either get oxygen from a bottle of oxygen or from a portable concentrator that I pull around behind me. It is battery powered but can be plugged into a car cigarette lighter to keep the battery charged. The rest of the time I am home and at night when I am sleeping, I have to get my oxygen from a larger concentrator that concentrate the oxygen it gets in the house and pushes it out in plastic hoses to the cannula stuck in my nose.

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