Whiff of a memory

Apr 1st, 2007 | By | Category: Personal Columns

The smell of pipe smoke reminded me of old Davey.

Davey had his first pipe of tobacco in 1902. He was eleven at the time. He and his friend sat behind a gate, sharing a clay pipe. Startled by Davey’s mother, they were caught red-handed. Davey’s mother said nothing, but took the pipe and threw it hard against the gatepost, smashing it beyond repair.

Davey’s first experience didn’t dissuade him. The pipe became part of his life. Davey smoked a powerful concoction called Warhorse. It came in a hard lump and had to be pared off grain by grain for the pipe to be filled. It never seemed to have any detrimental effect on Davey.

Davey died a month short of his ninety-ninth birthday; three weeks previously he was holding wooden fencing posts while his son drove them into the ground with a sledge hammer. Davey shot his last rabbit at the age of 94. The pipe smoke can’t have been too bad.

His life, evoked in a whiff of tobacco, encompassed the whole of modern history, from the last decade of Victoria to the collapse of Communism.  He lived through it all and remained unscarred; a gentle, stoical man who had seen everything and was no longer frightened by anything – least of all by death.

Davey went home in the early hours of a morning. It being the country I drove to his farm as soon as I got the call, prayers with families at such moments are important. Farmers think nothing of being out at 3 am for lambing sheep and calving cows, why should it be any different for a clergyman, particularly at such a significant moment?

Driving back from his farm I put a cassette on to play on my car stereo. Makem and Clancy singing Dandelion Wine.

“Dandelion wine will make you remember, the first day of spring at the beginning of December”.

Dandelion wine might revive memories, but not nearly as well as pipe smoke.

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