Sunday, July 25, 2010

lost forever

You entered the front of the Clark County Court House from Main Street at ground level. Walking down a long hallway, without going up or down any steps, you exited the back of the court house from the second floor. First floor, second floor, boy you sure could get turned around in here. Getting lost was never a big problem for me. However, one of my biggest problems was not getting side tracked coming into the courthouse from Main Street.

Starting from the curb, there was an eight to ten foot wide sidewalk which stretched across the front. As you approached the entrance to the court house, which was centered in the middle of the block, there began a series of park benches which lined each side of a narrowing walkway. You had to go up several groups of steps to get to the very heavy front doors. In doing this you passed a gambit of folks who occupied the park benches which lined the walkway. There were whittlers, checker players, farmers, tobacco chewers, talkers of all kinds, and very few if any women. Of course I had to stop and watch the whittlers and checker players, but I was always a little afraid of the tobacco expectorate, for the spitters seemed to manage to hit a shoe or two of anyone standing too close.

To me, the most amazing activity was to watch someone roll their own cigarette. This was a real art and often the men who practiced this art, sat alone to demonstrate before all their own special techniques.

It began almost always from a sitting position by lightly patting your left shirt pocket with your right hand. I often wondered why you did this, because you already knew that the tobacco pouch and cigarette rolling paper was there, and besides you had already done this dance hundreds of time before. I guessed that it must have been to loosen up the ground tobacco that had some time to settle in the specialized tobacco pouch. Then reaching in the left pocket with your right hand, you withdrew the tan colored tobacco pouch which was bound tightly at the top by a yellow string. Using both hands you had to open the tightly bound top to just the right size opening. You then placed the pouch on your right thigh and withdrew, using your left hand, if you were good enough, only one rectangular sheet of bright white rolling tobacco paper. Now you were never quite certain that you could only draw out one sheet so you needed both hands free in order to separate any sheets that had gotten stuck. [static electricity would always cause a problem] Now, the most amazing part was that you held the paper on its bottom between your thumb and middle finger while your first finger pressed lightly down from the top. This would created a paper trough to receive the tobacco. With little attention paid to the tobacco pouch, you would take it from its resting place on your right thigh, bring it to the perfectly level rolling paper, and begin to sprinkle the tobacco onto the top of the paper trough. Now how much tobacco that got sprinkle was of course your personal choice. You then put the tobacco pouch to your mouth drawing the yellow string back to its very tight position. Most would then place the tobacco pouch back on their right thigh. However, if you were really good, holding perfectly level the white tobacco paper, filled with its row of tobacco, you place the tobacco pouch back in your left shirt pocket. Now the most important part was drawing the outer edge of the tobacco paper to your tongue, licking down the inside edge, while keeping the tobacco from spilling out the lower edge. Almost all would use both hands to do this part of the dance, but a few could do this using only one hand. Finally the cigarette would come together and be placed to the lips. A match would be struck, and the dance would be over. What skill, dexterity, and art I thought. What a dance, now, lost forever.

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