The Inauguration

The young man stepped through the doorway with an accompanying gust of air. To any non-regular, the stranger would have seemed relaxed and unassuming, but I could tell he was unfamiliar with the place and self-conscious by the way he briefly paused in the foyer to get his bearings, glancing skittishly from left to right. He was out of his element. Clearly, he had never been in a pipe shop before now.

His eyes eventually settled on the shop's rear wall where dozens of pipes were displayed, and with a newfound purpose, he strode briskly to the back. From my vantage point on the sofa, I watched his intent expression canvas each and every briar, my own pipe clenched in my teeth and pinched between thumb and first two fingers. (People-watching is, after all, one of my favorite pipesmoking activities).

When the store manager approached the young man, I couldn't hear their interaction, but soon the manager was fetching pipes from the wall — a Nording Freehand, a Savinelli "320," a couple Petersons, a Neerup, handing them to the customer to try out in hand. The young man ran his fingers over the variety of finishes and hefted each pipe in hand.

He was out of his element. Clearly, he had never been in a pipe shop before now.

Those pipes were soon returned to their racks, though, when the younger gentleman glanced another piece. His expression immediately changed from curiosity to awe and desire. It was a look I recognized and one that my own face had reflected many times before. The manager plucked the pipe from its resting place, and as soon as the young man held it up, I knew this pipe fulfilled the need he hadn't even known he'd had. I could make out the crisp profile and jaunty heel of a lithely bent Dublin, dark of stain and accented with a sterling silver mount and red velvet stem: a Peterson Ashford "D15."

A fine choice, my friend, I thought to myself, surprised by the sudden pride and happiness I shared with this young man despite not even knowing his name. After a few final words, the two men meandered to the register, and the inauguration was completed and made official a couple of minutes later. With a tin of tobacco and neatly boxed pipe in hand, the young man was on his way, privileging me with the beautiful sight of a new pipesmoker and his first pipe. Welcome to the fold.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Editorial Peterson Pipe Culture


    • Chris Sivillo on August 20, 2019
    • Wow Truett! Today marks my 33rd birthday. Reading this article while sipping some 2015 Exausted Rooster out of an Eltang Devil Anse has been a wonderful start to the day! The imagery you painted was grand and made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I really hope the guy in the article sticks to this beautiful hobby. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reda Wanas on August 20, 2019
    • I like pipe and pipe smoker

    • Jeremy F on August 26, 2019
    • My own personal 'Inauguration' occurred at Briar and Bean in Clarkesville, TN back when it was located in the mall there. I had gone in for a bit of coffee(I was in the Army in Ft Campbell at the time and coffee was life). I came out with a basket pipe, some tobacco and accouterments and no coffee. Also, no regret.


    • Bob Merliss on August 26, 2019
    • I remember being a 20 year old college student wanting to emulate all the pipe smoking men I saw all around the campus. I bought a "drugstore" type pipe with a pouch of ("drugstore type") pipe tobacco, a box of matches, and a tamper, then walking over to a small urban park and trying to figure out how to 1) fill and pack the pipe, 2) light it properly, then 3) smoke it properly. There was a STEEP learning curve, but 45 years later, I think I have figured it out! And enjoyed a fascinating and relaxing hobby that has allowed me to meet many interesting people.

    • Bill M on August 27, 2019
    • Thanks for a nice article. My first trip to a pipe shop was a Tinder Box store in a big mall. It was fun, I bought a Peterson and some tobacco.

      A few weeks later I discovered a more serious shop, Liberty Tobacco in San Diego, and that is where my fascination really began in earnest. Plenty of couches and chairs and an always affable group to hang out with. That was back in the eighties and although I live in a different state now Liberty is still thriving.

    • John S Hedgcock on October 29, 2021
    • Sorry I'm so late to the game here. I've enjoyed reading through the archives, especially Truett's essays and reflections. This evocative piece triggered a flood of great memories of my initiation ("inauguration") into the pipe community.I was barely 18, feeling eager and anxious about starting my freshman year at college. I'd been smoking Borkum Riff and Amphora in my Dr. G for a few years, so I wasn't a true novice. Unlike the young man in the story, I'd been in pipe shops before but never as an "of age" customer - only as a kid yearning to get a decent quality pipe and sample some of those enticing bulk tobaccos. It was a small, intimate pipe shop, stocked wall-to-wall with pipes of all brands and price ranges, along with an overwhelming selection of bulk and tinned blends. Behind the counter was a guy in his mid-20s, casually smoking his pipe. When he invited me to make myself at home while I looked around, I felt totally welcome. At the same time, I was overcome with excitement: So many choices! The shop guy steered me toward pipes in my price range that matched the shape I wanted. The aroma of his smoke tempted me to hurry up and make a choice so I could start breaking in my new pipe. I remember thinking "How silly: Pipe smoking isn't about hurrying." The relaxed shop clerk helped me pick out a nice second, a simple saddle billiard with a light, smooth finish. It was a perfect fit, and I still love that pipe. Along with my pipe purchase came a couple of ounces of my choice of bulk blend. I picked Lane's 1Q, mainly because it just smelled so irresistible in the jar. And then the cool shop guy modeled the process of packing, tamping, lighting, and relighting to help me along. I was both excited and nervous as I followed his steps. I had only smoked in the company of somebody else a few times, and I felt self-conscious in front of a guy who knew what he was doing. After my second light, though, I totally relaxed. The smooth taste of the tobacco, the aromatic scent of smoke, and the comfy feel of my new pipe delivered even more pleasure than I'd hoped for. I think the real enhancer was the understanding confidence of the shop clerk and my sense of reaching a small milestone in my journey toward adulthood. My "inauguration" convinced me that the pipe was a true fit for me.

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