The Tale of an Old Piper

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As a paramedic I get the opportunity to meet a lot of people, often under strange or unfortunate circumstances.

But not always.

Today I got a call for a gentlemen who had fallen. We'll call him Mr. Smith for the sake of simplicity and not getting my ass sued off for divulging patient information. As it turned out Mr. Smith had fallen out of his motorized scooter while trying to collect wood for his fireplace. When asked why he was doing this he looked at me and said, "young man, even at 88 years old, you get cold."

I suppose it really was a dumb question.

I did my standard evaluation which he went along with just enough patience to be polite but he was by no means enjoying the attention. When I was convinced enough that he was not only medically sound but mentally capable of taking care of himself I started looking around his house while the local PD talked to him.

What used to be a very splended house was now starting to fall into disrepair. A story all too often told; a person spends his entire life building a nest egg and surrounding himself with the things he cherrishes only to watch old age steal it away through the inability to maintain. Dust covered hand painted art, china vases, brass sculptures, and all manor of knicknacks. Mr. Smith himself is no exception to this. A once dapper man is still dressed in the fine slacks, dress shirt, tie, and sweater-vest that probably defined his entire life but now his tie isn't as straight as it used to be, the vest has evidence of his last meal, and the slacks are just a little ill-fitting.

But as I observe my surroundings I notice a rack on the wall holding half a dozen very fine pipes. Half are brier, the others appear to be porcilin. All are either inlaid with hand carved designs or painted with depictions of wind-mills.

"You're staring mighty hard at those pipes,son." I hear from behind me.

"They are beautiful. I take it you're a man who enjoys a pipe now and then?"

"Used to, don't anymore. Haven't for 10 years. Got tired of the gal who comes here and cleans bitching about it all the time. Was just easier to stop to shut her up. Though I do miss it."

"Well, I just happen to be a pipe smoker myself and I just happen to have a little tobacco and my pipe right here in my pocket."

Mr. Smiths eyes light up for the briefest of seconds, then he regains his composure.

"Well, I don't suppose it would be right, taking you from your job to waste time with an old man."

"Sir, I couldn't think of a better way to spend time. Which of these pipes shall I get for you."

"None of them, thank you." He muttered as he pulled a very plain, very simple Billiard from his vest pocket. "Got my pipe right here where its been since I was 17."

I smile as I hand over my tobacco.

"This isn't some of that sissy fruity stuff is it?"

"No, its a smoky flavored English."

"Wouldn't have figured you for an English type." He said with a smile.

His stiff hands held the pipe expertly as his arthritic fingers dug into my bag and loaded his pipe as if only seconds had passed since his last smoke, not years. He handed my bag back to me and watched me fill my pipe as only a novice could.

"Egad man, how long you been puffing on that thing?"

"Couple weeks is all."

"You'll get better, takes practice. I'd say it takes a year at least to get really good. Got a match?"

I dug into my pocket and handed him my lighter.

"Son, I asked for a match. Only way to light a pipe is with a match, you remember that."

He dug into his vest pocket and produced a box of matches that was easily as old as I am and struck one against the bottom of his pipe and lit his tobacco. The look of pleasure that came across his face was more than I can describe. It was like he was having a secret conversation with a very dear friend who he hadn't sen in years and had thought was gone forever.

As he smoked he told me stories of his youth. How he had won the pipe he was smoking in a poker game, had smoked it right up to entering the war, how the stem had been broken off by a flying rock as a tank shell exploded near him, how he had found the Jewish pipesmith who had made the pipe in Italy and traded him a stow-away voyage in a supply truck for a pipe repair, and how that same man had been killed in the Belzek concentration camp just months later.

I heard stories of the girl he loved back home, how he loved her through the war, married her after the war, and had lost a piece of his mind when she passed and had never gotten it back.

He told me about his time as a professor of Theology, Philosophy, and Logic. He had been fired in the late 70's because he refused to stop smoking his pipe on school grounds so he written books on the subjects.

We chatted back and forth for nearly an hour, he refilling his pipe about halfway through. He finally ended the conversation by stating that he was tired and wished to go to bed. I shook his hand and thanked him for the conversation and turned to leave.

"Son, you forgot your tobacco."

"I didn't forget it, its yours now. Payment for a pleasant evening. And tell that girl that comes here that its your house and you'll do as you please in it."

He just smiled and as I walked through the front door I heard his match strike again and him mutter "Thanks son."


Active Member
Thanks for taking the time to write that down and share it. You are quite lucky to have an encounter like that!


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A really lovely story. I suspect the best treatment you gave the Old Boy was simply to sit down and listen to him - too few people do that nowadays.

Well done and thanks for the story. I write for magazines and "collect" characters - you found a great one!



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All I can say is wow. Thanks for sharing that. I bet that gentleman will not forget you and you him. That was great.

Bobby 151

A very heartwarming story,and well told indeed.Thanks for sharing. Sir you are the epitome of The Good Samaritan.:thumbsup: All the best to you,you truly deserve it.:puff:


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That brought me to a stop......
Haven't read a story as refreshing in a very long time. Thanks for the tale, but most of all for allowing a fine old gentleman to have a pipe and a chat....had to mean the world to him.

Now....when you goin' back for a visit? Might just drop off a bit of a Virginia too.........


Great story I greatly enjoyed your tail of a look back to a time forgoten. When two gentelman of great differences, wether it is age, background, or profession. Would find a common thread in their smoke, and enjoy a good pipe.

---Smoke well, Puff happily---


Its curious to me the differences in opinion I've gotten over this story. I reposted this short tale on a blog I write for that is centered in a very...well lets just say this town wouldn't have voted for Regan.

Anyway the response on that blog has ranged from "you're disgusting for smoking" to "you may as well have plunged a knife into that mans heart". One person went so far as to accuse me of neglect for leaving the man there in his home and not forcing him to be seen by a doctor.

The differences in attitude between there and here are astounding and, I must say, much more refreshing on this side of the aisle.

Thanks for the kind replys all. I have full intentions of making a surprise visit with some "gifts" very soon.

Mr. Josh

For the record....

I wouldn't have voted for Regan either! I'm a total bleedin' heart socialist liberal. That said, I think that was one of the most touching stories I've read in a long time. Well done, Sir!
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