Blue (Blood) Wolf Moon January 31, 2018
Fear of Cancer and the loss of trust: Smoking stories bad role models.
As long as I’ve known my Mom she was a smoker. She told me she started right after I was born. I am thankful she had me first. She was 22 years old. My own first experience with cigarettes was getting up one Saturday morning, making myself a cup of coffee, getting a Pall Mall out of my mom’s pack and sitting on the back stoop smoking and sipping. I was in third grade. I only did it a couple of times, but it felt so mature.
Next was when I was in 6th grade. My teacher was Mr. Mohrfeld. It was before you switched classes for each subject, so I had him all day, five days a week. I really liked him. One day in class, he had a special talk and demonstration about smoking and cancer. They put fear into us about the dangers, risks and short life expectancy of smokers. The finale was an older woman lifting the side of her blouse and showing us her stitch scarred ribcage pointing to the deformity of a removed lung caused by smoking. I think the whole class was horrified and traumatized, I know I was. I went home and that evening and at suppertime I was crying, begging my Mother and Grandfather to quit smoking. They made promises they knew they couldn’t keep to calm me down. I lived about 6 city blocks from school, and always came home for lunch. The very next day on my way back to class, I turned the corner to find Mr. Mohrfeld smoking a cigarette. He was as surprised as I was and dropped the cigarette while exhaling and asked me why I was so far from school. "I live right around the corner sir.” It totally messed with my head, and made me skeptical of adults. I never believed they were telling me the whole truth after that. I began to notice a lot of adults smoked, my uncle, my older brother, our neighbors. It must be some kind of conspiracy they’re keeping from kids. So I saved my allowance and got me a small corncob pipe, and I would take the cigarette butts out of my mom’s ashtrays, pull them apart and get enough unburned tobacco to fill the pipe, and I would smoke it. I never inhaled. I didn’t know how. Again I was doing an adult activity. When I was in 7th or 8th grade my friend Jimmy Kearns and I would buy and share a pack of “True” cigarettes. That was the name of them and they had a plastic filter. We kept them stashed near a place along the railroad tracks, and we would walk there and smoke a few, one after another, and walk back. I remember that we seemed to have good conversations, though I can’t remember one. A trait of mine is that I barely remember what is said, but I rarely forget the emotion and what I felt.
I was an on and off smoker, but many years ago I quit for good. My mother only lived to be 70 years old, and every photograph I have of her, if there is not something else in her hand, there is a cigarette. Recently I was looking at an old Life Magazine from 1950. The ads are beautiful, mostly illustrations, with cars, washing machines, shoes, whiskies, and plenty of cigarettes. The Boomer generation never had a chance. If you’ve never smoked, it would be difficult for you to understand such a powerful addiction. Those of you, including my little brother who just recently quit or are trying to, good luck. The best lesson of all from running into Mr. Mohrfeld that day was, as an adult I’ve always been open an honest with children. I think no matter what, they want to be talked to and treated like adults and can handle any truth above catching you in an untruth.
I just read in the local paper that visitation is up 14% in Big Bend National Park. Raise your hand if you think that is actually good news.