Father Tom – A Problem of Focus


Father Tom was having a hard time focusing. No matter how hard he tried he could not keep his mind on the work in front of him. That would not have been bad in itself had it not been that the work to be finished was his sermon for the next day. Because of that he did not have the luxury of putting it off to another day. But the deadline did not seem to give him any impetus and his mind kept wandering in a variety of directions – none of which converged on the text of the sermon. He found himself looking at the pipes that were on his desk that needed to have his attention. The older he got the more he found delight in the restoration of pipes that he would pick up on his travels. He loved handling them and trying to listen to their stories. He loved reworking them, cleaning them, refinishing them. But today was not supposed to be about that it was about writing the sermon for Sunday. He had to try to settle down to the work at hand. What was it going to take to get his mind on task? He had the outline that he had written sitting on the desk in front of him… along with about four pipes in need of various repairs, some remnants of sandpaper that he used on them, some tenons and stems… but none of that was getting the sermon finished. Try as he might he could not focus.

Finally he gave up and turned away from trying to work on his sermon text. He knew that eventually he would get back to it but it just was not happening at the moment. He left it on the desk in front of him, just in case he had the urge to get back to it. He rationalized that a good pipe of his favourite Virginia would help him focus. He picked up his old BBB bulldog and packed it with the tobacco of choice and fired it up. As he sipped on the smoke, tamped it a few times, relit the bowl he also picked up an old pipe from the repair pile sitting on his desk. It was a promising looking GBD billiard that he had found at a flea market a few days earlier. It did not appear to need a lot of work so it would not take a lot of time to get it cleaned up. He turned it over in his hands and looked at the rim and bowl. He sniffed the bowl to see if he could identify the tobacco that remained. He looked over the damage to the rim and noted that under the buildup of tars and juices it was still smooth. Ah, he thought to himself this would be a relatively easy cleanup. Without any hesitation he took out his cleaning kit and began to wipe down the rim and bowl with a soft cloth and his special mixture to loosen the grime. He continued to smoke his pipe as he worked on the old timer. Soon he was lost in the task in front of him. All thoughts of other things were pushed to the side as he wondered about what stories this old pipe would tell if only it could speak.

He was puffing on his pipe and talking to himself while working while he worked. The old pipe in his hands had a small wad of tobacco left in the bowl. In fact it was about half full and unlit. It was as if the pipe was being filled when it was set down. It made him wonder what had interrupted the process. Where had the pipeman gone leaving behind the half-filled bowl? Why hadn’t he come back to finish packing the bowl? While mulling these things over Father Tom had finished working on the rim. It was clean so he scraped out the old tobacco onto a paper on his desk – yes onto the sermon notes if you must know. He did not even seem to notice this fact. He took out a pipe reamer and gave the bowl a quick ream to smooth out the cake. Then he took the pipe apart and worked on the inside of the shank and bowl. He used the isopropyl alcohol that also sat on his desk next to the study books – kind of a ready bookend for what he was reading… in preparing his sermon. He ran pipe cleaners through the shank to clean up the tars and dust. He finished and laid the pipe aside then picked up the stem. He was fortunate as it was fairly clean. There was no oxidation to deal with and no tooth marks. He ran pipe cleaners through it as well until they came out clean. He then put the pipe back together and took it out to his buffer.

He kept the buffer in the laundry room so that he could access it quickly from his study. He buffed the pipe and waxed it until it shone. When he was finished he carried it back to his desk. At that moment he noticed the dottle and carbon dust on his sermon, mumbled to himself, shook his head and carried his paper to the waste can next to his desk. He shook the tobacco and carbon into the can and then took a tissue from his desk, wiped off the remaining dust and tried to remove the stains from his papers. He shook his head while mumbling to himself that it did not matter and went back to the desk. He laid down his now finished pipe in the pipe rest and took the jar of tobacco from the corner of the desk. He packed the newly cleaned pipe, tamped it down and fired it up. He spoke his thoughts out loud, “Now to finish that bowl for you.”

As he sat enjoying the smoke, the thoughts of the pipe’s previous owner went through his mind. There was a satisfaction about reclaiming an old pipe and putting it back into service. He wondered again about the original pipeman who had left his bowl half packed. What had happened to him? He shook himself and turned back to work on his sermon. He smoked the “new” pipe contentedly and picked up his pen. He scanned through his notes and made a few corrections to the text. He turned to the carbon stained page and put the final touches to the manuscript. He read through his final draft as he puffed on the pipe. “Not bad, not bad at all”, he said to himself. I have no idea if he was talking about his sermon or the pipe full of Virginia that was smouldering under his nose. I guess we may never know but in fact it does not matter at all. Time to light a bowl of my own and get back to working on the pile of papers on my own desk… now where was I?

7 thoughts on “Father Tom – A Problem of Focus

  1. Chuck Goodspeed

    Steve i look forward to hearing what the good Father is up to.Every time I get an estate Pipe I wonder who purchased it? Was it a gift,where has it been. I just Finished working a Pre WW2 Sterling Hall asking my self where were you Dec 7,1941? Were you in some ones hands in front of the Radio that day? Old Pipes are time machines.Thanks again Steve.

    Reply
  2. Chuck Rewalt aka Velveteagle

    Love the pondering of history of old soldiers. Life is like that.. We can all do our part to pass on old pipes and hope that it finds warm hands and hearts..

    Reply

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