Walt Norris, Dorsey Owings  and their corn cob pipes

July 24, 2014
Walt Norris and his corn cob pipe. BY DENNIS FORNEY

I'm increasingly interested with human beings and how they go about interacting with this experience we call life.  Walt Norris interacts with a corn cob pipe in his mouth.  I noticed him the other day as part of the street crew picking up yard waste in Lewes.  It struck me.  I don't see many people smoking corn cob pipes any more.

"What kind of tobacco do you smoke in that pipe?" I asked.

"Any kind I can get my hands on," he said.

"I used to like John Rolfe Peach Brandy," I said.  And I thought.  I usually rolled it up into yellow Zig Zag wheat straw rolling papers. Lots of flavor.

My father-in-law Dorsey ("Don't throw away dirty water until you have clean;" "Don't put any money in the stock market you can't afford to lose.") smoked a corn cob pipe for years as he went about his farming operations over near Millington. Helped keep him going I guess. That and instant coffee mixed with cold water out of the tap, stirred quickly with a spoon and down the hatch.  Long hours on the farm require lifts here and there.

In the evening, after dinner, and before his evening soak in the tub, he would sit in a rocking chair in the kitchen next to a side table loaded with magazines.  He would stuff his pipe with tobacco and quietly read a few farming or boating articles; steady little puffs of fragrant smoke rising from the pipe

He was serious about his tobacco.  Smoked Briggs.  Had a big metal can of it on the table next to the magazines.  Briggs' slogan was:  "When a feller needs a friend."

Then one day he quit.  He had read enough about the dangers of smoking tobacco.  Just like that.  He quit.

On March 21 this year, Dorsey turned 93.  Still going strong.  Hauls his RV here and there behind his pick-up.  Might be up in New England now for all I know.  Headquarters these days is at Heron Point in Chestertown, over on the Chesapeake side of the peninsula.  In the winter, it's off to the keys of Florida, where he rents a space for a month or so here, a month or so there, and takes his Grady White out fishing.  There's nothing he likes better than fresh fish.

These days, in his estimation, fresh fish is good when a feller needs a friend.

Thanks to Walt for stirring those memories.