Thursday, May 13, 2010

Travels of a Czech tool

Consider the Czech tool, the three-part device from Heaven. Its tamper, so necessary to keep a bowl burning. It's poker, helping us stir our ash and granting the flame access to lower leaf. It's scoop, helping us remove dottle from the heel and scrape down the walls. So many uses, and each prong of the tool necessary to the enjoyment of the hobby.
These little silver contraptions are extensions of the fingers of an experienced smoker, and there is no real substitute. Tampers don't have the versatility, and pipe nails find themselves a little lacking. The Chinese versions? They don't even compare.

I know only two things about my Czech tools.
1) I like them when they are still stiff and hold their position easily.
2)They never stay that way.

The rigidity of these tools that I find so handy, keeping the prongs in place, at ready access upon my smoking whims, it disappears so quickly, as use leaves them spinning without friction to hold them. And mine had become victims of that inevitability. Both of them, for I always carry two. One hides in my pocket while the other rests in my pipe pouch, both within easy reach. The second is a backup, as small, necessary tools always seem to run off.
So far, I've always managed to keep two with me. Come with two, leave with two. But the last time I sat down to smoke with friends, I came with two well-used Czech tools and left with two Czech tools, one with the trademark smoothly-swinging prongs, yet the other resists my attempts to position its pieces. This can only mean one thing: The Czech tool is not mine. I picked up someone else's pipe tool.
I still have two Czech tools though, one in the pocket and one in the pouch, and I know of none lying around waiting to be claimed. So my original pipe tool must have found its way into new hands or a new pocket or a new pouch.
I wonder where it is. Is it having fun? Is it tamping good tobacco? Does it miss me? Will I ever see it again? If only I could ever answer these questions.

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