Maine. The way life should be..... or maybe not??
By Horace Harker

January 20, 2006


I don't know about you but when I think of Maine I imagine it as being a place that could very well have a significant history for pipe smoking. With its many ports and rugged sea coast I can easily visualize the scene of a ships captain standing on the dock, barking out orders to his crew as the holds of his vessel are loaded up with provisions for a long journey out to sea. I can't imagine this scene without seeing the captain puffing rhythmically on a very well smoked briar, clenched effortlessly in his teeth and looking very much as if it has become a permanent part of his dental work.

In another thought, I imagine myself hiking through the deep woods of Baxter State Park. I come upon a small cabin at the edge of a clearing. My eye catches the figures of two deer feeding on the far edge of the clearing and I strain to see them better. One stops and raises his head, a beautiful buck with an enormous rack. His ears stand at attention. They must sense me, I thought to myself. At that instant, a deafening shot rings out and I drop to the ground covering my head. I look around cautiously and see a grizzled old man on the porch of the cabin with a black powder rifle aimed in the direction of the deer, the smoke still oozing from the gun barrel. Putting his rifle down, he turns and glares at me with squinted, steely eyes. He reaches down, picks up his pipe from the porch railing and strikes a match on his grizzled beard. Without losing eye contact for a second, the old man re-lights his pipe. I watch frozen, as the smoke from his pipe mingles with the black powder smoke that still hangs in the air. He picks up his rifle again and steps off the porch in the direction of the clearing and finally releases his bead on me. In a deep gruff voice that growled from the corner of his mouth he warned me, "If there ain't no deer when I git out there then you better be long gone when I git back."

I've been to Maine numerous times in the past twenty years or so, usually for camping, but in that time I can only recall seeing one person smoking a pipe. I'm sure there were others but I'm pretty good at spotting them and if you can't see 'em you can usually smell 'em. When I was camping I always brought a pipe and tobacco with me and never had the need to look for a tobacco shop or even remember seeing one in my travels. During the holidays this year my wife and I decided to head up to Freeport for a little get away and to spend some of our Christmas money at the outlets. Since I started doing the SHPC Gazette I've been more aware of the smoking laws that have been enacted around the country and particularly in the North East. I remember reading that Maine had a fairly strict ban and felt pretty certain that I would not be able to smoke my pipe anywhere, even in the hotel room, so I didn't bother to bring one this time. I did make it a point to see what they had for tobacco shops in the area so I did a little research on the Internet and found a place called The Maine Smoke Shop which boasted three locations but not much else in the area I'd be traveling. This sounded somewhat hopeful so I planned to check out the shop in Portland since we usually make a stop in Old Port for lunch when we're up that way. I got the directions from Yahoo Maps and found the place without much trouble. But what I found was quite a disappointment! It looked more like a convenience store and carried mostly cigarettes, roll your own tobacco, chewing tobacco, snacks and beer. There were also about 20 varieties of cigars, 2 corn cobs and a Dr. Graybow. Talk about a sad state of affairs. We talked to the woman at the cash register who told me that Maine has been pretty much smoke-free in bars and restaurants for the past 5 years. I was under the assumption that it was only the past year of so. An older woman walked in and lit up a cigarette and joined in the conversation. "I'm going to smoke here," she said, "because my husband won't let me smoke in the car." A few minutes later another women, maybe in her early thirties walked through the door and stopped short. "I'm not used to seeing someone smoking inside," she said. She also joined in the conversation while paying for her cigarettes, then headed on her way. As we walked to our car I thought to myself... this must be what it feels like to be in a foreign country where you are unfamiliar with the language or customs and then come across another American that you can finally communicate with and can share your experiences. But we weren't in a foreign country... sadly, this was America.

On our second day we drove north to Thomaston to visit my Aunt and Uncle and planned a stop at Boothbay Harbor on the way back. While driving through one of the towns on the way to Boothbay, a sign that read "Smoke Shop Open" caught my attention as we drove passed. I turned the car around to check it out. A huge metallic hookah smoking centipede adorned an area next to the parking lot. "This oughta be interesting," I said to my wife as we approached the small building. It looked a lot like the first place we had been with much of the same items for sale. I saw a cardboard display with one corn cob on it and said to the woman behind the counter, "You don't have many pipe smokers around here do ya?" She said, "Oh, I need to order some more this week," gesturing to the empty display. "Oh," I replied. "Can you smoke in here, I asked?" "Oh no," she said. "The owner of the building won't allow it." "BUT, she said very proudly, I built that smoking porch out there," gesturing towards the small enclosed entryway that was made of plywood and furnished with a lawn chair and an ashtray. "Oh," I replied again. "Nice." And we made our way back to the car.

So with two strikes now, we had one more option. Just up the road from the Inn we were staying at on Rt. 1 heading into Freeport, was and old antique shop set back off the road. It looked very interesting so we decided to check it out. You never know what you're gonna find. The place was covered floor to ceiling with tons of STUFF. There was STUFF everywhere you looked. If you like STUFF, this was definitely the place to be and we both liked STUFF. With every step I took, the old floorboards creaked below me and I knew this was a special place. I made my way through the numerous rooms and narrow passages, dodging lots of hanging things while trying not to miss anything of particular interest. Finally I saw what I was looking for, that typical glassed in case which is usually the home for things like knives, breakables, valuable items and hopefully... pipes. To my surprise I actually did find a pipe that wasn't a Graybow or a Cobb, but it also wasn't a briar either. The case contained just one of those long porcelain German pipes with a design painted on the bowl and I think they wanted $60 bucks for it too. Nice, but not exactly what I was hoping to find. I asked the manager if there were any more pipes but he answered, "Only what's in that case." Strike Three! For pipes and tobacco anyway but this was a great shop and I highly recommend it to those of you who like this kind of STUFF.

As sad as the smoking situation is in Maine, you can always have a good time up there, and we did. The best part of the trip though, our saving grace if you will, was the pub we found in Portland on the way up. And believe it or not it has a bit of pipe history to go with it. Whenever I'm in the Portland area I like to stop for lunch at the original Gritty McDuffs, where the microbrew and the atmosphere are excellent. But my wife wanted to try something different this time so we (I) reluctantly began to look for another option. Luckily, right in front of us hanging from the building was a huge sign, on it was a picture of a lobster with a pint of Guinness in its claw and it read, "Lobsters love Guinness." I have to say, I wasn't very impressed with this sign but then I looked closer. Just above the sign was a small oval with the picture of a man in it and the words Bull Feeney's just below it. I squinted for a better look (roll mouse over picture) and said, "I think he's smoking pipe, let's check this place out." And I'm very glad we did. Bull Feeney's is a two story old Irish Pub with lots of woodwork, wall murals and arched brick doorways. It was dimly lit inside with seats by the windows so you can watch the tourists scurrying from shop to shop along the cobble stoned streets. There was a nice selection of beer on tap and the bar itself looked as though it came straight from the old country. There was no way I could leave this place without having a pint of Guinness or two and the first one was presented with a shamrock embossed into its foamy head. It was very smooth and creamy and went down much too easily. We both ordered sandwiches that were out of this world and made a point to return here again on our way back home.

Our return visit was as good as the first but this time we asked for a window seat on the second floor for a better view. With another pint of their delicious Guinness I sat and looked down onto the street. I realized that I was sitting right next to the sign that had first attracted us to this place and now it was bigger than life. I could clearly see the image of Bull Feeney smoking his pipe and I thought to myself, it's nice to know that a fellow, albeit long gone pipe smoker, is responsible for providing us with the highlight of our trip, and that we now have something new to look forward to on future journey's to smoke-free Maine. I'm sure there has to be at least one or two decent smoke shops somewhere in this state; I guess I'll just have to keep lookin'.

If you'd like to read a short history of Bull Feeney, click here.

A Side Note: It is truly saddening to realize that the freedom we fought for and won over 200 years ago is slowly but surely being taken away from us by the people we elected to govern this country. So many American's don't even realize what's happening and where it's headed. If you have accepted the stigma they've put on you and now believe you are worthless because you smoke, then they're winning this battle. If you want to quit smoking it should be because you want it for yourself, not because you're being forced into it. There are better ways they can achieve their goal that include fairness without destroying our rights, our freedoms and our pursuit of happiness. We all have to do our part, however small it may be to let them know we don't accept this. If you are not a registered voter then I urge you to register and vote down any of these laws that infringe upon our rights and freedoms as Americans.

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