Clabe’s Pipe

“If a person’s eyes are a window to the soul, possessions are at least the back door.” – David LaBelle in The Great Picture Hunt 2.”

Could Clabe Wilson’s pipe be one way to regard him decades later?

This story is from 1927:

Clabe boosted Junior into his highchair and cut up some green beans and sausage for him. Twelve-year-old Delbert kept Danny on his lap as he ate. Danny wasn’t very hungry. 

     After the meal, Clabe raked back his chair, reached for his pipe and Prince Albert. He tamped a little tobacco into the bowl of pipe. He struck a wooden match on the bottom of his shoe. It popped into flame, which he held into the pipe. Clabe inhaled through the stem several times until it caught. 

     “Danny, come here.” Pipe in hand, Clabe reached for the mewling boy. Danny held up his arms for a lift onto his father’s lap. “What’s the problem, little feller? Did you miss your momma?”

     Danny leaned against his dad, quietly pulling on an ear.

     “Leora, do you think he might have an earache?”

     “Might be. Why don’t you try warm smoke and see if it helps.”

     Clabe had Danny sit up so he could blow warm smoke in his ear. All the eyes at the table watched. Danny settled back against the bib of his dad’s overalls, seemingly better.

Danny Wilson, age 4, is the yawning boy in blue. 1927, south of Dexter. Watercolor by Audubon native Tim Ross, agricultural meteorologist at RFD-TV, Nashville.


This little scene is in the first chapter in Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression. Danny ended up needing surgery!


  1. Oh, the memories this brings back. No, I never had a dad who blew smoke from a pipe in my ear to cure an ear ache, but I could smell the sweet aroma of the apple and bourbon-infused pipe tobacco that filled the air in my grandfather’s home. I pray that old pipe is not lost to history a treasured memento for your family, tucked away somewhere safe. My favorite possession is the old, early 1940s Wood armature lathe that my dad taught me to use as I learned to rebuild rather than replace in our family’s Texaco station in our small town. I display it in the farm office to this day, and regale all who will listen of the many lessons it, and my adopted dad, taught me through the years. Loved the post Ms. Joy. Thank you!

    • I was plagued by ear infections into adulthood. When I was little, Dad once blew warm tobacco smoke (probably Camels cigarettes) into my ear. The warmth felt good. Yes, my grandfather’s pipe is in an old cabinet that used to hold Sunday School songbooks from the basement of the Dexter Presbyterian Church.

      JD, what about a blog post about your lathe? I’d love to hear your story! The only thing better than an heirloom is one with a story!

  2. I’ve heard of the smoke cure. As for the power of possessions to reveal something about the person, I find myself trying to read the titles of books in the background of photos or, in today’s world, even on the shelves behind people being interviewed on TV or present for an online seminar or Skype session!

    • I do that, too! Even other photos, what else in the background. I’m still part of Write That Book With Patricia Goyer. She teaches with books in the background, and there’s that copy of Bill Mauldin’s “Back Home” that gets me every time. (I also have a copy of it.)

    • Michelle, the next book will reveal what his childhood was like (also Leora’s). His mother was so ill mentally that he took care of and diapered his youngest sister! But what a dad he turned out to be! Mom said that he played with the kids as Leora was too busy. In a couple of family photos, he’s the one holding the baby (Junior).

  3. Funny, I remember as a kid hearing my grandparents talk about using warm smoke to cure an earache! I can’t attest to its effectiveness because if it was tried on me, I was probably too young to remember.

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