Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Smoking Cure

Many Montanans have fond, and not so fond, childhood memories of Virginia City. Eileen Yeager, who grew up there in the 1890s, tells a story in the Madison County history Trails and Trials about games she and her sister Mary made up to amuse themselves. One was called “Bob and Bill.” This game involved gathering old chewed cigar butts from behind a certain barn. Each girl had a cigar box that she filled with the old stogies. They had made a sidewalk of scrap wood in the backyard, and beginning at opposite ends, they sauntered toward each other, dressed in their dad’s old hats. They met in the middle and took turns. Eileen would say, “Hello Bill.” Mary answered, “Hello, Bob.” They had a set dialogue, and after a bit, Eileen would say, “Would you like a cigar?” and open her cigar box. Each would take a stogie, light up, and saunter down the sidewalk puffing away. Then they would switch roles and do it again. One day, Mary must have forgotten and inhaled. She keeled right over, and Eileen ran into the house announcing dramatically, “Mama, Mary is dead!” Their mother rushed out to find Mary violently ill. She called the doctor who immediately asked Eileen, “What have you been smoking?” Eileen showed him the box of damp, chewed cigar butts. This time her mother keeled over. Eileen didn’t understand why her mother fainted, but the spanking made a lasting impression. Thus Eileen quit smoking at the age of six, and neither she nor Mary ever took it up again.

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