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The other day I was at the local feed store and Clem, one of the locals, a yellow-toothed leathery old farmer, was sitting by the wood
stove telling one of his stories. There were a few other patrons there when Clem got up to buy a package
of chewing tobacco. "It's for the
moles," he said.
"Moles?" One of the patrons piped up.
"Yea, it kills them," Clem said.
"Well how do you get them to eat it?" The patron inquired and the rest of us guffawed.
"That's a good question," Clem said, taking a pinch of tobacco out of the bag. "You
get them hooked when they're teenagers." Then he placed
the pinch between his cheek and gum.
I looked around at the other patrons and we all snickered at the comment.
"Sure," one of the other patrons said. "Moles chewing tobacco. Ya got another whopper for us Clem?"
"It's true," Clem said and he proceeded to unravel a yarn bigger than most. "Ya see, moles are a lot like people. They buy and sell, build and
tear down, and raise little moles just like people do. There are whole little mole cities down there, and
we people never see them."
A couple of the patrons seemed to show a little disinterest but that didn't seem to
bother Clem. "As a farmer I just put the tabacci down the
top of one of the holes. Moles don't use money like you and me. They use dirt. Good dirt is worth more
than all the tea in China to a mole, cause
that's what brings the worms in. And it takes a lot of worms to feed a mole."
The disinterested patrons started listening again.
"It's important for the moles to have access to the top of the holes. That's where
the rich moles come in. They decide who gets to go to the
top and who stays down. If you're a somebody, as a mole, you've been to the
top of a hole, and you get to tell your kinfolk all about it.
"It takes a little bravery to go to the top of a hole. Strange things
have been know to happen there. Sometimes a mole just doesn't come back.
No one knows why, for sure. It's the great big goblin monster, with stealth and claws, that will wait
silently till a mole pops its head out.
In other parts of the mole world, some say it's a big animal that digs, grunts and barks and will pursue the mole, sometimes
catching him and
always destroying the top of the hole. So it's not hard to imagine that anything from the top of the hole is mysterious and valued by mole culture
and is worth a lot of dirt.
"That's where the tobacci comes in. I place it in the top of the hole
and sure enough, you can bet, some mole is going to find it and bring it back and sell it to a
rich mole for a lot of dirt.
"It's not hard to imagine something this mysterious from the top of the hole
creates a lot of interest to all the moles in mole land. At
first they thought it had magical powers and they would sit around and try
it at ceremonial gatherings. As time passed and the moles became more civilized it became fashionable to be seen
trying tobacci. It wasn't
uncommon for moles to idolize famous moles chewing on tobacco. Sure enough kids wanted to try it because it was a sign of maturity and
sophistication and if your friends were doing it you had to too, to be cool. Before
they knew it they got hooked.
"Well you can imagine what affect this has on the mole population.
After a while moles start dying. Some loose their teeth and gums and can't eat. Don't make no
difference to me if they're dead or they can't
eat. Don't hurt my crops either way.
"The tobacci trade in mole land is controlled by the rich moles. They
buy up every bit making the hole top explorers rich in dirt and then they repackage the
tabacci and sell it to the young moles full knowing what it will do to their health. There's
some awful gosh darn legal battles going
on down there right now over the health of tobacco."
"Oh come on, Clem." One of the younger patrons spoke up. "You ever gonna tell it
straight? That's just an awful gosh darn bunch of hooey. Bill, give me a pack of
Marlboros," the patron said to the store
keep, ordering a pack of cigarettes.
"Never mind that," Clem said. "I think you ought to be buying some chewing tobacci. I hear tell you only got thirty bushels an acre out of
that bottom land last year."
"Maybe so," the young patron said and he opened the pack of cigarettes and pulled one out. "It's not because of the moles." He
placed the cigarette in his mouth and struck a match on the wood stove.
"Steve, you know you can't smoke in here," Bill the proprietor said. "There's a
new state law not lettin you smoke inside of stores anymore.
Ya ought to buy some chewin tobacci like Clem," he went on.
"No thanks," Steve, the younger patron said. "I gotta go give one of these cigarettes to my dog. It kills the worms."
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