Archive for July 2009

Kari Byron of Mythbusters

Okay, I’ve posted enough about pipes for the moment. Time for some cheesecake. Click on the pictures for the large version!

God, I love science…

Kary Byron' amazing ass Kari Byron Kari Byron Kari Byron
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Kari Byron

This one starts out with a less than flattering shot of her in a bikini, butt then we get down to business. 🙂

Nimrod Manufacture Dates – Help Wanted

Henry Tibbe starts a whole new business in 1878

Patricia Hysell

July 9, 1878: Patent #205,816 is granted to Henry Tibbe for a corncob pipe. Tibbe, a Dutch wheelwright, arrived in America in 1867. He brought his family to settle in Washington, Missouri where he immediately began making spinning wheels and other furniture. In 1872 John Shranke came into Tibbe’s shop with a sack full of corncobs. He wanted to know if Tibbe could shape them on a lathe to form pipes.

corn cob pipeShranke had a few hand whittled pipes as demos. Tibbe made several more and Shranke left the shop a happy man. Tibbe was left with a few extra corncobs and made some more pipes. He then placed them in his shop window. These sold and happy customers sent more buyers to Tibbe who soon abandoned spinning wheels altogether and began making “Missouri Meerschaum Pipes” full time.

Missouri MeerschaumBusiness grew and soon father and son, Anton, expanded the operation. Steam engines drove the lathes, a fancy plaster coating was added, then sanded and shellacked. Sales grew and along the Mississippi River Valley, corncob pipes were common. By 1891, Anton built the area’s first electric plant to help power the family’s factory and to light the night time streets. They also brought the telephone to town. Henry died in 1896 – a leading citizen of the area.

Pipes have been in use since ancient history. Herodotus describes the practice of pipe smoking in 500 BC writings. Tobacco is native to the Americas and was not available in Europe until the 16th century. Instead, pipe smokers filled the bowl with hashish – a rare and expensive item outside the Middle East. Briar pipes are made from wood while Meerschaum pipes are carved from hydrated magnesium silicate, a mineral found in Turkey. Any substance can be carved to make the bowl for holding the tobacco and connected via a stem or shank to the mouthpiece. Most pipes today are made by machines, but some are still carved by hand and are considered to be works of art as well as functional items.

Horrible Death of a Pipe

I once told you I smoke too “hot.” This means I tend to draw hard, and puff often. Here are the horrible results. You can click on each picture to see a larger view:

This is the crack as it originally appeared on the outside of the pipe. It looks like a hairline fracture on one side, and a little more dramatic from the other.

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The inside of the bowl looks normal. That’s because the cake’s still intact. I’ll explain a little further on.

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I figured since it was already ruined, I just had to pry it open for a better look. You can see how thin the bowl is, and the layer of cake on the inside, if you look closely. The light layer is the bowl, the dark layer is the cake. I just included the middle photo so you could see the wind whistling through the bowl. Nope, not going to smoke this one again. Even duct tape can’t fix this. And if it can, I’m just not going to try.

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Actually, this is the result of multiple things happening. First, it was an inexpensive estate pipe, so it already had considerable mileage on it. To clean it, the restorer reamed the hell out of the pipe so the bottom of the bowl would be clean. This made the bowl relatively thin.

The tobacco that I smoke is a moist aromatic, so the bowl began retaining condensation, as I didn’t have enough pipes at the time, so they weren’t being rotated as often as they should to allow the moisture to evaporate.

Finally, as I said, I smoke “hot.” The high heat, combined with the moisture in the cake on the bottom allowed the cake to swell and eventually crack the thin outside of the pipe. That’s why the cake is intact, but it’s the outside of the bowl that’s broken.

So, suck gently, and ream carefully. Er, that didn’t sound right. Let’s try; smoke gently, and keep the cake throughout the pipe no more than the thickness of a dime, reaming it carefully with the appropriate tool. You know, there’s just no way to say this paragraph without sounding lurid in some way, but you get the idea.

Anyway, considering that smoking gently seems to be against my general nature, it seems that the thicker layer bowl in my other pipes allowed them to survive. I managed to find completely different ways to destroy them.


The story of a puffing pup and a hiking trail

June 25, 2009

Wherever I travel, I’m always keeping my eyes and ears open in search of two of my favorite things — new hiking paths and good dog stories.

Last weekend when I was visiting Harlowton for the Festival of the Wind, I stumbled across a real find. A shirt displayed in the window of Passage Creek Design boasted a large picture of a retriever-looking mutt holding a pipe in his mouth. From the cab of my truck, I could make out the words, “Smoking Boomer.”

I just had to find out more.

Ty Franks, the owner of Passage Creek, gave me a short description of Boomer’s interesting life, and suggested I drive down to the old rail yard bordering Harlowton city limits on the south side at Chief Joseph Park.

“There’s a walking trail named after him,” Ty said. “And a sign that tells his story.”

A walking trail named after a pipe-puffing dog — what a score. I bought a Smoking Boomer shirt and then went looking for the path.

It was easy to find the very official Smoking Boomer information signs; the 1.1-mile rail trail — a work-in-progress — was rocky yet graded, flat and easy to follow, marked with large boulders.

“The Smoking Boomer Rail Trail was one of many ideas we considered during the 2004 Community Tourism Assessment Program,” Mandie Reed, Extension Agent for Wheatland County explained to me after my first hike on the path. “The MSU Extension, The Institute of Tourism and Recreation Research from University of Montana and the Montana Department of Commerce created this program which allowed members of the community to evaluate and decide for themselves the projects that might be best for their town. We decided to use the start-up grant for the trail.”

According to Reed, coming up with a name for the trail wasn’t easy.

“And then Jerry Miller, owner of the Harlowton Times, brought by an old postcard and a story about the dog,” Reed said. “Several articles had been written about Smoking Boomer. He was a big deal. They even had a proper burial for him after he passed. They bought a casket and everything.”

The trailhead sign reads, “Smoking Boomer was a big burley dog who rode into the Harlowton yards on a Milwaukee train in 1940 and immediately befriended roundhouse foreman Phil Leahy, who gave him a free meal. Phil taught Boomer to stand on his head, wear safety glasses and carry a briar pipe.”

Smoking Boomer was a hit with all of the passengers of the Milwaukee Road’s train, the Hiawatha; many took pictures of him walking the platform with his pipe. He lived at the Harlowton Depot until his death in 1949.

The path is in the early stages of development, and the Friends of the Smoking Boomer Rail Trail are working to gather funds for upgrades.

“Until we can raise enough money to make the trail a hard surface, we can’t get grant funds because it’s not handicap-accessible,” Reed explained. “We’d like to make enough money so we can apply for a Fish, Wildlife & Parks grant to match what we’ve raised.”

The trail work began in 2006 and locals quickly began using it for wildlife and bird-watching. FWP recently established a fishing access site on the Musselshell River just south of the site.

“The healthy aspect of walking is something we want to promote,” Reed added. “And we also want to highlight our rich railroad history here. They switched from electric to steam engines on this site. We plan to have railroad information signs along the path so you can read and learn about the switchyards, roundhouses and depot while you’re getting some exercise.”

Many volunteers from the community got the Smoking Boomer off the ground.

“We had volunteers doing all kinds of things from welding to tree planting,” Reed said. “And people showed up to help who actually still remember Smoking Boomer.”

A good dog story can take you a long way.

For more information or to become a member of the Friends of the Smoking Boomer Rail Trail, contact Mandie Reed at 406-632-4728.

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