Pop could chew tobacco like nobody’s business. And with me spending most of my free time at his house, I wanted to do anything and everything Pop did. He taught me to fish and hunt and garden. Just about everything worth learning, I learned from Pop.

After years of begging, I finally wore him down and he let me try some of his chewing tobacco. He thought I would get from the nasty stuff and never bother him about it again. He only gave me a few loose leaves to chew on, but I felt like I had a real, man-sized chew.

It was a mid-summer, Saturday morning and we were taking my younger brother, Matt, and my little cousin, Michael, to the park. All the way there, I would chew a little and try to spit on a target. By the time we had walked the two blocks, I had gotten pretty good at hitting where I aimed.

Pop and I sat on a bench while Matt and Michael hit the jungle gym, the swings, and the slides. Soon, they were begging me to push them on the merry-go-round. On they went and I started pushing. I had a nice rhythm going, grabbing one bar to push then another. Faster and faster they went, laughing and yelling the whole time. Well, I wanted in on the fun so I jumped on the ride. With one leg hanging off and both hands on the rails, I pushed us ever faster. Round and round, faster and faster, till everything was a blur.

Then it hit me. With all of that pushing and us spinning so fast, I swallowed my tobacco.

My head started feeling light. Soon, it spinning faster than the ride we were on. Everything started changing colors; my stomach started churning in the opposite direction, then… BLECH!!! Up came the contents of my gut all over the ride, my brother, and my cousin. Exactly two leaves of tobacco – nicely chewed, one hotdog with ketchup and cheese, a half bag of Frito corn chips, two sodas, and a pickle scattered everywhere with green tinted stomach bile that seemed to coat everything.

Pop got the ride to stop and, with a comical futility, tried to wipe the three of us clean with a single handkerchief. Calmly, he helped me up and asked if I thought I could make it home. I nodded yes as I fell back down. I didn’t think I would live long enough to take a couple of steps, but somehow he got me moving in the right direction. We were off like a herd of turtles, slowly and steadily moving the two blocks back to the house.

When we got home, he hosed us down and got us all changed. I must have been the toughest to change as I was limp and green at the gills. Once dressed, he laid me out on the couch with a cold wet rag across my forehead.

I must have passed out, because the next thing I remember was Mom and Me-Maw chewing out Pop and my dad laughing hysterically.

I certainly didn’t think it was anything to laugh at.