OPINION

Red man rules

Ed Rood

I see the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently launched an advertising campaign warning of the dangers of indulging in “smokeless tobacco.” I’m not surprised.

Smokeless tobacco, for those of you who have better things stored in your mind, is tobacco that’s not burned … it’s either chewed or stuck in one’s mouth or nose. Sound appetizing?

Although I was never hooked on the stuff, I must admit there was a time when I checked it out. Turned out to be one of those events in life I shall never forget.

My story takes place in 1958 on a hot, humid July evening with a bunch of young bucks hanging out with nothing especially exciting taking place.

King’s Station, on Slater’s Main Street, had been closed for hours. That didn’t keep the town’s male youth from cluttering up the place. An old outside bench between King’s and the Farmer’s Cafe was lined with males in their late teens though their early 20s.

Hours earlier the Nite Hawks had squeaked out a victory over the Kellogg Cardinals. Following a few hours of cruising the town’s streets following the baseball game, everyone had since migrated to King’s.

Something in a young man’s metabolism requires sustenance after a few hours of watching baseball combined with street cruising. It’s just part of life.

That desire usually clicked in about midnight and could only be satisfied with a substantial serving of French fries lubricated with an ample coating of ketchup.

This presented a problem. Not many restaurants were open in the wee hours of the morning back in 1958. Those that were often didn’t cater to young men not old enough to imbibe alcoholic beverages. There was, however, the Town and Country Restaurant on the south edge of Ankeny. After a few minutes discussion, two carloads of young lads traveled south.

After the fries and ketchup, along with a wide variety of other entries were consumed, the young men made their way to the cashier to straighten accounts. It was there that things began crashing down. Someone noticed several bulging green bags in the glass-top counter under the cash register. They read, innocently enough, Red Man. I don’t remember whose bright idea it was, but someone suggested purchasing a couple of bags. That was a bad mistake.

Red Man was (and still is) chewing tobacco. Several big-time baseball players had endorsed Red Man, so it only seemed right that we enjoy a little Red Man on our trip home.

That was bad enough, but someone even more adventurous suggested a pact — we each take a big chaw of Red Man and no one can expectorate (spit) until we get back to Slater — approximately 15 miles.

Truth is, we didn’t get all the way home. As soon as we turned on Hwy. 210, car doors flew open and strong young men came pouring out, unceremoniously tossing what remained of their Red Man chew (and stomach contents) into the ditch. Not a pretty sight.

That was nearly 60 years ago. To this day, I have never had the slightest desire for another chew of Red Man.

Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.