Some things nice girls don’t do

Published 11:00 pm Friday, April 12, 2013

My grandmother dipped snuff.

A lot of the women of my childhood dipped snuff.

My granny said there wasn’t a thing in the world that couldn’t be made right with a dip of snuff.

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My life’s plan was to be a snuff dipper, too.

But the real fascination with dipping snuff wasn’t the ecstasy that it seemed to bring to life but that you could just haul off and spit anywhere you wanted to.

My grandmother didn’t do that. She said it wasn’t civilized.

She carried a spit cup in her pocketbook and, when the notion hit her, she would unsnap the clamp on her purse, spread it wide open, lean over and spit in the pocketbook in the cup, real civilized-like.

Amos, Eunice and Lizzy lived in the tenant house right behind our house. They all dipped. Every afternoon, they would sit out on the front porch, dippin’ and spittin’.

The spit bush was at the far end of the porch and that’s where they directed all their “talents.” No matter where they sat on the porch, they could hit the spit bush from any distance and any angle. It was an amazing thing.

I was a pretty good spitter because I had a gap between my teeth that acted kind of like the sight on my BB gun. Mama said it wasn’t nice for little girls to spit. But the boys spit all the time. Boys could do a lot of fun things that it wasn’t nice for little girls to do.

I wanted to spit and my best chance of doing so was to dip snuff.

Plain ol’ spitting was a sin.

We learned in Sunday school that when Jesus was on the cross those mean people spit on him. And right then and there, God made spitting a sin. If you spit on anybody, the devil would put his forked tail in you and you would have to be especially good all the rest of your life or the devil would keep you for his own.

There wasn’t any way I could sneak snuff out of my grandmother’s pocketbook but Tince said she could get all the snuff she wanted from Amos. He had cans sitting around all around the house.

We went out in the pasture and found a spot on top of the hill where we could take a dip and then stretch out on our backs and watch the clouds make pictures in the sky.

Tince opened the can, tapped out a dip in the lid, pulled out her lip and filled it full. She tapped out another lid full and I pulled out my bottom lip and she filled it full.

I didn’t quite get to the tonguing part of the dipping. I went into the full-blown spittin’ part … with some masterful gagging in between.

That day, I learned a hard lesson. Your body does not generate enough spit to cleanse your mouth of a dip of snuff.

On that bright sunny, spring afternoon, I realized Mama was right. There are some things that nice little girls just don’t do.