Good girls don’t do snuff

Published 8:20 pm Friday, August 29, 2014

Like a lot of women of my childhood, my grandmother dipped snuff.

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

She would carefully take the lid off a can of Peach Sweet Snuff, tap just the right amount of the dark powder into the lid, pull out her lower lip and fill it full of snuff. Then she would tongue it into place, sit back, fold her arms and enjoy the dip.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I wanted to be a snuff dipper, too.

My main fascination with dipping snuff was that you could just haul off and spit anywhere you wanted to.

Why, some of the women in Aunt Nita’s church out in the country would sit by an open window and spit right out the window right in the middle of the sermon. They didn’t even look to see if anybody was standing under the window. They just hauled off and spit.

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

She spit in the tin can she kept in her pocketbook. She would unsnap the clamp on her purse, yawn it wide open, lean over and spit in the can, in her pocketbook real civilized-like.

Amos, Eunice and Lizzy were snuff dippers and they lived in the tenant house right behind our house. Every afternoon, they would sit out on the front porch, dippin’ and spittin’. The spit bush was way out in the yard, but no matter where they sat on the porch, they could spit and hit it. That was an amazing thing.

I was a pretty good spitter because I had a gap between my top, front teeth that acted like the sight on my BB gun. Mama said it wasn’t nice for little girls to spit. Boys spit all the time. Boys did all the fun things. That’s why I was always trying to kiss my elbow and turn myself into a boy. I was missing too much fun on account of being a girl.

My best chance of spitting was to dip snuff because plain ol’ spitting was a sin. We learned in Sunday school that when Jesus was on the cross those mean people spit on him. That’s when God made plain spitting a sin.

I couldn’t sneak snuff out of my grandmother’s pocketbook but Amos had cans sitting all around. Tince was always getting into trouble. Eunice said they had to be on their Ps and Qs when she came to their house. I guess they forgot about their Ps and Qs one afternoon because Tince slipped a whole can of Rooster Snuff in her dress pocket.

I had my mind set on Peach Sweet Snuff, thinking it would taste like the sweet peaches from the trees along the fencerow. But Tince said all snuff tastes just like chocolate candy.

We went out in the pasture where we could take a dip and then stretch 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. I tapped out a lid full, pulled out my bottom lip, filled it full and tongued it into place, just like my granny did.

That day, I learned a hard lesson.

Tince and I fell back on the grass but we couldn’t watch the floating clouds. Mama was right. It’s not nice for little girls to dip snuff.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. Contact her at