Think if a reason to smoke a cigar, and I will lay claim to it. For many, smoking a cigar happens only for celebration like a big sale or birthday/wedding or birth. Only for an event of note do the stogies come out. I smoke almost every day. Not out of habit per se–I have gone weeks without a cigar and felt no ill effect. But considering my affection for cigars, I can find a reason to celebrate something every day or ponder that which is my purpose. For me, smoking cigars are for thoughtful reflection, for serene moments.
Last week a dear friend and mentor, Jim Ince, passed away in his sleep. I knew Jim best in my formative teenage years of the mid to late 1980’s. He was my Order of the Arrow Lodge Adviser and I was lucky enough and a tad stubborn enough to get elected as his last Lodge Chief – leader of the Dallas OA lodge in 1987. For years before and after I sought his council, followed his advice, and grew to love the man and his wife, who allowed Jim to play Boy Scout long after his own sons had moved on to greater things.
He died in his sleep on a Monday night. The service was on the next Saturday. I was asked to speak at his memorial service, and my words found their way onto his epitaph “Humble Servant Gone Home”
All this gave me an unexpected and uncomfortable pressure. So on the Friday before the service I took a half day off from work at mother Xerox and went over to my favorite cigar shop, Up In Smoke Vista Ridge, for a cigar, a Coke Zero, and some good company. Miles manages the shop, and he and his staff never disappoint. Up in Smoke has five locations, with the “flagship” at MacArthur in Irving. But the Vista Ridge store is their best.
I chose an Alec Bradley cigar called Black Market. I love the 60” ring so I went with the Gordo. I had tried it once before without any real decision. When I entered the shop Miles suggested I give it another try, as he really enjoyed it. I and was pleased with the selection. As I sat back and enjoyed the stick, I tried to process in my mind what I would say at the service the next day. I remembered my friend and mentor.
When I became active on the lodge level in the early 80’s I was in a unique location. I lived in Richardson and could walk to our lodge staff adviser Rick Wilkins house or head the other direction and walk to Jim Ince’s house. I remember many visits to Mr. Ince’s house and what seemed like hours in his office talking about ideas and upcoming events and listening to stories of what he did in Scouting and who he met. We have not talked about it much here, but before his work with the OA he recruited a troop and then a post of over 100 Scouts each. I looked over his Boy Scout Handbook collection (looked never touch), the mugs and sashes and awards on his walls. I remember talking about my ideas, and I had ideas about what to do about everything in the lodge. Mr. Ince would listen and make a comment now and again. I always knew when he liked one of my ideas as he would get excited and ask me questions, and sometimes even his eyes would dance rolling over and over almost to the top of his head.
Living so close to Mr. Ince, I often got rides to events. We always left early. I learned some new terms and a few lessons on those trips. On the first trip with Mr. Ince he said we would all get a bite to eat before we hit camp. We passed many restaurants, McDonalds, Whataburger, and others. I had to ask where we were stopping and that is when I learned the term “greasy spoon”. I can’t remember the name of any of them. These were little mom and pop hole in the wall eateries where everything was deep fried and oh-so-good. These were special meals for those us who tagged along with Mr. Ince on trips. These were places we would never go to otherwise. I also learned a life lesson in advice on these trips. In each position I was appointed or elected to Mr. Ince took a great interest. He did not start by telling me what I needed to do or should do or what I was supposed to do. He always started by asking me first.
“What do you plan to do?” he’d ask.
He listened to me first, then I am sure he gently filled in the gaps often asking questions and then kept on asking questions until he got the answer needed.
As I remembered, I stayed impressed with the Black Market cigar from Honduras. Many people ramble on about what they taste in a cigar, and most of the time that makes me wonder if my sense of taste is going. I cannot taste the “earth” or the cedar or pine or any other vegetation you can name. On this cigar I could taste chocolate. And I had others in the shop agreeing with me. I felt better. The cigar retailed for about $8, just at the high end of my price point. But it was a special occasion. And in this case it was a chance to celebrate a life well lived and ponder my purpose, surrounded by good people and good conversation. I was able to do both on this Friday afternoon. I seem to recall Jim Ince enjoyed a cigar a time or two as well….