Well, I thought I was done with Gerald Ford, but I came across this picture and couldn’t resist. Much has been written by now about how Ford was an under-rated president, as well as a thoroughly decent human being. What hasn’t been mentioned all that much is that he was, like myself, a dedicated pipe smoker. I’ve always felt an affinity for this particular president, even long before I knew he was a fellow pipe smoker. When I did find out that he smoked a pipe, it all made sense to me.
I love this picture. At first glance, it’s just a picture of a United States President sitting in the Oval Office, looking, well, presidential. But if you look a little closer, you will see that Ford, like all pipe smokers, littered his environment with the accoutrements of his favored mode of smoking. In the foreground there is a pipe sitting in what appears to be a crystal pipe holder. In the background you will see a pipe rack with three pipes, in close proximity to the presidential hand. (No pipe smoker has only one pipe. Just trust me on this one.) No doubt there is a tobacco jar close by.
All of this might seem a little bewildering to the non-smoker, but to a fellow pipe smoker it makes perfect sense. You can always tell the home or office of a pipe smoker, as he (or she) is always careful to have at least a few pipes near at hand. They usually form a part of the decor. They certainly do in my house. It is no coincidence that in his presidential portrait, Ford is holding a pipe. To the pipe smoker, the pipe is no mere means of imbibing tobacco smoke; it is a means of self expression.
Even in these politically correct times, the pipe conjures up pleasant images in the minds of most people. Somehow pipe smokers get a bit of a free pass that cigarette smokers do not enjoy. Most people have memories of a beloved grandfather smoking his pipe, memories which are brought back to the fore whenever the aroma of pipe tobacco is encountered. In many people’s minds the pipe conjures up images of a safer, less threatening world. Reassuring figures such as Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Inspector Maigret, or even Gandalph and Aragorn are asssociated with the pipe. As the man who restored America’s faith in the presidency, our last pipe smoking president surely belongs in such company.