Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

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Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

The Shuck Cigarillo:

In impoverished colonies of Mexico tobacco was customarily smoked as a shuck cigarillo, not in a pipe as the Americans at that time preferred, or the paper rolled cigarettes of Old Mexico. The shuck is a rectangular piece of material cut from corn husk.  

Lewis Garrard (Reference) visited Taos in 1847 and described rolling and lighting shuck cigarillos as follows:   "After breakfast, the ladies [these particular ladies were the daughters of Ceran St. Vrain with whom Garrard was lodging] rolled up several shuck cigarillos, which they presented with smiles and a persuasive “Senior?” I did not refuse.  The shucks are dried and cut in slips, one and a half inches broad by three in length; then moistened, to prevent splitting, by putting it in the mouth, and drawing out with compressed lips.  The tobacco of the country-bland and fragrant-is sprinkled on one edge, and, with a sleight-o’-hand motion of the fingers, rolled up.  The ends are pinched, to retain the contents.  In the pocket is carried a roll of raw cotton the size of a common goosequill, bound with calico, which, with the flint and steel in every one’s possession, is produced, and, with a dexterous blow, fire imparted from which the cigarillo is lit.  A tin tube thee inches long, is fitted to the cotton, and when the shuck lights, the burning roll is drawn in the tube; and, by placing a finger on the end to preclude the air, the fire is extinguished, leaving a cinder to which the steel spark imparts its fire.  Some use a silver, or even a gold tube; while the poor pelados have to content themselves with a tin one, or nothing."

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