When it comes to tobacco, I really don't know what I'm talking about. I don't smoke or chew, and lack both experience and vocabulary--which means that the locals don't know what I'm talking about, either. Here I am, traveling from one Mississippi gas station to another, trying to score some "mint-flavor long-cut Skoal" for a buddy who's currently based at Camp Shelby.
"Do y'all have chew?" I ask. I get blank looks. "Tobacco? Chewing tobacco?"
Eventually, I get the point across. I'm still trying to figure out what Mississippians call the stuff. "Snuff? Dip? Skoal?"
Like most of the soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34the Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34 BCT), my buddy Pilz is restricted to Camp Shelby. If the Post Exchange--a sort of a military version of a five-and-dime or drug store--runs out of your favorite extracurricular supplies, you're out of luck until the next truck. With access to a rental car, however, I can go out on the economy. Or, rather, I can try.
Pilz wants Mint Skoal. Not Wintergreen or Spearmint. Not Cherry or Berry or Vanilla or Peach.
And it's got to be "long-cut." Not "pouches" or "bandits."
I take a wrong turn, and find myself lost on the backroads of Mississippi for a few minutes before I re-locate the highway. Winding through the pines on tightly turned blacktop, my mind wanders upon this thought:
The deploying Iowa soldiers currently confined to Camp Shelby are experiencing about as much of Mississippi as some may eventually experience of Afghanistan. They're behind the wall, and behind the wire. They're not necessarily meeting the locals, or learning how to speak the local language.
How do y'all say "chew" in Dari or Pashto?