107. The Great Explorers Collection (2002)

Chuck Stanion is one of my favorite writers in the pipe world. If you’ve followed the tall-tale exploits of Grandpa and the 10 Tobys in any of his columns for Pipes & Tobaccos or the various Smokingpipes blogs, you need no introduction to his comedic talent. But he is equally adept in discussing the genius of artisans like J. T. Cooke or, in this case, enthusing over the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. When this short piece appeared recently, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take a look back at one of the great achievements of Peterson’s Dublin Era (1991-2018), the 2002 Great Explorers collection.

(1)
Pipes & The Shipwreck of The Endurance

“The Beginning of the End,”
19 October 1915: Shackleton leaning over the side

Amazing adventures through history have been accompanied by, and sometimes even dependent upon, pipes, such as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s shipwreck in Antarctica aboard the exploratory vessel, Endurance.

In 1914, Shackleton led an expedition of 27 men to be the first to cross Antarctica on foot. In 1914, obviously, they did not have the advantages of modern clothing or rations, electronic orienteering or GPS location, and most important, they had no radio communication, and no way to send a distress signal. Adventure was more dangerous 100 years ago.

They did it because they were manly men exploring the world, and Antarctica was there. That’s all the reason explorers needed to willingly place themselves in the most inhospitable environment on Earth: to be first to accomplish a dauntingly arduous, seemingly impossible task.

Patience Camp: Hurley (the photographer) on left,
skinning a penguin for fuel for the blubber stove; Shackleton on right

They did not succeed. They had to shift into survival mode before even trying. But if we measure their achievement in terms of sheer willpower overcoming impossible odds, their failure is among the greatest of human triumphs.

Shackleton and Wild (2nd in command), left foreground,
at Ocean Camp

The expedition found itself locked in the ice 85 miles from shore, and over the next few days, the crew watched as the Endurance was crushed and broke apart. What it must have been like to see one’s only way home destroyed before one’s eyes is impossible to understand. With no ship and no way to communicate with the world, they were on their own on the ice with only heavy wooden lifeboats and what supplies they could offload the ship.

Shackleton decided they would drag the lifeboats across the ice to open water and then sail to find help. Each man could take two pounds of personal possessions and one pound of pipe tobacco. That’s a fascinating detail regarding pipe tobacco. It was clearly seen as an essential survival tool, important enough to account for a third of every man’s possessions.

One night on the ice, camped in their tents, a fissure opened beneath them and crewman Ernest Holness woke submerged in icy water. Shackleton reached into the fissure, grabbed the sleeping bag, and hauled Holness onto the ice just before the crack slammed shut. Holness, spluttering, frozen and half-drowned, had only one complaint: “I lost my pipe tobacco,” he grumbled.

The men eventually found open water and sailed their lifeboats to Elephant Island, a deserted rock populated by little more than thorny shrubs, stones, and lichen. Shackleton then took a crew of six, including himself, in one of the boats, to sail 800 miles to a whaling station on South Georgia Island. Everyone else established a camp and prepared to survive until Shackleton’s return.

Launching the Caird from Elephant Island,
24 April 1916

Their tobacco supply dwindled to nothing, and the Elephant Island contingent of the expedition filled its days trying to find tobacco substitutes. In one experiment, they boiled all the men’s pipes with sennegrass they’d been using to line their boots. It was hoped that the residual tobacco, cake, and dottle would imbue the grasses with tobacco characteristics. They did not.

Farewell to the Caird

The expedition spent 20 months on the ice before being rescued. That Shackleton was able to navigate in stormy seas, in a small wooden boat, and achieve a rescue of all hands, is one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. I recommend the book, The Endurance by Caroline Alexander, in which she provides not only terrific detail of the adventure, but remarkable photos from the expedition’s photographer. It’s certainly a story all pipe smokers should be familiar with, if only because pipes were such an essential part of the expedition’s mental health.

We sometimes take our pipes for granted, but we should remember that in times of enormous stress, pipes have been excellent support systems through modern history. If pipes can make 20 months in tents in Antarctica more survivable, just imagine what they bring to our daily lives.

 

(2)
The Great Explorers Collection

Peterson always has a backstory behind their lines and collections, often connected in some important way to Ireland’s history or geography, and sometimes to its great men, as in the case of the Great Explorers collection.

In early 2002, Bernadette O’Neill, Peterson’s marketing director and the creative catalyst for the direction the company would take in the Dublin Era (1991-2018), travelled across Ireland from Dublin down to Tralee to the Kerry County Museum to soak in one of the museum’s great exhibitions, Antarctica.

The exhibit celebrated the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and “the Irish Giant” Tom Crean in particular (pictured above), whose family had recently donated many of his effects to the museum. At the time, Crean was almost unknown. O’Neill chose three other celebrated figures to complete the collection: Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen. Crean was a member on three expeditions, two with Scott (1901-09 and 1911-1913), and once with Shackleton (1914-17).

O’Neill came back inspired and with an armload of books, knowing that Pete Freeks can be a little geeky about their pipes. She also knew—and so do you, now—that Crean’s descendents had for a brief time in the 1980s owned Kapp & Peterson, strengthening the Peterson tie-in even further.

If you click on each of the illustrations below you can follow Bernadette’s retelling of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration as published in The Smoker’s Guild #4 (2002), as well as get the details on the magnificent pipes celebrating Crean, Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen, which would enter the catalog as shapes B16 – B19.

(3)
A Closer Look

O’Neill did her homework in the design of the collection, as well. It would appear she found a photo of the Amundsen “polar exploration” pipe in the collection of the Arctic and Antarctic Museum in St. Petersburg, basing Peterson’s design on it.

Great Explorers Amundsen

Most photos you see of Crean show him smoking a dublin, sometimes with and sometimes without a band. If he bought his briars in Ireland (and why would he not?), then what he’s clenching between his teeth must be a Peterson. Perspective can be difficult in photographs, but we do know K&P made 3 dublin shapes during this period: the 120 (still in production) and the smaller 121 and 122. The Great Explorers homage is the largest production dublin shape Peterson has ever made, a fitting homage to the man.

Great Explorers Crean

Shackleton never seems to have been photographed smoking a pipe, but the straight brandy designed given his name in the Peterson collection certainly suggests the power and optimism of the man.

Great Explorers Shackleton

Note the little straight army-mount pipe in Scott’s left hand

For Scott, Peterson designed what is, for me, the most beautiful pipe in the collection, an upswept, flowing and deep-chambered bent billiard with the promise of being a superb va and va/per smoker.

Great Explorers Scott

The pipes in the Great Explorer collection were issued as a set and singly. O’Neill’s copy leads me to believe they were originally released only in fishtail, then later (to accommodate lower-quality bowls) in P-Lips, which were stained a dark red and given a glossier finish, as can be seen in a page from the Lubinski.it catalog a few years back:

 

Average Measurements

CREAN (B16)
Length: 5.63 in./143.00 mm.
Weight: 2.00 oz./56.70 g.
Bowl Height: 2.06 in./52.32 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.84 in./21.34 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.58 in./40.13 mm.

SCOTT (B17)
Length: 5.95 in./151.13 mm.
Weight: 2.40 oz./68.04 g.
Bowl Height: 2.12 in./53.85 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.81 in./45.97 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.78 in./19.81 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.

AMUNDSEN (B18)
Length: 6.10 in./154.94 mm.
Weight: 2.24 oz./63.50 g.
Bowl Height: 2.17 in./55.12 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.83 in./46.48 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in./19.56 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.58 in./40.13 mm.

SHACKLETON (B19)
Length: 5.86 in./148.84 mm.
Weight: 2.20 oz./62.37 g.
Bowl Height: 1.95 in./49.53 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.80 in./20.32 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.84 in./46.74 mm.

 

Thanks to Smokingpipes.com
for permission to reprint Chuck Stanion’s
“Pipes & The Shipwreck of The Endurance”

Pictured at Top:
Probably from Hurley’s “Laying to” sequence, 14 January 1915.
Part 1 prints from the Library of Congress
Individual photos of the Great Explorers Collection by Chas. Mundungus

 

 

 

 

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102. The Burren: Peterson’s New Sandblast Natural Virgin Line

I’ve been anxious to see the new 2018 Burren line—an unfinished or “natural virgin” sandblast army-mount at the entry-grade level.  Followers of the blog will remember that in the 2018 Peterson catalog, the Burren line was originally named “Summertime,” but as the Burren area of County Clare was a favorite haunt of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who often took long walking holidays there together, I think I can cope with the change.

Karst landscape typical of the Burren in the southwest of Ireland

My co-author Gary Malmberg, being more knowledgeable than I about the history of pipes, told me that, off-hand, he could think of at least three distinguished forebears in the sandblast virgin style of finishing: the Dunhill Tanshell sandblast of the early 1950s, the Savinelli rusticated Capri Root Briar of the 1960s, and of course the Castello rusticated Natural Vergin line, also beginning in the 1960s. But the Burren’s immediate inspiration was Peterson’s small-batch Sansone Rogha, an annual release of about a dozen pipes hand-selected by Mario Lubinski.

Sansone Rogha X220 System (2017)

 “The Burren and the Rogha are indeed very similar,” Conor Palmer told me, “and there is not a massive difference to be honest. We really like the natural, ‘unprocessed’ look and feel of the Rogha pipes that were for the Italian market previously. We simply wanted to offer it to the wider market and so decided to incorporate it into the 2018 series with a few small tweaks. The Burren doesn’t take any finishing while the Rogha were buffed with a white soap buff to give them a slightly glossier finish.  The Rogha pipes have a black saddle acrylic P-Lip mouthpiece while the Burren have acrylic mocha- colored fishtail mouthpieces.”

“Each pipe receives a light brush and polish” the copy reads in the 2018 cataalog, and at first glance the B10 I have in front of me (pictured at top) doesn’t appear all that much different than the Rogha, aside from the fact that the latter did indeed seem a bit cleaner or whiter.

Having logged almost two dozen smokes in the Rogha and one in the Burren, I’m inclined to say there are two chief differences, one in the smoking experience of the P-Lip System vs. the army-mount fishtail, and one in the aesthetic experience of the bowls.

If you’ve mastered the typical air-turbulence problems of a Peterson army-mount, you’re home free. This type of pipe smokes hotter for me than either a traditional tenon-mortise (better) or well-made System (best), but I’ve learned that a slower cadence and a sipping style (rather than my standard chuffing routine) overcomes such difficulties, at least when I shy away from virginias and va/pers.

The aesthetic difference lie in the Rogha’s sterling mount, the fact that it is hand-stamped rather than laser-engraved, executed as a System pipe, and is comprised of hand-selected bowls. Joe Kenny, factory manager at Peterson, told me the two lines are of the same bowl grade and finish. But it’s obvious that Mario Lubinski went through baskets of these bowls to find 12 flawless ones. Much the same process happens with the selection of bowls for the Premier and De Luxe System sandblasts, by the way.

When I say “flaw” in reference to the Burren, I’m not talking about engineering or quality control, but the accident of wood–perceived visual imperfections caused by dirt, sand or other debris during the growth of the briar. It’s part of what keeps the price affordable for most of us. You can see in this photo of my B10 what I’m talking about, the little dark nick just across from the shank on the bowl:

As I say, this isn’t an issue, just an observation of the differences one can expect between spending $117 for the Burren and $205 for the Rogha. (And one downside to the Rogha is that only a dozen or so have been made in each of the three years of production, so they’re just a bit difficult to source!)

So how about the Burren’s smoking qualities? For me, so far it’s been identical to the Rogha’s, taking into account the chamber differences and mouthpiece configurations. To the point, while I was careful breaking in the Rogha, it’s been hands-down the best-tasting Peterson break-in I’ve ever had. All I can surmise is that natural, unfinished chamber walls provide a much better initial taste experience than ones with a pre-carb or charcoal-colored vegetable coating.

The Burren’s engineering is typical for this grade of Peterson. The nickel cap bears the traditional K&P over Peterson maker’s mark and can benefit by a bit of buffing with white compound on the wheel to bring it up if the smoker so desires.

The mocha-and-cream acrylic swirl mouthpiece is the same rod used on the Derry Rustic a few years back, although lacking the hot foil silver P of that line.

As with the Rogha, I predict it will be a lot of fun to watch the bowl darken. Definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in a natural virgin Peterson army mount experience.  Here’s my X220 System Rogha after 20 bowls, to give you an idea of what you might expect in fairly short order:

Peterson’s done a great job in selecting shapes for the line, with something to please everyone: the 03 bent apple, 87 bent apple, 106 billiard, 230 small bent billiard, 408 quarter-bent apple, 999 rhodesian, B10 rhodesian hybrid, D18 tankard / setter, 105 straight billiard, X220 bent billiard and XL90 large bent billiard.

 

Thanks to Conor Palmer and Joe Kenny at Peterson,
to Sansone Smoke Shope (Rogha portrait),
to Smokingpipes (for stock photos),
and to Chas. Mundungus (other photos)

 

TIN TALK #5: A Tool for Wisdom

 

 

99. Peterson Acquired by Laudisi Enterprises

As it seems all good things must, the “Dublin Era” chapter of Peterson pipes (1991-2018) comes to an end today. As we write in The Peterson Pipe, “It is tempting to call this the ‘[Tom] Palmer Era,’ but he resists the label, insisting “the reality is that it is a collective effort on all our parts. My role is to stimulate interest and bring out the creativity in the folks at Sallynoggin.” Tom, CEO of the company since 1991, is the most gracious and affable businessman it has been my pleasure to know. Like Tony Dempsey and Jimmy Nicholson before him, Harry Kapp and his father Henry Kapp and his father’s partner Charles Peterson before them, Tom has always believed the heart and soul of the company is in the craftsmen and women, its shop keepers and office personnel.

The company has been acquired by Laudisi Enterprises (parent company of Smokingpipes.com), Tom said on the phone yesterday, and he believes it could not have fallen into more capable hands: “Sykes Wilford,” he said, “lives, breaths, and smokes pipes, and I couldn’t ask for a better successor than that.”

Peterson Announcement

Joshua Burgess, Vice-President for Retail Sales at Smokingpipes, has been in Dublin for about six weeks as Laudisi sets up its Smokingpipes.eu operation, which has been in the planning stages for quite some time. Dublin had already been selected as the site for their European operation when Tom Palmer made the decision to retire earlier this year, so setting up headquarters at Peterson’s Sallynoggin factory made perfect sense with the acquisition.

Conor Palmer, Tom’s son and Commercial Director at Peterson, as the releases indicate, will stay on for a period during the transition, while Damian Maguire, who has been Peterson’s financial director since August of 2015, will step in as managing director. Joshua forwarded me this official press release, which Smokingpipes has also issued today:

Press Release(1)

While change is inevitable and often painful, today’s acquisition will be far less so than any in living memory. Peterson’s management changes in the 1970s and 80s came at a difficult time in the world-wide pipe community and were potentially ruinous to the company. But the company’s strong heritage as an Irish family business carried it through until a management buyout by long-time Peterson employees Jimmy Nicholson and Tony Dempsey, which was shortly succeeded by Tom Palmer’s acquisition of the company.

Tom’s interest in Peterson as part business and part heritage is, thankfully, shared by Sykes Wilford. In his blog post this morning, Sykes writes: “Laudisi is about pipes and pipe tobacco. I don’t simply mean that it sells pipes and pipe tobacco, which of course is true, but that the very soul of the business is steeped in the product. There are plenty of companies that do something. They, as institutions, might even know a fair bit about it. But they don’t love it. Institutionally, Laudisi Enterprises loves pipes. That love informs every decision we make. It’s the reason that other serious pipe people like to work with us: we understand what they do; we share their passion. Peterson then, as an organization serious about its tradition, its history, and its pipes, is a rather perfect fit within the Laudisi tent.”

We explore the remarkable achievements of the company during Tom’s direction in the “Dublin Era” chapter of the Peterson book, but I invite you to take a few minutes now to take a look back at Tom’s innovative Pipe of the Year series, the Dublin Era’s unique B shapes, the 4 Antique Collection reproduction sets, and the13 special collections released under his direction. Two favorites, apropos of the day, are the 2010 Writer’s Collection quartet seen at top, and one of Tom’s favorites, the 2002 Great Explorers collection below. Life is such an adventure, and to reflect on it and learn from it is one of its greatest and most difficult joys.

As for the Peterson book, well, as our layout designer pointed out, this gives us a rather tidy ending—the Dublin Era is complete. There will be a few minor changes, but with a little luck these won’t postpone the book launch at the Chicago show next spring.

So good luck to Sykes, Joshua Burgess (may you soon find the brew pub of your dreams), and the newly-formed Peterson – Smokingpipes crew.

Raise a pipe (and a pint, if you’re of a mind) to Tom and Conor Palmer, for their uniquely Irish contribution to the world of pipes and the international pipe-smoking community: Saol fada agus breac-shláinte chugat! Long life and good health to you!

 

 

 

 

84. A Visual History of the St. Patrick’s Day Pipes, 1998–2018.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! This marks the 20th anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day commemorative pipes for Peterson, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than by offering a visual history of the series.

 

History and Series Characteristics

Tom Palmer’s idea for an annual pipe took flight in 1997, when Peterson released its first Limited Edition / Pipe of the Year. The following year the company decided to add two annual commemoratives, a St. Patrick’s Day and a 4th of July. While the 4th of July pipe has long been gone, the SPD has given Kappnists (or Pete Nuts) many great pipes over the years, with none perhaps quite as marvelous as this year’s 20th anniversary 2018 and the original 1998.

The price-point of the series is at the solid entry-grade of the Classic Range, roughly equivalent to the Aran line in most years (with some exceptions). Another distinguishing feature of the series is that in many years a shape (or even two or three) from a special collection or high-grade series—think the Antique Collection for the former and the Sherlock Holmes for the latter—is often featured. Every Peterson high-grade issue has bowls that aren’t of sufficient quality to make the cut but must be used, and often these feature some fantastic grain. For most of the more recent years, the series has offered 12 shapes.

 

We know the series began in 1998 because Brad Weinfeld of SAG Imports was working for Hollco-Rohr, Peterson’s US distributor at the time, and during the course of our research on the Peterson book he took the trouble to send us the final sales catalog of that company, dated July 15, 1998. If you click on the image, you can see the SPD and 4th of July annual commemoratives described as “NEW,” as well as their wholesale and retail prices.

 

1998

The series began auspiciously enough, with a brass and acrylic sandwich band of the Irish colors and P-Lip. For this and most of the years, I don’t know which shapes were released, although they were for the most part taken from Classic Range shapes.

Two of the three images of purported 1998 SPDs I have show a light, matt finish. Seen above is the unique bent shape from the 1997 Racing Green / Claret limited editions. I can’t give you the shape number, because there wasn’t one stamped on the only Racing Green I have handled.

I also have a photo of a 107 SPD, probably with its original box and sleeve, with a stain that matches the RG:

As you can see from the two representatives, the 1998 SPD was released with a P-Lip. The mouthpieces featured the white impressed P standard at the time.

 

1999

Dustin Anderson and I both have XL20 SPDs (seen above) with a dark gloss finish and the tricolor acrylic and brass band. We both have assumed (at least until now) that these were first-issue SPDs for 1998. However, I have been able to find no trace of a documented SPD for 1999, nor indeed any pictures at all for this year. I’ve asked Peterson and searched all the usual places but come up empty-handed.

I have two hypotheses: perhaps the dark-stain XL20 Dustin and I companion are actually a 1999, rather than 1998 issue. This would explain the disparity of stain between this pipe and the two examples of the 1998 seen above, and also accommodate my theory that most years of the SPD feature a single trickle-down special shape. Why would the dark XL20 and the light Racing Green special shapes be released the same year? What counters this idea is the long-standing belief circulated by Pete Nuts that only the 1998 featured the acrylic tricolor band.

A second possibility is that there simply was no SPD for 1999, but that also seems rather unlikely given the series otherwise uninterrupted history.

 

2000

The Rare A3 from the Original Antique Collection

In 2000, the SPD series settled into its most familiar guise: some variant of brown-hued smooth bowl and a nickel band with Peterson’s over a shamrock over March 17 and the year. The 2000 SPDs also featured the beloved P-Lip vulcanite mouthpiece. Shown here is what must have been the collector’s piece, the A3 shape from the first Antique Reproduction series.

A Typical SPD Stamped Nickel Band

 

2001

Dustin’s 2001 SPD 408

In 2001, the SPD lost its P-Lip, never to return. Peterson seems to have changed directions at about this time, giving in to market pressure on the one hand and (perhaps) a lack of interest in promoting the P-Lip on the other. I say this based on my own hunches from research during the course of the book, and while a company must remain viable to survive in the marketplace, from a historical point of view at least, it was unfortunate.

An XL20 from the 2001 SPD

The collector’s piece for 2001 (again I hypothesize based on the assumption that there would be only one special shape for the year) was again the Return of Sherlock Holmes Rathbone.

 

2002

I would guess that the fabulous B7, pictured here, was 2002’s collector’s shape.

 

2003

An SPD 2003 X220

 

2004

An SPD 2004 X105

 

2005

An SPD 2005 03

 

 

2006

An SPD 2006 68

An unusual entry for the series from the Classic Range, the 68 brandy—this is a real handful of a pipe, absolutely magnificent to hold. More on the shape soon!

 

2007

The classy, English-style 80s bent bulldog: perfect for your favorite Latakia bomb!

 

The B10 appeared around 2002–2003 and may have been the collector’s piece for 2007.

 

 

2008

An SPD 2008 01

2008 was the first year of Peterson’s green SPD releases. I’ve included two illustrations to give you some idea of what you can expect. Craftsmen at the factory have told me they had a hell of a time in the beginning figuring out how to do a really good green.

An SPD 2008 05

 

 

2009

Here’s the undoubted collector’s piece from 2009: the oversized 502, from the short-lived 500 shape group. See what I mean about the spectacular grain sometimes found in the SPDs? Simply amazing.

 

2010

Here’s a bulldog, Irish-style! The now deleted B2, for all fans of heavy (in looks, not weight). This might well have been the collector’s shape for 2010. . .

 

. . . except that there’s also a fabulous B30! Maybe the exception proves the rule?

 

2011

The collector’s piece for 2011: a B40. . .

 

. . . or was it this D9 from the deleted D (Danish) shapes?

 

2012

The mighty 107 makes another appearance in the SPD series.

 

2013

As you can see from the 2013 electronic strut card, there were actually three special shapes released in the 2013 SPD (the B35, B58 and B60), one of the most remarkable in the series’ 20-year history, not merely in the shape selection, but also in the smoky-matt finish.

The amazing B58, the “rocking setter” from the Iceberg Collection, was widely admired among Kappnists at the time.

 

I don’t know when Peterson began putting sleeves on the SPD series, but this is the earliest I’ve sourced, from 2013.

 

2014

You can read all about the 2014 SPDs here.

 

2015

The second SPD green release came in 2015.

The 2015 box curiously omits the year of release!

 

 

2016

The D19 (formerly LT or Large Tank) from the Mark Twain Collection was the collector’s shape for 2016.

The 2016 SPD on display at the 2015 IPCPR Show. Ten shapes? Surely not.

Flattened sleeve for the 2016 SPD

 

 

2017

Electronic Strut Card for the 2017 SPD

The B56, originally the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sylvius, was the prize catch for 2017, signaling (in this case) the impending deletion of the Adventures of SH from the catalog.

 

2018

At the IPCPR show last summer, Tom Palmer said the 2018 SPD was intended to represent the Irish flag—the green (bowl), sterling band (white) and orange (mouthpiece). What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the pipe? It’s certainly the highest-end since the first issue.

An SPD 2018 X220

 

 

Paddy Larrigan’s 304 barrel-setter, ready for St. Patrick’s Day festivities

Sláinte!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 

Photos Courtesy
Smokingpipes.com
Peterson of Dublin
Dustin Anderson
Charles Mundungus