A year before he passed away in 1996, my father gave me his Old Timer pocketknife.It was the knife he carried for as long as I can remember. Always clean and sharp, it slipped in and out of his bib overalls pocket for any job, small or large. I can still hear him say, “A man ain’t much of a man without a good pocketknife.”
Until recently, I kept the knife in my jewelry case. One day, I opened the blades and found lint from Daddy’s pocket imbedded inside. It took me several days to stop tearing up before I decide to clean the knife and put it in my pocket, knowing my dad would want me to use it.
My dad loved people, especially kids. He had nine kids, all fairly successful. Seven of his children were girls, and all of his daughters answered to “sister.” He would chase us around the house trying to pinch us with his toes – it was funny to see him bounce around on one leg. He loved to tease and laugh, and we knew he loved us. I was his youngest, and because of that, he took a little more time with me.
He shared his great respect for God and family, hunting and fishing, and the importance of wildlife management. By the time he retired from the blue-collar auto industry and owning a landscaping company, he had built his retirement home. Then, together we created a catfish pond and game bird habitat area. We fed the catfish nightly, and we would linger long enough to hear the first calls of the bobwhite quail and the fat bullfrogs.
Those were special days. Sometimes we just sat quietly, and other times we talked about anything and everything. Daddy spoke of his childhood, riding with his uncle in a horse-drawn buckboard wagon from southern Kansas to Detroit to pick up the family’s first Model T Ford and how in his 20s he owned several dump trucks that he and his five brothers used to haul coal to manufacturing plants.
He talked of the day he met my mom, how he was mesmerized by her outgoing personality and carrot-red hair. He told me that on their second date, he gave her a lunch sack with more than $500 in it – which in 1940 was a lot of money – and asked her to take it to the bank. He said, “I knew if I could trust her with my money, I could trust her with my heart.”
He spoke of the lessons he learned from his father: Stand up for what is right; treat your family with love and respect; be a good provider; never be boastful; and never be cruel are just a few of the traits he passed on to me.
Daddy gave me a lot of good advice. He said whenever you use your pocketknife, always clean it and make sure it’s sharp, and then put it back in your pocket. In other words, always complete the job, clean up your mess, and put up your tools.
He told me a woman should have her own pocketknife so that whenever she gives herself to a man, it’s because she wants that man close, not because she needs help – Daddy’s way of telling me to be independent. He said any man who carries a big knife and is always pulling it out for show, not to skin something for supper, is not the man for me. He said small men carry big knives.
Daddy stressed to me that I should find a man who fears God, who is loyal and loving to his family, and who carries the right pocketknife.
Daddy, I keep your Old Timer sharp and in my pocket, I read my Bible every night, I call all my girls “sister,” and I carry your memory in my heart. Thank you for all the wonderful gifts you gave me. I cherish them every single day.
Macks Creek, Missouri
Read more heirloom stories in Keepsakes Passed Down Through Generations.