Brothers in Arms

I happened to channel surf past an episode of the PBS series “We’ll Meet Again” that is named “Korean War Brothers In Arms”.  This title caught my eye as I did a tour of duty up near the Korean DMZ and often think of my brothers in arms from that wild tour.

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Les on a Cobra crash recovery mission near the Korean DMZ 1979

I also happen to admin a Facebook Group dedicated to the small garrison where I was stationed in Korea, Camp Stanley.  This camp was in constant use from 1957 until it was closed for good November of 2017.

I ride herd over a couple of thousand soldiers representing 5 decades of service that have year-long hardship tours at that camp in common. They now reminisce together on a daily basis and find old buddies they haven’t talked to in years.  It is truly gratifying to see a couple of old soldiers take up where they left off, as only those that have shared hardship together can.

So, I decided to park the remote and see if there was anything interesting about the show to share with my buddies.

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Camp Stanley, Korea Group

I hadn’t seen or heard of the documentary series that describes itself like so:

We’ll Meet Again is a documentary series reported and executive produced by Ann Curry. Each episode introduces us to two people who were affected by momentous events in American history. We follow them on a journey of detection as they look for a long-lost friend, family member or significant stranger.

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I got a little more interested as I began understanding where the show was going…looking up long lost friends or others that had an impact on their life that they have lost contact with.

That played into another passion I have, which is family history and genealogy. I can’t get enough of shows like “Who Do You Think You Are”, “Finding Your Roots” and “Long Lost Family”.  I spend an inordinate amount of time researching my family’s history on various genealogy related sites and find our stories extremely fascinating.

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But that’s not what made me decide to put these words together.  One of the stories in the show reminded me of a similar situation concerning my father. The story on TV was about a man whose life had been heavily influenced by the heroic actions of two of his lieutenants during a period of heavy combat during the Korean War.

To briefly summarize the story, the young marine was from a very broken home whose mother was in the service and had left him several times, and he had never known his father.  Essentially an orphan, he joined the Marines to feel like he was a part of something bigger and to serve his country.

jo.pngHe was sent to war in Korea and on one particular occasion his artillery unit came under very heavy enemy artillery bombardment. All communications had been completely cut off.  This went on all day as part of a major Chinese offensive.

His unit, as well as many others, was in chaos and taking heavy losses. With no communications with HQ they were in danger of being routed…until these two lieutenants started making their way to each of his artillery unit’s gun positions, giving firing instructions and encouragement all around.

This young Marine was incredulous that these two officers were willingly placing their lives in extreme danger by moving from position to position, with no cover, and talking to each gun crew to calm them down and get them back in the fight. This is of course how the Marines want all their officers and NCOs to behave, but in real life the instinct to stay alive often keeps ordinary men hunkering down in their foxholes, which was the case for the young Marine.

That left such a huge impression on him as a young man that he never forgot it.  He determined to live his life with the example set by these two brave men that were dedicated to getting the mission accomplished and caring for their men, no matter the risk to themselves.  It affected him so deeply that after living most of his life, he wanted to reconnect with these men that had meant so much to him and let them know he viewed them as heroes and as examples to pattern his life. While he found both men to have passed on, he did eventually connect with their families to express to them how he felt about their loved ones.

It was at this point in the show that I remembered a phone call that occurred just after my father had passed away in 2006. I had flown back to Ohio for my father’s funeral and to help get the estate settled. One day we happened to be gathered around my parent’s dining room table, spread with insurance forms, bank account info, hospital bills and all the other various “important” paperwork from 80 years of life.

The phone rang and my sister Melody answered and chatted briefly trying to answer someone’s questions before waving me over and handing the phone to me and said it was someone that knew dad.  It turned out the call was from one of my father’s brothers in arms from Vietnam. He had served as a Platoon Leader, with my dad serving as his Platoon Sergeant.

They served together in Charlie Company, 1st Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment.  They were nicknamed the Jumping Mustangs as they were an airborne unit. As a reference, they were a sister unit to the 1/7th Cavalry Regiment depicted in the Movie “We were Soldiers” with Mel Gibson and went through identical training.  Both units traveled by ship together as the first divisional unit to arrive in Vietnam as the war heated up in 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) based at An Khé in the Central Highlands.

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Back in 1965 Vietnam, the man on the phone was a very green 2nd lieutenant, right out of college, that had suddenly been put in charge of leading 50 or so young infantrymen into combat.  A platoon’s leadership was typically a 1st or 2nd Lieutenant, the lowest of the officer ranks, known as the Platoon Leader, and a senior non-commissioned officer or NCO known as the Platoon Sergeant.

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Dad in Vietnam, 1965

The NCO’s always have much more experience than a butter-bar, a nickname given for the single gold bar denoting their rank. The senior NCOs, having spent years attaining their rank, had much more experience and had typically served in combat. The Platoon Sergeants ranks were usually Staff Sgt. (E-6), or Sgt. First Class (E-7).  There are then 4-6 Staff Sgt’s (E-6), or Sgt’s (E-5) that serve as Squad Leaders for teams of 8-10 men.

My dad was a career soldier with 20 years in the Army, having joined in 1943 and fought in terrible conditions against the Japanese in the Pacific theater in WWII, held the Yugoslavian General Tito’s communist aggression at bay in the Free Territory of Trieste just after WWII and held the line against Chinese and North Koreans on the 38th parallel during the Korean War.  Vietnam was to be his final war before he retired in 1966.

This lieutenant was calling, it turned out, because he had been thinking about dad and how, in his words, “he was a real old-school hard-ass, but SFC Profitt saved my dumb, green ass so many times over there”.

He just wanted to touch base to see how he was doing after all those years and shoot the shit. I could hear the sadness and loss in his voice after finding out dad had passed away only a few days before his call.

It was jarring that he would suddenly call after so much time had passed and dad had just died.  When I looked back at calendar dates though, it was a only a couple of weeks past the 40th anniversary of when they would have last seen each other in Vietnam.

So he may have just been reminiscing on the 40 year milestone or there may have been some unexplainable cosmic energy at work, or a TV show may have just tickled his memory, as it has mine. It certainly brought tears to my eyes to hear a total stranger speak of my father in such reverent terms.

Similar to the guy in the TV show, after his service he had just gone on living his life for decades, dealing with all the immediate needs that come up with work and family, as we all do.  But over time, and with age and experience, it became more important to reconnect with one of the more meaningful people in his life.

He reminisced how the tough old Airborne Ranger and veteran of multiple wars had taken a young kid (he was probably only 21-22, dad was 40) under his wing and showed him how the real Army worked and how to keep his men alive in combat.

He said it was frightening for him when dad’s 40 year old warrior knees finally got too torn up for him to go on field operations into the jungle and he had to get a less experienced Platoon Sgt. to take over.

But he said dad had trained him well, and he made it through OK.  I can’t remember all the details of the conversation as this was over 12 years ago. At the time I thought I could never forget, but I do remember hearing true respect and sadness in his voice.

A few months previously, after showing dad the videos I made of some of his Army service, including Vietnam, on Memorial Day that year, I remember him saying “Hell, you know more about what I did than I do”.  But that was after I had spent months digging through his old orders and records and researching tons of info in books and on the internet.

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Dad and I at the Moraine veteran memorial dedication May of 2006.  He passed away 2 months later.

I loved seeing the pride in his face as he watched the videos and added details he remembered to the stories, trying to put names to his men’s faces on the screen gave me immeasurable joy to be able to honor him that way.

I am at a point in my life where it has now been 40 years since last seeing my own brothers in arms, and can now easily empathize with how time has a way of peeling away layers of memory and leaving only the highlights…the people, places and points in time that get indelibly stamped into your memory.

I continued talking with the old soldier for a while longer and then gave him my contact information as I had a number of dad’s photos I wanted to share with him as well as the video that I had edited together from the photos.  He sounded excited about that and promised that he would dig through the back of his closet to see what pictures he still had.

Time passed, and I suspect with dad gone the urge to reconnect was dampened as the demands of life caught back up.  I have never heard from him again and, over time, I have lost, misplaced or simply can’t remember where I stashed his contact info, but the memory of that call is one of those memories stamped in my brain that I hope I never forget.

I’m the Son of a Picker-Man

With apologies to Dusty Springfield for the title, one of my favorite memories of childhood is going “picking” with the old man, an activity he loved and my mother detested. You only had to step into the garage to see he was a collector of all manner of previously used “stuff”.  I can hear mom shouting “Gordon, we don’t need any more of that old crap, I’m going to throw it all out!, with him hollering back “woman, don’t touch my stuff!”

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I’m not saying he was born to pick…but he could never resist no matter where he was, even the Korean war.

He never met a bent nail that couldn’t be straightened out enough to pound into a board.  Now, they may get flung into an old rusty Folgers can, mixed with sawdust, dirt and god knows what else and sit in that can waiting to be chosen and pounded straight for an eternity, but you never know when you might need a single 3.25” aluminum ring shank with extra-large head.

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He knew all the good dumping spots within 10 miles and we would meander from one to the next, checking out what treasures the imprudent had offered up to the more experienced palate of the expert picker.

The best spots back then (and probably still) were along the Miami River between Miamisburg and the Dayton city limits.  Vance and West River Roads along the West bank and East River Road on the East bank were particularly fertile grounds as almost no one lived or worked along the river back then.  They were usually accessed down a dead end “fishing spot” road that resembled the entrance to the Bat Cave from the old TV show, not the groomed levee banks, bike trails and industrial areas you find today.

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Banks of the Great Miami River much cleaner these days

He would holler “let’s go for a ride”.  We knew exactly what that meant…we could run wild in the woods and creeks along the river, exploring for snakes and frogs while he dug through piles of “stuff”.  He would load us kids in the station wagon and off we would go for a few hours of prime entertainment.

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Ready to roll

It really was great fun for us as we were pretty undemanding kids.  We were happy running the neighborhood, climbing trees, picking berries or wading miles up creeks, flipping rocks for crawdads and poking around for fossils.

As a rule, we didn’t get to go to fancy places (i.e., places that charged money or an admission) that smaller families took their children to have fun, so our expectations had a low bar set for what fun was. Just spending time with dad was fairly rare as he was usually working 2nd shift at Dayton Tire and Rubber.

Sometimes, there might be a specific mission in mind, such as finding some (barely) usable lumber to build some project he had in mind.  We would all get hammers and descend on a pile of old wood to pound rusty nails out and refill dad’s coffee cans at the same time.

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At least once a year during pollination season in the spring he would take us to old farmsteads that were most likely abandoned after the big 1913 flood, before the levees were built. They still had orchards that had gone wild and we had some fruit trees at home that needed to be cross-pollinated from other fruit trees. He would be busy cutting flowering branches off of apple, plum and pear trees while we dug through old foundations, ruins and out buildings seeking fabulous treasures.

More typically though, was the “let’s go see what we can find” drive.  We would pull off onto one of the many dirt paths, usually full of puddles that splashed the car with mud and brambles and briers to scratch the paint up with long, slow, teeth-grinding squeals as dad squeezed through the overgrown paths.

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Look at all that treasure!

These dump sites contained pretty good sized piles, deposited over many years.  There was some house hold garbage, but people were usually driving out to these sites to get rid of appliances and other “big trash” that they couldn’t easily get rid of or to avoid paying for getting rid of it at the dump.

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Gotta be some good stuff in there

Dad would flip everything around with a heavy stick, looking for washing machine motors, lawnmowers, bicycles, tools, old phonographs, radios and other electric gear for parts and pieces. 2x4s and other dimensional lumber was stacked in the wagon, nails or not.

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Typical pile

There might be old flower pots, household knick-knacks, old lamps, brass stuff, ashtrays, glassware, crates, you name it.  We were always on the look-out for bits and pieces to make go-carts, skate boards, push carts, bicycle choppers and other ways to injure ourselves like miniature Evil Knievel’s.

If we weren’t sure if something was a true treasure or not, we would hold it up and wait for the nod from the master. It felt like we were in the Coliseum, waiting for Caesar to give us the thumbs up or down, tossing it back down in disgust if it didn’t meet whatever standard dad had in his head.

Another favorite was just being down on the river itself.  There were a number of bends and log jams along the river that had treasures that had somehow fallen or gotten tossed into the river upstream.  There were always a lot of baseballs, softballs, footballs, kick balls, basketballs, whiffle balls and other floating stuff to be had.

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Digging for snapping turtles, poking at dead animals, jamming sticks in muskrat holes and prospecting for snagged fishing lures and bobbers rounded out river activities.

Sword fighting with sticks was prized action. My brother Greg and I were playing gladiator on a log jam one time and he hit me in the face with a good size muddy pole that left a good sized gash. Per standard operating procedures, dad poked around with a Zippo heated knife blade, digging for splinters…mom splashed it with peroxide and called it good with slapping a butterfly bandage on. Left a scar for many years, but it has faded away over the decades.

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Sterilizing unit

It was not unusual to come across an uncle or cousin down along the river as well.  They might be picking junk themselves, fishing or just plinking at cans with a .22.

One time we came across Uncle Pete or Uncle Shelby (Can’t remember which, we had a lot of uncles back then) bow fishing for carp.  He was out in the middle of the river, bow at the ready, staring down intently into the muddy water that was almost up to the tops of his folded-down hip waders.

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Random dude bow fishing

I was amazed because 1) He was only in knee-deep water. We had been told we would drown if we went anywhere near the bank of the Great Miami River. 2) He was using a bow and arrow to fish! 3) He looked very dangerous creeping around with a big bow in water you could barely see through!

The carp got pretty big and generally slow moving as they vacuumed up everything along the bottom, but it looked like grand adventure to me.

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Giant goldfish AKA a carp

We would eventually grow tired of digging in the junk piles, leaving dad to do his serious picking work while we wandered into the woods exploring. I would run out ahead, trying to escape the younger kids, with Greg right on my tail, Laurie chasing him and Phil just trying to see which way we went.

Each time we came back to a familiar place we would fan out a bit farther each time, enjoying the feeling of adventuring on our own in unknown jungle territory.  We were oblivious to any sense of danger, getting lost or being injured.

There were other dangers inherent to picking as well.  Worst perhaps, given my dad’s predilection for emergency medical procedures, otherwise known as poking around with that heated pen knife, was stepping on a rusty nail in the endless piles of construction debris.

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Ouch

Not only was there an opportunity for a tetanus infection, he had to explain to my mom what we were doing jumping around on piles of wood covered in splinters and rusty nails and had to go get our tetanus shots updated…again.

One more time…

There were often bee and wasp nests, chiggers, thorns, loose logs in the river jams, poison ivy, snakes…I have very vivid memory of running wild through the woods and stepping on a big snake.

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How about a bite?

There were low growing and high climbing viney plants that grew everywhere and hid the forest floor and climbed up everything along with wild honeysuckle, but I knew as soon as I stepped on it what it was.  It just had that feel. It wasn’t a little garter snake either, it was big and meaty and curled up and now pissed as all Hell.

Snake haven…

My blood went icy-cold as I saw it writhing around, striking at everything within range. I suddenly became aware that I didn’t know exactly what else was under all the kudzu and plants around me. I grabbed a stick and started back-tracking, heart beating like a jack hammer, whacking weeds with the stick like I had a machete in the Amazon jungle.

Not every trip was junk picking, some times it was just prospecting for new spots, or going to his pokeweed patches for a mess of poke sallet. He always knew what was in season, whether it was pokeweed, huckleberries, hickory nuts, fruit in the old orchards, paw paws or a wild rhubarb patch on one of the old farms. He could scrounge up a meal for free just about anywhere.

By the way, the whole poke plant is poison, especially the roots.  Don’t eat the stems or any purple parts, only the leaves when they are tender in the spring and don’t forget to boil your poke leaves 3 times, with water changes in-between. Now you are ready to go harvest some poisonous poke come spring.

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Pokeweed
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Mess of poke greens

This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings that dad had, and he had many. Opossums seem to be immune to the poison in poke, and are known to eat the berries. When we had Kool-aid stains all around our mouths he would start chuckling and tell us “your mouths looks like a opossum’s ass in poke berry season”. Use your imagination.

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Pokeweed berries
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Opossum ass

Eventually we would pile back in the wagon, and drive home all covered in mud and burrs, bitten up with bugs, punctured with nettles and briers and totally worn out. We would hurriedly carry our booty to the garage before mom saw it, to be inventoried and examined in more detail later.

What did he do with all this stuff you ask? Most of it gathered dust on shelves built of scavenged wood, put together with those recycled bent nails. Us kids might slap together some monstrosity from old lawn mower wheels and wooden crates to rattle down Orchard Hill as fast as we could before we crashed and burned.

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Classic styling

But occasionally, dad would have a project in mind and have just the item he needed, sitting on the shelf for the last 6 years waiting for its moment, or just the right screw or plumbing gizmo, even if it was only a nickel at the hardware store.

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Picker to the end

I don’t want to crawl too far into the old man’s head, because it was just great fun for us, but I think all this scrounging, living off the land, being self sufficient and gardening his own food was a product of growing up on a small tobacco farm in the hills of Kentucky, where his depression era family relied on getting by however they could.

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Dad with his sister Jean down in Kentucky about 1928

I pale in comparison, but I’m not ashamed to say I inherited some of the master’s skills.  I can’t toss an off-cut of hardwood, will stash a hunk of stainless, brass or copper away “for the future” and have my own cans of nails and screws to sort through when I need one “just right”.  Thanks pop.

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My own collection of bins and jars of nails, screws, washers and “stuff”

 

Now when I was a little boy… At the age of five… I had somethin’ in my pocket… Keep a lot of folks alive.

I was standing in the grocery store check-out line, vacantly looking around when I  noticed an older guy behind me with a boy that looked about 8-9 years old…most likely his grandson. I’m not sure how old the man was, but he was older than me by a number of years. Seems like as I get older everyone looks younger and younger.

They were quietly chatting and joking around but I heard the old man say “let me see it, did you lose it?” in the tone of voice that suggested this was a serious request and there was to be no clowning around.

The boy immediately dug in his pocket and pulled out a small pocket knife, a small 2 blade that looked like an old style Case or Schrade Old Timer. The kind of classic bone handled pen knife everyone’s grandpa had in the good old days.

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Schrade Old Timer

I said “nice knife, do you know how to sharpen it?”.  He put his head down, acting shy and said “grandpa showed me but I’m not very good at it”.   I thought, boy, could I relate to that. As a kid my dad’s knife was always razor sharp and mine always seemed dull as a day at church until dad touched it up for me on his old oil stone.

I told the boy, “you have to keep practicing at it, one day, all of a sudden, you will have the feel of it and make your baby sharp as a razor”.  He smiled with a kind of “sure mister” look and put it back in his pocket.

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Don’t cut yourself!

I paid for my groceries but kept thinking about when I got my first official knife. All this reminded of my own papaw Profitt.  I had played around with knives as most boys do, trying not to cut myself or get caught by my parents, with mom always saying “you’re too young to be messing with knives, you’ll cut a finger off!”. It felt like I would never have my very own knife.

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What mom always saw.

Then one day when I was seven years old we were down at the barbershop we always went to… George’s Barbershop, down on the corner of the block from my Papaw and Mamaw’s house.

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Papaw and my mom. You can see the barber pole on George’s Barbershop down on the corner, with the Market right across the street.

Now this was a classic barbershop, with spinning blue and red sign outside, two old school red leather barber chairs that leaned way back for a shave…

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…a place smelling of shaving cream, Brylcreem, Butch Wax and Wildroot hair tonic, with hot towels piled on men’s faces and the steady buzz of clippers or the strop, strop, strop sound as George touched up the edge of his straight razor on the old leather strop.  We were often threatened with getting our behinds touched-up with that wide hunk of leather.

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Tools of the trade. Strop, straight razor and shaving cream brush. George’s were in better shape.

It was the barbershop Papaw always went to, sometimes just to sit in the “next up” chair and BS half the day away jabbering about sports, work, old war stories and other manly stuff with all the other manly men. They were all blue collar workers from factories like Specialty Paper, Delco Moraine, NCR, Frigidaire and other big manufacturers that built Dayton Ohio.

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Speciality Paper, where papaw worked

Fresh out of the military, my dad also got his hair cut there regularly. My uncles and cousins went there, and therefore my brothers and I went there. It made me feel pretty grown up to sit around with the rough talking men, listening to stories they didn’t seem to tell when their wives were around.

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My brother Phil getting his first official haircut from George. Mom watching in the mirror

It was always fun to flip through the old men’s magazines like Popular Mechanics, Outdoor Life, True Adventure and if you were lucky maybe a dog-eared Esquire or Swank. Good times for a young boy.

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Manly magazines

It was best to remain quietly in a corner as long as you could, just soaking it all in, but the men always knew you were there and loved joking around with manly standards such as “how many girlfriends do you have, pull my finger, got any hair on your pecker yet, you need some whiskey to put some hair on your chest” and so on.  As a young boy in the 60’s it was a full-on man’s man hang-out.

This testosterone dripping palace of tonsorial delight became the traditional place for Papaw to perform his grandparental deeds of delight.  He would hand out various kinds of hard candy, buffalo nickels, silver dollars, odd souvenirs from the bar, stuff like that.

I remember him giving me a 2 dollar bill silver certificate that I didn’t believe was real money at first. I kept it in a special place until one of my siblings used it for buying candy.

So it was in this ultimate den of manliness Papaw told me to reach down in his pocket and see what was there.  Now, Papaw was always a snappy dresser when he wasn’t at work.  Button-down dress shirt, spiffy tie, nice shoes and slacks with pockets as deep as the Grand Canyon that held all kinds of the magical delights previously mentioned.

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Papaw looking dapper

I dug down, hoping for a 50 cent piece or silver dollar that I could redeem for a bushel sized sack of penny-candy at the carry-out across the street. There was some loose change so I felt for the biggest one and pulled it out.  Nope, keep digging he said. Went back in to my elbow and disappointedly found a lint covered stick of gum. Nope, that’s not it either, one more time.

Now, I had felt the pocket knife in there the first time, but quickly discarded the notion that it might be the object I was seeking. I was stumped as that was the only thing I hadn’t pulled out.  Could it be? I slowly pulled the knife out of his pocket, waiting to hear the “not that, you’ll cut your finger off” I had heard so many times before.

I got it all the way out and slowly opened my hand, expecting anytime to hear the words I didn’t want to hear. They never came!  I looked at my hand.  In the center of my palm was a small, single blade knife. It had scrolled carving on the silver handles. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen in my short life.

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Sterling silver knife similar to the one papaw gave me.

“A man needs a pocket knife” my papaw said. I looked quickly over at my dad, half expecting for him to tell me to give it back, or hand it to him until I was older. But he just nodded the silent “go ahead” nod with a grin. The next words out of his mouth were “Don’t tell your mother.  If you cut your finger off I will tan your ass with George’s strop.” All the men applauded and congratulated me as I stood there stone silent in disbelief.

There I was among men, in the ultimate place of men with my very own knife. I couldn’t believe it. I was officially a man. I opened the blade and carefully closed it, having been carefully sharpened and oiled by Papaw.

George showed me how to strop the blade on the leather to get it extra sharp…a skill that took me decades to understand and master.  All the men in the shop pulled out their knives and showed me their version of proper knife use and safety, many conflicting with each other.

Looking back, the knife was a small one, most likely made in Japan and commonly called a gentleman’s or gent’s knife, and used for light tasks such as trimming fingernails, opening mail, cutting string or peeling fruit. It might as well have been Excalibur to a seven year old me.

I cherished that knife, hiding it when I went to school to keep it a secret from mom. I’m sure she knew all about it.  Sliding it back in my pocket each afternoon, pulling it out and slicing apples, cleaning my fingernails like dad and whittling every stick I happened upon down to a toothpick.

I can’t remember what eventually happened to it, but from then on I have always had a knife in my pocket. I joined the Cub Scouts a year later and upgraded to a full sized Boy Scout knife with multiple blades and gadgets.

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Classic Boy Scout knife

Over the years dad gave me various knives and showed me how to get it super sharp on a stone as I practiced over and over. He always said “a dull knife will cut you faster than a sharp one”. I had the scars to prove him right.

One of my favorites was a Case XX Stockman that I could eventually get sharp enough to shave arm hair.

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Case XX Stockman knife

I have had many knives over the years and feel very naked without one in my pocket. As I mentioned, every man in that barber shop had a knife in their pocket. Most men these days seem to have stopped carrying pocket knives, even the small pen knives that every man used to have in their pocket. I like the pen knives…when I go to something more “dressy”, like a wedding or funeral, I change my bulky knife out for a slim pen knife, you know, in case I need to open a present, perform an emergency tracheotomy or clean my nails.

My papaw, dad and uncles always had a knife to open packages, cut a string or whatever task was at hand…including holding one over a lighter and using it as a scalpel and probing device if you stepped on a nail or got a splinter. Ask any of my brothers or sisters, I think we were all operated on at some point.

Now, I’m not going to belittle your manhood for not carrying a pocket knife (OK, maybe a little, after all, I became a man at seven), but I just cannot fathom not having such a useful device on me at all times. It amazes me how few carry a knife these days. I have lost a few at airports and concerts, but not in a while.

I have had knives made by Shrade, Barlow, Buck, Gerber, Kershaw, Victorinox, Leatherman, Spyderco, various Kabar and Camillus military knives and countless specialty knives for climbing, kayaking, sailing and woodworking. But the best knife is the one in your pocket when you need it.

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My M7 bayonet and Camillus survival knife.
$_57
Camillus Army pocket knife. Basically a stainless steel version of a Boy Scout knife.

For years now I have used a Victorinox Swiss Army knife as my daily go-to utility knife. A friend gave it to me as a birthday present and I would be lost without it.

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Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. Beat up but still going.

With screw drivers, bottle openers, cork screw, scissors, magnifying glass, toothpick and other gadgets I use it every single day.  But with a stainless steel blade, it will not take a really sharp edge like a quality Case XX, Schrade or other high carbon blade so I often have one of those in my pocket as well, and possibly a Leatherman on my belt for those handy pliers. You need to be prepared, after all.

But I would give every single one of them up for that little silver knife I dug out of my papaw’s pocket back in 1966, when he was about the same age as I am now.