By Mike J.
Four generations and counting. To say I’ve been around knives all my life is hardly hyperbole. There are pictures of me sitting on my Dad’s lap with him cutting my fingernails with his Old Timer. Not cleaning the dirt from the nails of his two year old toddler mind you, but ACTUALLY cutting them with all the expertise of a professional manicurist. His Dad, my Pawpaw, was a whittler extraordinaire. He would just sit and whittle a bushel basket full of shavings, similar to Jed Clampett’s pile . . .
Or he would use his jack knife to whittle a plunger for my hollowed out elderberry stalk, providing me with a chinaberry shooter that would bring a blister to my little brother’s back, while bringing a WORSE blistering to my hind quarters for shooting my brother with said chinaberry.
So when Santa brought me my very own knife at age 6, it was my wildest fantasy come true. I could now whittle like Pawpaw, and while I did try the whole fingernail thing, I decided to leave that up to Dad. My two bladed Old Timer was my constant companion, and I treasured it as if it were solid gold. My life….was perfect!!!
But this story isn’t about that knife, or my Dad’s. And not even my Pawpaw’s. It is a simple reminisce of a winter’s afternoon, in 1989, a lifetime ago. We had just moved back to Mississippi from Texas. Following oilfield work had become my life, but now as a father of three, I had made the decision to put down roots and raise my family as I had been raised, in the deep piney woods of south Mississippi. Rednecks to the rest of the world, God’s chosen to those of us who call this sod home.
It was Sunday afternoon, and after church we sat down as a family to enjoy an NFL game. Being a Dallas Cowboy fan, we were treated to a tilt between our lauded boys and the hated Washington Redskins. About midway through the second quarter, there was a loud crash outside, and our 19” Zenith went to snow. I walked into the front yard and discovered that a sweet gum tree had decided that it had stood long enough, and had fallen to earth, bringing with it the guide wire to our TV antenna pole, and with it, the antenna itself.
Miraculously, the antenna itself was unscathed, but the lead wires going from the antenna to the tv were snapped. This called for some splicing of said wires in order for our game to resume, so I set about to get the repairs done. “Where’s my knife?” I said aloud as I felt in my pocket, but it was not there.
I looked down at my 6 year old shadow. The eldest of my three, Brooks, was my constant companion. He said, “I saw it on your dresser Daddy. Can I go get it for you?”
“Sure son, but whatever you do, do NOT open it, and don’t run with it.”
“Yes sir”, was his reply. And off he shot.
Three or four minutes passed, and I heard a blood curdling scream from inside the house. “MOMMA……I need you!”
At this point, one need not be Sherlock Holmes to size up the situation, so into the house I ran. Sure enough, standing in our bedroom, was that little 6 year old, blood dripping from his hand, but still clutching my pocket knife. “I just wanted to look at it Daddy, but then I couldn’t get it closed,” he explained, while fighting back the tears.
We stepped into the bathroom, and ran some water on the wound. It was superficial, thankfully, so his Mom cleaned it and supplied him with a much needed Band-Aid. To his credit, he was a trooper about the entire episode, and we went on back outside, repaired the antenna, and resumed our football game watching without further incident.
“Am I in trouble?” he wanted to know as we sat back down for the second half.
“No son, you’re not in trouble, provided you learned a lesson from the ordeal.” I said softly.
“Oh I did,” he assured me. “Don’t open a knife unless Daddy is there, and if you do open it, don’t try to close it!!!”
“Close enough,” I said. “And as soon as you get a little older, we will learn how to do those things.”
Well, I did have the opportunity to teach him, as well as his little sister and baby brother, the proper handling of knives, and guns. I had the honor and privilege to be there for my children as I tried to bring them up in much the same manner as I was raised. It was, and IS, the Mississippi way.
They are all grown up now. In fact, Brooks gave me my first grandson a year ago last week. Don’t tell his Mom, but I already have his first pocket knife bought for him. I think I will wait a few years before presenting it to him, but when I do, I look forward to telling him about the time his Dad went to bring his Pawpaw his knife.