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Granddad’s Pocket Knife

On the Back Porch

It was just a Christmas gift my grandchild held out to me. It was packaged in that hard plastic and tied to a cardboard backing with plastic ties. It was going to be hard to open and my grandchild was asking for help because she knew that I carried a pocket knife and that I would make short work of releasing that toy into her custody. 

I recently discovered that some folk don’t carry a pocket knife and I was a little bit shocked to learn that fact. I grew up in a rural part of Texas and a pocket knife was a tool that everybody was familiar with and most used it several times during the day. Many of the ladies even had one on their purse. 

When I was just a button, Dad was serving Uncle Sam and at that time he was a German prisoner of war. Had he been home at that time of my life, he would have given me my first pocket knife along with life’s lessons that are a part of the ritual of growing up in rural Texas. I have two of the knives he carried, one a small lock blade that was his Sunday knife and it is now my Sunday knife and a yellow handled Case Trapper that he carried for a work knife. 

Yes, I do remember my first knife and I wish I could tell you that I still had it, because it would be a special possession today. Over the years, I have owned several pocket knives, but that first one was gifted to me by my Granddad, Papa Hop. It was a one bladed Barlow. 

A small knife, but it was just the right size for a five year old cowboy. Papa Hop taught me how to use that knife safely and expected me to see to it that it was used properly, kept clean, and sharp. 

During slack, he taught me the country art of whittling. I say art, because an accomplished whittler could fill the floor with the thinnest of long shavings that were a beauty to behold! And then that same knife would peel and slice a juicy apple that you earned for being an apt student. 

The sad part of this story is that this prized possession is no longer mine. Was it lost in the heat of battle when it was tossed to lodge in the heart of an attacking villain or kicked from my hand by a contrary critter in the dust of a branding fire, or simply misplaced?  I don’t recollect, but I do know that it was soon replaced because to be without a pocket knife in rural Texas was as bad as going to church without your bible! 

A pocket knife was used for a wide variety of jobs, from peeling an apple to cutting the top out of a can of pork-n-beans. Also, a pocket knife can be used for sharpening a pencil, cleaning fish or wild game, removing a splinter, or carving a toy gun. Examples of creative uses of the pocket knife are numerous, and may include such things becoming a screwdriver, twisting a wire tighter, opening a locked door, or testing a battery.

In fact, the numbers of tasks that are made easier because of the pocket knife probably number into infinity. And many more tasks are accomplished because when all else fails, you attack that job with the one tool you always can rely on, that trusty ol’ pocket knife!  It is not only a universal tool used to master life’s problems; it can be the very thing to teach life lessons to a young inquiring mind. 

Probably the most important use in my life was Papa Hop’s knife handling lesson. His lessons taught me how to live my life as a responsible citizen. And as times change, I find that the early training on how to properly handle a pocket knife continues to touch many areas of life. That lesson has served me well all my days. 

Thankfully, when a grandchild comes to me for help opening a package, I will be able to use a good sharp knife to get the job done.   

Granddad’s Pocket Knife

Mem’ries filled my mind the night Granddad passed away,

Flashin’ back parts of his life,

He was a solid friend; you could count on him to stay,

Yes sir, him an’ that ol’ jack knife.


I well remember that ol’ yeller handled Case,

Granddad took good care of it,

He handled it with love and it had its own place,

In his right hand jeans pocket.


His Daddy give him that knife many years ago,

An’ he has carried it with pride,

To him, it was just a tool; he’d tell you so,

 Always had it when he’d ride.


An’ like any other tool, it was just routine,

That it got the proper care,

Grandad kept it razor sharp an’ always clean,

Safe in his right hand pocket there.


Like any other tool, its fate was to be used,

For the job it had to do,

An’ it was never meant to be abused,

I tell you, that was just taboo!


He let it be known, the knife was to be mine,

He wrote it down in the book,

An heirloom to pass down in time,

Not something to overlook.


Oh, he helped me be prepared for this day,

Through example an’ lessons taught,

‘Bout how to help others along the way,

An’ gain wisdom of answers sought.


I proudly picked up that ol’ yeller handled Case,

Knowin’ its history through life,

With a lump in my throat, I put it in place,

The right hand pocket for that knife.


An’ I thanked the Good Lord for Granddads loving care,

For how he loved his fellow man,

An’ trusted that his God would always be there,

Helpin’ him ride for the brand.


© Ol’ Jim Cathey  

God Bless each of you and God Bless America!

The Marlin Democrat

251 Live Oak St
Marlin, TX 76661
Phone: (254) 883-2554
Fax:(254) 883-6553