Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rainy Day Memories

It was a typical early summer day in Independence, Mo. A few puffy white clouds punctuated an azure sky, and the air was warm and moist, but not yet so laden with humidity to be heavy.

I was standing in the driveway of the duplex where Great Grandpa and Grandma lived with my Aunt Ruby and Uncle Dave. My parents were off visiting some friends and left me with these distant relatives that I didn't know. I bounced a basketball, but frankly, I was bored out of my seven-year old mind. The day before, I was stung repeatedly by wasps on my lower lip which then swelled to the point that I looked like a Mick Jagger wannabe.

My Great-Grandfather sat on a lawnchair just inside the garage, watching me. Finally, he said "Come here, boy."
I didn't really know Great-Grandpa until a few years later, when he came to Michigan to live with My grandpa for the summer. I don't ever recall him speaking my name.

I put the ball down and walked over to where he was sitting. He looked me up and down for a minute, and seemed to approve of what he saw. He said "Did I hear you say that you are in Cub Scouts?" I nodded my head affirmatively.
"Do you have a knife yet?" I looked him in the eye, and said "No. We're not allowed to have them." "!@#$@!$%$@@$%!!! Why the !#%^&%$#@ not? God, what they do to you kids these days. Nevermind." I didn't know until years later,, but Granpa Cliff was a blacksmith for most of his life, which contributed to the heavily calloused hands and the salty language.
Then he reached down and fished in his pocket. He smilled as he pulled out a jacknife and held it in from of my face. "You see this knife, boy?" Again, an affirmative nod from me.
"This is yours now. Every boy should have a knife of his own. Did you ever whittle?"
"No." I said.
"Go get a bunch of those sticks over there, bring 'em over here, and have a seat. You're about to pass a Missouri afternoon with your greatgrandsire."

I did as I was told. When I retuned, he was sitting back down, with another knife in his hand, and he proceeded to show me how to whittle. Later that afternoon, I got a little enthusiastic, and took a piece out of my finger, which commenced to bleeding like a stuck pig. I started to cry. He looked at me and said "It can't hurt that bad. Why the $$@!!#@$%^ are yo crying?"
Through my tears, I managed to choke out "Beee-ccause you'll take it awwwaaaaayyy!!!"
He looked at me sternly for a minute, then laughed. "Why would I do that, Boy?" Cutting yourself is part of learning. And nobody else is going to take it away from you, either. If they try, you just give 'em this look, (and he gave me THE LOOK...the one I almost never use, that resolutely says "OVER.MY.DEAD.BODY" without saying a word) and say "Great-Grandpa give this knife to me. It is mine. You can't have it."

I still have it to this day. A cheapie Barlow two blade pocket knife. It went through Boy Scouts with me. It is by no means the finest knife I own, but it is the one I will always own.

Thanks, Great-Grandpa.