In the Summer of 1950

In the summer of 1950 my dad told me that he had a surprise for me, but he couldn’t give me the gift until he carved it out of a small block of wood.  In order for it to be a real surprise he asked me to go outside & play until he finished the carving.  I obeyed and went outside to play all the while anxiously waiting for the time to pass until my father’s work was completed.  The time crept by as slowly as a turtle crossing a plowed, forty acre field.  I waited & waited, and then I waited some more.  At last my father called me in and looked at me with his blue eyes & kind smile and asked me to close my eyes.  I closed my eyes for several seconds, and then he said, “Open your eyes, Bobby.”  Before my eyes I gazed upon the most beautiful carved hunting knife I had ever seen.  It looked perfect.  It had a wide blade with a blood groove, a hand guard to keep the hand from slipping onto the blade during use, and a carefully shaped handle that fit comfortably into the hand.  The  light color wood was sanded to a smooth finish.  I believe a light lacquer finish had been applied, but I can’t say for sure.

After my dad handed the wooden knife to me with his large hand, handle first, I gave him a big hug and ran out the front door as fast as I could and headed for my grandma’s house a short two blocks away.  I took a shortcut into an old city alleyway no longer kept up by the city, but maintained and mowed now by the homeowners.  A boy about my age came up to me soon after I entered the alleyway and asked to see my knife.  I knew the boy both from school and our neighborhood, but I wouldn’t describe him as a friend.  I viewed him more as a nuisance than anything else.  Against my better instincts I reluctantly handed the knife to him.

I could not believe what he did next.  We stood beside a small tree of 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and he took my newly made knife by the handle, and with all his strength, hacked the tree with several blows as if to chop the tree down until the blade broke off close to the handle guard.  I couldn’t believe he did that; and I couldn’t believe I allowed him to break the wooden hunting knife my dad so lovingly made for me that morning.  Even at my young age I knew a wooden knife’s purpose was for play and fun and not for using it as a chopping tool.  “That knife ain’t worth much,” he said as he dropped the remainder of the knife and ran home.

Completely flabbergasted, I forgot about going to grandma’s house for the time being to consider my options in dealing with my present dilemma.  The very first thing, I admonished myself for letting it happen.  “Why didn’t I stop him,” I asked myself.  “I just watched the whole thing happen without doing anything to stop it,” I moaned.  I reluctantly gave him the knife, then I watched him break it right in front of my eyes.  With lightening speed I planned to continue to grandma’s house and play for a time before returning home.  If my dad or anyone else asked me about the knife, I would say I lost it.  Until then I’d just be quiet and hope no-one asked about it and maybe the whole thing would go away.

That’s exactly what happened as I remember.  I never said anything about it, and no-one ever asked me about it.  I don’t remember what happened to the wooden knife, but I never saw it again, so I hid it somewhere and forgot about it, or I threw it away to hide the evidence.  I know now a good wood glue could do wonders in restoring the broken knife to like-new, but the fears of a 6-year-old boy stood in the way.  I know one thing for sure, that knife meant a lot to me in the summer of 1950 because my dad made it special for me; and that knife still means a lot to me because it’s one of the few memories I still have left from dad’s short time here on earth, 28 yrs. 11months & 17 days.  garland dale

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One Response to In the Summer of 1950

  1. nani says:

    I have to tell you dad, that I cried after reading this. I just can’t get over how young Grandpa Hesterly was when he died–he was my age. Then, you emailed me the picture of you and Aunt Joy with Grandma and Grandpa and you all looked so lovely and together. It seems that your dad enjoyed working with his hands artistically. I like to think that I inherited my enjoyment of taking the time to make a work of art from him. As always father, thank you for sharing. Love Nani Hana

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