Monday, October 03, 2011

Memory Lane ~ My Column from Sunday

I took an unplanned side trip down memory lane today when I perused through my souvenir drawer.
My intention was to write this weeks column about dog tags and I figured I'd find my old Army tags in the drawer. 
Instead what I found was Pap's old pocket knife. Pap was my grandfather on daddy's side of the family.

It's a bone handled Old Timer knife with three stainless steel blades and if he wore his overalls, that knife was in his pocket.
Pap lived next door and what I remember most about him was the time I spent with him building things when I was a kid.
He had a shed for his blacksmith shop behind the house in Sloss, where he built fishing boats, mule-drawn mining cars, and shoes for mining mules.
There was a sycamore stump beside the shed as big around as a Maytag wringer washing machine, and that's where Pap installed his 250-pound anvil.
For those who've never heard of an anvil, it's a chunk of solid steel that looks kind of like an overgrown shoe horn. It's used with a hammer to shape horse shoes, make tools, and to crack hickory nuts – well, that's what I used it for.
Pap had a fire pit where he heated shoes until they glowed the color of orange Life Savers.
It takes a long time for a regular fire to get piece of metal sun-hot, so he rigged up an old 49 Ford heater fan as a blower.
After getting the coals in the fire pit roaring, he'd flip the switch on the blower and it turbo charged the fire.
I can still smell the sulfur from the burning coal and I remember the sound the hammer made when it struck the soft hot shoes. Each time he'd pound the steel, sparks shot away like tiny lightening bugs.
When he'd finish a shoe, he'd grab steel tongs with handles as long as my arm, and temper the shoe by dousing it in a bucket of water, which made the metal harder.
Once finished, he'd flip the blower off, throw a little more coal on the fire, and take a smoke break.
His thick fingers reached into the bib pocket of his overalls, and pulled out a small cotton sack of Bull Durham smoking tobacco. With the rolling paper curved around the end of his finger, he'd pour in some tobacco, and use both hands to roll it tight. When he licked and sealed it together, it resembled a lumpy stick of chalk.
More times than not, he'd poke a dry twig down into the burning embers of coal and use the twig to light his cigarette.
The image of him sitting on that stump wiping sweat from his brow with a handkerchief, and puffing on that lumpy cigarette is the one that's tattooed on my brain. It's a memory that always makes me smile.
I guess I'll save my story about the dog tags for another time because the pocketknife sent me down memory lane and today, that was good enough for me.


  1. I love finding something completely unexpected that takes me in a different direction that what I was anticipating. Especially when the direction is full of sweet memories. I enjoyed reading this.

  2. What wonderful memories you have Rick.

  3. The memories that help shape the people we become are so precious. How fun to find that pocket knife and also pay honor to a wonderful Grandfather. Families are forever, especially when we keep them alive in thought and word.

  4. Love your word pictures. Took me back in time to being a young kid on the ranch watching my uncle who was a skilled blacksmith. Thanks for bringing back memories.
    - Joy

  5. Your walk down memory lane triggered memories of my grandpa. We lived next door to him and grandma when I was little and I remember him sitting by the fireplace smoking his cigar. He always had to have bread on the table even if he didn't eat any. Made the best Tom and Jerry's and would always sneak me a sip. Thanks for the memory jog.

  6. Anonymous5:57 AM

    You are always full of surprises.It is funny how some people(like grandparents) leave deep memories and influence us as we grow up...

  7. Anonymous6:01 AM

    Pocket knives and roll your brought back some memories for me too.
    You know, one of my Dads sayings was, "As long as your name is spoken and the stories are told you will never die.". Your grandpa lives on.

  8. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Discovery is an awesome journey...sometimes the find is pleasant, joyful and totally unexpected and when it takes me to the history of yesteryear....I squeal like a pig with delight ....BTW I am Sleepyeyed Rhon, I deleted that blog, stop by and visit me on my original blog:
    Look forward to your visit ....

  9. Ahhh, serendipity! For you, for us as readers! Gold in them thar drawers my friend, pure gold!

  10. Wonderful post. I have great memories of my grandfather too.


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