With the Christmas holiday just around the corner, it’s the time of year to give thanks for many things religious and otherwise. Personally, it’s a particularly happy time to reflect on years gone by and much simpler times. Growing up in the early ’50’s in the rural upper midwest, Christmas was a much anticipated time as it included items rarely seen during the rest of the year. Apples, tangerines, nuts and ribbon candy to name a few. And, every now and then, a really special gift you never forgot.
One of the first was a bow and arrow set that came with a ‘genuine’ feather headband back before we had a clue what politically correctness was. That Spring, my dad (much to my mother’s chagrin) gave me my summer haircut and my first ‘mohawk’ haircut. They always say the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is about 2 weeks, well, that one lasted most of the summer!! Shortly thereafter, the bow and arrow were confiscated after an arrow flew threw the kitchen window while staging an attack on a ‘settler’s cabin’.
I think it was the following Christmas, I received the BB gun that every red blooded American boy knew was a rite of passage back then. Into what, I don’t know, but it marked a ‘passage’. Again, everything was fine until the following spring when an unbelievably unlucky rabbit fell victim to my incredible shooting skills (read that as ‘luck’). The bad and the good part was that I felt an incredible sense of guilt and was counseled by my dad that a good general rule of thumb was, “don’t shoot it unless you plan to eat it“. Just a few years later this was followed up with the rule that “if you shoot it you clean it“.
But the gift that probably really stuck with me (and 50+ years later I still have,) was my Imperial brand, Genuine, Fess Parker aka Davy Crockett pocket knife with bottle opener, screwdriver, can opener and knife blade.
Gang, this knife was my pride and joy for years. It cut the twine on countless bails of hay, opened every bottle of Nesbitts Orange Crush it got close to and was used with limited success to open more cans of tomato soup then you can imagine. Seems like my attempts at using the can opener were limited to punching a hole in the top of the can and slowly shaking and pouring the contents out. Just never quite got the hang of it.
A few good lessons were learned also, such as get your finger out from under the blade before it closes. I can remember the first time that blade closed down on a finger. As a drip of blood appeared I had no doubt my finger was gonna drop in the dirt as soon as I lifted that blade back up! But it didn’t and the finger healed with a vague explanation to my mother about what had happened. It never left my pants pocket unless it was being used, shown off or just ‘admired‘. Didn’t matter if I was going to church, school or doing chores, it was a constant companion.
Sometime in my early teens, Davy Crockett kinda lost his grip on me and the knife ended up in a drawer. Lucky for me, my sister (8 years older then me) found the knife and put it into one of those decorative shadow boxes where it was displayed in her home for many years. About three years ago, she pointed it out and asked me if I remembered it. Needless to say, it was like being reunited with an old friend.
It brought back lots of memories including the fact it wasn’t the knife I really wanted!! This is what I really had my heart set on.
Yup, the small pen knife with a hatchet!!! To a 7 year old, that hatchet looked like the real deal. Chop down trees, build a genuine Davy Crockett style cabin…… Lucky for me, Santa Claus used some discretion in his gift giving that year! (It took me 50 years, but I now have both knives!!)
Those gifts taught me so much and continue to remind me of some of those lessons to this day. The gifts of fruit and candy taught me to appreciate the little things and how much those little things can mean later in life. The BB gun and Bow & Arrow incidents have stuck with me well into adulthood. They helped lay the foundation for respecting wildlife and acting responsibly. And that knife, well, beyond a lot of great memories, it taught me that just because we don’t get exactly what we want in life…. that’s not always a bad thing. Things have a way of working themselves out.
Here’s hoping in the next few days, all of you take the time to remember some of the great memories of your youth and Christmas’ past. AND, feel free to share them with us!! More importantly, I hope you can help make memories for someone like Santa did for me so many years ago.
Merry Christmas All!!!