I suppose that every kid who grew up on a farm came to appreciate the value of a pocket knife.
My deep respect for the bladed treasures began with my maternal grandfather, Will Herod Brim. Known in the Riddleton Community of Middle Tennessee as “Mr. Herod” or “John Reuben” (and we called him “Pa Rube”), he was a pocket knife expert.
Long before I came to know him, he had perfected the skill of whittling. He could roll curled shavings off a good piece of red cedar with the best of them. Fellow whittlers were known to pay him the handsome sum of 50 cents to hone a razor -harp edge on their knives.
Herod Brim had a collection of pocket knives and whet rocks, which he maintained with the greatest of care. When he returned a newly-sharpened knife to its owner, he would show off his work by shaving the hair off his arm with a blade now “a sharp as a briar.”
When he died, he left me a two-bladed Case, known to some as an Eisenhower.
My love of pocket knives only increased while I was growing up on the farm. When it comes to farm work, you might describe them as indispensable ... handy as a pocket on a shirt. So, it is little wonder I have carried — or toted — one for most of my life.
In the 1990s and the first 20 years of the 21st century, I spend more than my share of time in airports. And all too often, I would find a knife in my pocket as I prepared to go through airport security … and they confiscate pocket knives in airports.
In those days, you could walk down to a travel agency by the name of Wright Travel, give them your mailing address and 10 bucks, and they would, as a courtesy, mail your knife back home. Eventually, the price increased to $15.
In later years, I chose to purchase a house brand of pocket knife at Smoky Mountain Knife Works called a Rough Rider for the meager sum of $9. If I got caught with a pocket knife in the airport, I let them have it. I simply considered it my contribution to the Federal Government’s crime fighting efforts.
That brings me to an evening at the world famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Years before, I had given my older brother, Tom, a slick, little, yellow, Rough Rider one-blader. I didn’t tell him how little it cost. Being more like my aforementioned grandfather than my other brothers and me, he had carried it as his pocket knife of choice for several years and had told me from time to time how much he liked it.
That night, Tom and his wife, Patsy, had accompanied Kathy and me to the Ryman. As we approached the front door and security checkpoint, Tom revealed the contents of his pocket to find the pocket knife I had given him.
He froze in his tracks.
“Jack, what am I going to do,” he stammered.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
“Give me the knife,” I whispered.
He asked, “What are you going to do?”
I had already “cased” the place.
“See that row of shrubs,” I said calmly. “Remember shrub No. 3 from the left.”
His voice was filled with grave concern as he asked, “What are you going to do?”
I replied, “I’m going to hide this knife at the base of shrub No. 3. I’ll come back and get it after the concert.”
He asked, “What if somebody steals it?”
I answered, “Tom, I’m sure no one will be rummaging through the shrubs in the dark tonight.”
He seemed relieved.
It was a great concert of Ronnie Milsap performing his greatest hits.
At the end of the night, I found the yellow pocket knife, safe and sound, under shrub No. 3 and returned it to its rightful owner. Pa Rube would have been proud.
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