Blog, Grandfather, memories

More on Pocket Knives

My Paternal Grandfather – Seated

Yesterday’s post about Swiss Army knives brought up a few memories of my paternal grandfather. I grew up in southwest Virginia, and all men carried a pocket knife. Young boys often received pocket knives as a coming of age gift for a birthday or maybe Christmas.

The knives were never like a Swiss Army knife. The one I most remember from my grandfather might have been a Case two-blade knife with a bone handle. He used this knife for everything. My Dad gave me my grandfather’s knife to pass on to my son and I think I may have it locked away in the safe deposit box. (Note to self: Give this knife to my son.)

These folding knives were sometimes known as a jackknife (and may be where the jackknife dive acquired its name). I do not profess to be a knife expert. There are thousands of different styles and types and materials.

Image courtesy of Pixabay (altered)

In thinking about how this knife was used, I was showered with memories. I can close my eyes and see my grandfather sitting on the porch step whittling away. Whittling is a term used to describe the practice of shaping wood using a knife. Unlike carving, whittling usually produced simple objects, often functional in nature.

For example, if we were roasting marshmallows or hot dogs, a branch would be cut from a tree and the leaves and twigs removed with the knife and the end whittled into a point. Stakes were whittled for gardens and often simple toys like whistles were whittled from a good branch.

Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer, Agriculture in Britain- Life on George Casely’s Farm, Devon, England, 1942 D9817, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Dowsing sticks (also called divining rods or witching sticks) were cut for the practice of finding underground water sources. A dowsing stick is cut from a flexible tree branch that contains a place where the branches fork. The ends were often shaped and designs sometimes carved into the length of the stick. The term ‘water witching’ has nothing to do with magical powers but most likely got its name from the use of a witch hazel branch.

It was important that these knives remained sharp. I remember seeing my grandfathers methodically sharpening their blades on a whet-rock or a whetstone – a finely grained stone used for the purpose of sharpening knives or other tools and implements. (Whetting means to sharpen.) If they had no suitable whet-rock a leather strop was used or even the leather belt they might be wearing.

Beyond cutting branches or rope or vines, the pocket knife was also used to peel or slice an apple out under the apple tree if they were hungry.

The knives were used for grooming, too. I remember my grandfather cutting his nails or cleaning out from under his fingernails with his pocket knife. Might sound gross to think it was also used to cut fruit, but these knives were kept clean and pristine and always sharp.

Memories are certainly a thing of mystery. I never imagined my post yesterday would bring me down this path. All good memories. It’s good to know my synapses are firing.

birthdays, Blog, Family, grandmother

My Grandmother’s Birthday

IMG_1315Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away at the age of 72 which makes today 122 years since her birth. She passed away on her birthday and maybe that’s why I always remember the date.

My grandmother, Bertha Rose, had a difficult life. Her father was ‘run out of town on a rail’ (I talked about this in an earlier post if you care to read about it) and she was only 16 when her mother passed away — possibly from polio. She married my grandfather a year later when she was 17. He was 34.

My grandfather worked for the railroad and they moved to Roanoke, Virginia. She raised her younger siblings so they moved with her when she married. As I write this, I cannot imagine how hard this was on all of them. As far as I know, she never saw her father again – he passed away when she was 19.


My father was born 13 years after she and my grandfather married. I know she had a stillborn child because she did talk about it. I have no idea when that was, where she was living, or how or where the child was buried. Things were so much different then. I just know losing a child hurt her deeply. My father would remain an only child.

She also talked about her mother, who was very strict and walked with a cane. She never spoke of her father except somehow we always heard he had been run out of town. I know from my genealogy research he had been married before and it is unknown if he just left his wife or if they divorced. Either of those would have been severely disapproved of my great- grandmother’s very staunch and religious family.

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 9.37.56 PMMy grandmother was a beautiful woman. Of course, I do not remember her as a young woman, but I love the photos I have of her when she was younger. I found an old faded negative of her with her hair down that I hand-colored years ago. I hold on to this mental image of her because I think she was a pretty tough cookie inside.

My grandmother worked as a private nurse. I am not sure where she received her training, but I know she was an LPN. I suppose it gave her some flexibility when they had to move around. The people she worked for held her in high regard and I know the work took a toll on her.

IMG_1316 (1)There were struggles financially. My siblings and I lived with her and my grandfather for a while when my parents went to look for work in another state. I think it was hard on them. I remember her sitting on her bed crying because she had to sell her precious black walnut trees for lumber. I will never forget that day. Those days with my grandparents were some of the best of my life and I will always be grateful for the love they gave us.

She was an excellent cook. She canned vegetables and made homemade jelly. I was often chastised for dipping my fingers in the hot paraffin wax she used to seal the jelly. She played the ukelele and as a woman of faith, she read her Bible faithfully. We often gathered at her feet while she peeled apples for us – each apple peel in one long continuous string. On Christmas Eve, she always slept with us — her four grandchildren — crosswise in the bed. That sounds like something I would do.

On my grandmother’s birthday, my dad always sent her a dozen roses. He always asked the florist to attach each of our names to one of the roses. The day before her 72nd birthday, she was hospitalized. My father left Ohio to drive to Virginia to see her. He did not make it before she passed. But the roses were there. I hope she got to see them.

Happy Birthday, Mam-Maw. Thank you for all the love and guidance you tried to give us through the years. You are not forgotten.

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time. ”

Blog, husband

A Man of Generous Spirit

Image by Pixabay

Day 362

Today my daughter went to the doctor and has been cleared to go back to work, but only because she has a sedentary job. She still cannot lift anything so she still has restrictions such as picking up her daughter — something a two-year old does not understand. I could rush back home, but I want to make sure she transitions well and to be honest, everyone is a bit apprehensive about me going home too soon.

I talked to my husband tonight and he agrees. This man is soft and kind and gentle and generous to a fault. He has been home alone for three weeks now. He has never complained once or asked me to come home. He has supported me every step of the way.

We have a wonderfully blended family as we were both married before. No matter who needs us, we do all we can to be there. It has always been that way. There is no his children or my children, they are our children. That simple agreement between the two of us has meant everything in our relationship.

We are both capable of caring for ourselves, thankfully. He is as good a cook as I am and has no issues or qualms in taking care of the house, laundry and dishes included. We have similar interests as well as extremely diverse interests. We do not spend every waking hour together. Maybe that is what makes this separation somewhat easier than it might be for others.

My little Florida family needs to find their rhythm without me. It will be hard to leave after this tumultuous time, but when I leave I will know they are in a safer healthier place.

I look forward to having coffee with my husband and falling back into our routine. The leaves will be turning soon if they have not already started. I look forward to taking our day trips on the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the fall foliage.

I am so fortunate to be loved with wide reaching arms that let me do what I need to do and to explore all the aspects of my being. I love him the same way in return.

But I am not ready to go yet. He understands that. And for that I am forever grateful.

Blog, father, Grandfather, memories

My Fondness for Tools

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Day 352

Maybe it was my relationship with my grandfathers that gave me my love of tools. I remember roaming around our barn where my paternal grandfather had all sorts of tools in a relatively basic workshop. Everything was organized. I knew early on what hammers and wrenches were fits for a particular task. His nuts, screws, bolts and nails were sorted and stored in pint jars whose lids had been nailed so the jars would hang neatly from the bottom of a shelf once screwed onto the lid.

I played with his bench vise, chalk line, plumb bob, and yellow folding ruler as often as I did with any toy I may have had.

It was with great satisfaction I watched him fix the old push button lock on our front door by applying graphite from a squeeze bottle. I thought it was magic. At one time he had been a cobbler and we used his small anvils mounted on short pieces of 2x4s to crack black walnuts.

My maternal grandfather was a talented carpenter. I have a table he made from ebony he brought back from the Philippines. Almost all of the furniture in my grandfather’s house he made. His wood shop floor was covered in saw dust and he had more power tools than hand tools. When I wanted to learn to make a quilt, he cut the small quilt pieces in his shop using a sharpened chisel.

My father spent some time as a draftsman and my brother and I used his t-squares as guitars long before we knew their real purpose. Later, when I was a teenager, he often tinkered with our cars and it was not unusual for me to be sitting in the garage handing him the right sized crescent or socket wrench when he called out from under the hood of the car.

Today, I have my own collection of tools used in my jewelry-making. I remember these men in my life and am thankful I was exposed to the tools they used throughout their lives. More often than not, I am the person wanting to stop by Harbor Freight while out running errands.

Blog, daughter, illness

A New Day is Born

Day 347

It is truly amazing what a difference 24 hours can make. Yesterday morning we were apprehensive waiting for my daughter to go into surgery. The sun rose this morning on a very new day.

The storm has passed and we were spared unlike so many who suffered so much. The storm is just now nearing North Carolina. Our family in Charleston are all ok. I have a friend in Wilmington and I know there is grave concern after the devastation Florence left last year.

All in all, we are counting our blessings. It is possible my daughter will be discharged today and start on a journey toward a more comfortable life.

Again, thank you all for all your positive and uplifting comments through this difficult week. I appreciate each and every comment.