When I was growing up I never had the opportunity to know my paternal grandfather. I was born in December 1980 and he died in March of 1981. While it had later ramifications, from one perspective it was probably a blessing that I was born prematurely (my due date wasn’t until sometime in March from what I’m told) so that, at the very least, he got to hold me before he died.  He was a house painter and died in his later 50’s after a struggle with leukemia.  My dad has always suspected that something in the lead-based paint that he worked with for so many years as he worked himself to the bone to raise eight children contributed to the disease.  I don’t know if there was or even could be a direct connection, but doubtless the way he lived his life did contribute.  At any rate, because he passed away when I was just a baby, I knew my dad’s dad primarily from stories, family pictures, random comments and two collections he left to me.

One of the things my grandpa left me were a number of 50¢ pieces and silver dollars.  He also left me something else.  He was a knife collector and while he didn’t have very many valuable knives, he did have an assortment that was interesting and unique.  As I was growing up, I would often get the old ammo box that my dad had stored the knives in and use what strength I had in my young limbs to move it to the middle of the floor in my parent’s bed room in order to deposit the contents on the floor and look at the different styles, materials and inlays.  When I was very young, of course, I wasn’t allowed to actually carry a pocket knife… at least not one that I could open.  Instead, my dad found one that had aged shut and was impossible for my small fingers to pry apart, so I carried that one until I was in kindergarten, when I got my first real (and very small) pocket knife.  I still remember the time I got in trouble in Kindergarten because I forgot to take the knife out of my jacket pocket from the weekend and wound up being discovered armed with a deadly weapon at school.  The horror.  Luckily, I had a wise and experienced teacher (I didn’t know it then of course, but she had actually already taught education at the university level before she began teaching elementary school again).  Rather than calling in the police, she confiscated my blade and told me I could have it back at the end of the year.  I was a fretful child though, and didn’t like being in trouble, and was so flustered by the experience that I missed the announcement for my bus and wound up having to be driven home by said Kindergarten teacher, who of course told my very surrprised mom what had happened.  Of course, neither of these things would happen today.  The world has changed since 1985 and now I would’ve probably been tazed and taken into police custody… if my teacher had decided to give me a ride home in today’s environment, the same thing would happen to her.

Benchmade McHenry & Williams Limited Edition.

Benchmade McHenry & Williams Limited Edition.

Over the years, I’ve been amused at the horror expressed by some people at the prospect of someone carrying a pocket knife as a child.  I recall being especially amused when our home econimics teacher in the eight grade couldn’t grasp the fact that one of my hobbies at that point was knife collecting.  “Your parents let you have knives!?” she said.  Well, maybe that was more a comment on me than anything else. :-p  But really, it shouldn’t have been surprising given our location in the South and in the mountains.  I would’ve been odd in my family to not carry a pocket knife.  I was strange enough because I didn’t hunt.

All that  is to say that carrying a pocket knife is a cultural, familial and personal tradition for me, and only reluctantly do I not carry one with me.  I still have my grandpa’s collection, to which I add special collectors items to every so often.  But rather than the standard Case XX or other traditional folder, I’ve come to appreciate modern folders like those produced by companies like Gerber, Spyderco and especially Benchmade.

This past June, Anna and I made the trip to California for my brother-in-law’s wedding, and somehow my knife disappeared from our checked baggage on the return flight.  After a few weeks of frustration at reaching to my side pocket in order to get my knife out to open a box or perform some other task, I decided it was time to find a replacement to the Benchmade Griptillian I’d been carrying for several years.

After looking around a bit, I settled upon the knife pictured above: the Benchmade McHenry & Williams 707 Sequel limited edition.  The specific version I have was sold only by Bass Pro Shop.  Overall, I’ve been very happy with it.  It’s light, but still feels substantial enough in the hand, the drop-point blade is well designed at at a little under 3″ is just the right length.  Above all, the blade is extremely sharp and holds an edge quite well.  I especially appreciate the wooden inlay and the finish on this model as it makes it look a bit more formal than some of the others.  If you’re in the market for a new pocket knife, I recommend it highly.

So now you know a bit more about one of my old passions.  Let me know if you have any of your own.

And, as someone else put it: every man should carry a pocket knife.

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