My Grandfathers, Pocket Knives & Life

Nov 23, 2018Latest, Stronghold


As I look back over my life, there have been many changes over the past forty years. I notice more and more just how drastic the world has changed. Some of the changes have been for the better, but many others make me wonder where we will be in the next forty years. As a father with two daughters, I’m both optimistic and concerned for what the future holds.

The advancements in technology have played a big role in driving changes across many fronts. Our day-to-day lives are nothing like they were a couple generations ago. As I survey the ever changing landscape of America and the world around us, the biggest change I see is found in people.

As I was growing up in a blue-collar family with a history of military service. I cut my teeth spending time alongside my grandfathers. One grew up on a farm and the other in the trucking and logging industry. One raised and grew his food off the land. The other hunted to live off the land. They were the hunters and gathers of generations past. They lived through the great depression and one served in WWII. They were old school providers and protectors of the family.

So many of these experiences helped to mold me to the man I am today. It was my father, grandfathers and the people I grew up around who instilled in me a deep appreciation for all things authentically American.

When we weren’t playing sports, camping, hiking, fishing, or shooting. We would likely be at one of my grandparent’s house listening to stories, cooking out and playing cards.

One thing these men had in common was a quiet demeanor and they were always willing to lend a hand to help someone. They were resilient and not one to call a doctor or a repairman. They would have to be near death to even consider going to the doctor and if they couldn’t fix it, it probably couldn’t be fixed.

The biggest thing my grandfather passed along to my Dad was a man’s word is his bond. If you said it, you better damn well stand by it. My grandfather hated written contracts. He always said, I remember when a handshake was good as gold. I’ll never forget that. My Dad instilled that into me growing up. It is about follow through and closing the say-do gap.

This was back before you heard much about military veterans or the words conservative and liberal. I don’t think the words conservative and liberal were even used in daily conversations as they are today. These were old school American men and proud. They also shared another thing in common they each carried a knife. Not some large tactical fixed blade or high-speed automatic knife. They carried a small pocketknife without a pocket clip, with a 3-4 inch blade. This was a gentlemen’s pocketknife that was in their hands several times a day for various chores. They used this traditional pocketknife countless times throughout their lives.

Think of the old traditional slip joint folder with a handle made from ash wood, deer antler or ram horn. This is truly a gentleman’s pocketknife for every day chores. It is right at home slicing an apple, cheese, meat, vehicle fan belt or hose, a cardboard box, to opening mail. It’s functional from home, to work, to the farm or the garage. Bottom-line is these men were always prepared.

I heard someone ask, “Do you have your pocketknife?” They would respond by saying, “I got my pants on, don’t I?”

Although my grandfathers owned several pocketknives, the ones I remember them carrying the most was a Case pocketknife and an Old Timer pocketknife. One had a single blade and the other had three blades. They would keep them clean and sharp.

For my father and grandfathers, along with many American men, a pocketknife is an essential tool for daily life. Or as this generation calls it part of our everyday carry, (EDC). To me the old school pocketknife represents the men who carry them. They are hardworking, do it yourselfers, who were raised to rely on themselves in nearly every situation. A trait you don’t always see in today’s generation.

The history of the pocketknife dates to the pre-Roman era. It wasn’t till around 1650 that they were widely used and affordable. A cutlery center in Sheffield, England started large-scale production of the peasant knife, farmer knife and penny knife in 1700. The working class in England and across Europe used many of these pocketknives.

Over the years/centuries, many of these working class men would embark on the journey across the Atlantic to make it to America. They may have left their homelands behind, but they brought with them their peasant knives, which would continue to define generations of hardworking American men.

So who are the men in present day America that still carry pocketknives? To me they are the type of men who earn an honest living; work hard and stand-alone together in a world that you could argue has lost its way. Simply put, they are the type of men the world could use a lot more of these days.

Never Above You. Never Below You. Always Beside You.

Your Friend,


Shannon McGurk

Shannon McGurk


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