by B.C., 2003
It was early 1940 and my late father was a junior in the university. Majoring in electrical engineering he would haunt a man's shop in town where various parts and devices were custom manufactured by hand by a true engineer. My dad had heard of men making their own knives out of truck leafsprings. Mentored by the old craftsman, who had never made a knife himself, he fashioned this knife with the tools at hand.
He volunteered after Pearl Harbor and eventually wound up in the U.S. Army Air Corps flying P-51s in Europe and later in the Pacific. He flew on D-Day and shot down one German Me-109. He primarily flew escort for bombers and later flew ground attack missions. He rode his Mustang down and made a gear up crash landing that he walked away from. He transferred to the U.S. Air Force Reserve after the war with the rank of Colonel.
The sheath is the U.S. M6 stamped "Barwood" and "1943". On the back he printed his name, rank, service number and home town. It is most certainly not a scabbard he carried during the war or afterwards. The only wear on the sheath is from holding this knife for over 57 years. I figure he tucked it away in a B4 bag to bring home for the knife he had made. It fits perfectly.
The knife is unmarked. Truck leafspring steel for the blade which has a tang that reaches the solid brass, talon shaped, pommel. The handle is made from stacked leather washers that he shaped somehow.
This knife in its sheath sat on the top shelf in his closet throughout my first 12 years of life. It was on the right side next to the wall. To its left were all manner of handguns he had acquired through the years. My brothers and I would drag stools in from the kitchen, tug the chain dangling from the bare bulb fixture in the closet, and peer at this trove without touching a thing for an hour. He had demonstrated to all of us the power and finality of firearms in the basement of our home. The concrete retaining wall only went up about 4 feet and then was open to the crawl space from there up to the ceiling. He would put us on a stool, with him standing behind us and holding our hands, and have us fire a handgun into the mounded dirt in the crawl space. I remember vividly the stunning shock of a .38 spl out of an ancient Smith & Wesson Military & Police model revolver. He said we could look at them all we want, but to wait and tell him when we wanted to handle them. This honor and responsibility he entrusted us with was never violated.
I remember that I was always intrigued the most by the knife, though. I'd sit next to him on the bed and carefully draw it from the sheath and study all the ripples and curves of the blade and the thrill of imagining that wicked tip slicing through a Nazi. I wonder now, what was going through his mind while he watched me.
The oldest of the three sons is the faithful caretaker of what remains of our dad's estate, and he sent this to me after the funeral years ago. It resides on a glass shelf with some of my old sheath knives. When my sons visit they always, at some point, go over and take them down and study them intensely. They heft them in a proper grip and enjoy how they feel and how they look in their hands. They know that one day they will be theirs.
Next time, I'm going to ask them what thoughts are going through their minds.
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