A LESSON LEARNED
By: Andy Oldham
Andy enjoyed sitting on the porch and watching each morning provoke the darkness to abscond with its nocturnal sounds of crickets and peepers. Colorful strings of filtered sunlight made their way through the mammoth red oak and joined with the song birds to announce the awakening of a new day. While others slept he sipped his coffee and allowed his senses to conjure up small memories of days gone by and how important it is tell his children about them. After all it would be the only way his ancestors would ever know him personally.
As a cool breeze blew across his face, he pulled out his knife. He never could sculpt anything from the small limbs he whittled. Oh, he tried; he just couldn’t make it look like anything but a stick with no bark and a point at the end. This morning he began to look closely at the cherry-wood, two-blade case knife he was holding in his hand and remember how he came by it. He didn’t buy it; he didn’t find it, it wasn’t a gift. No, he had to work for it.
Andy was a disorganize kid who was not only known for breaking everything he touched but also for not being able to keep up with things. During the 1950’s and 1960’s men carried a pocket knife with them at all times. Papaw had one, his Dad had one, and his older brother had one. A knife, in his family, was handed down by and elder when a child turned 12. A sort of passage to manhood you might say. Andy’s twelfth birthday had come and gone and there was no rite of passage presented.
Papaw was a carpenter and invited Andy to work with him picking ups unusable boards and trash from homebuilding and place it on the burn pile. One day Papaw walked up beside Andy and gave him a small wrapped gift. Andy was so excited; he knew it was his rite of passage. When he opened the gift he found an old beat up one bladed Barlow knife. It was hard to open, crusty and full of rust.
Andy’s eyes welled up. He began to step away in veiled pain when Papaw placed his arm on his shoulder and said, “You know that you have an issue with keeping things and not losing them. I am worried that if I give you an expensive knife like the one you admire in my pocket, you will lose it. So, I’m going to make you a deal.
Andy gazed at him as Papaw began to speak.
“If you can keep this Barlow knife for one year, I will give you a brand new Case pocket knife just like mine. You have to do two things. First you have to keep it and not lose it ‘cause if you cannot present it to me at the end of the year, I will not give you a new knife. Secondly, this Barlow knife has to look better when you give it back to me than when I gave it to you. Okay?’
The next year was really hard on Andy. He cleaned up the Barlow and made it look a little better. He lost it. Andy ran around like a headless rooster looking for the ladies. He couldn’t tell anyone he had lost it because it would mean the end of the agreement he made with Papaw. He wanted that cherry wood Case and he would look until he found the Barlow if it took him the whole year. A few days later someone left a note for him in his shoe. It read your knife is under the seat in Papaw’s truck.
He put on his clothes and ran to the truck. Looking under the seat he saw the Barlow and placed it in his pocket before they left for the building site. Papaw never knew anything about the loss of his knife; or, did he?
Andy lost and found the knife a couple of more times as the year went by, little did Papaw know of his exploits. As the year rounded close to its end, Andy sat on the steps to the back door and cleaned the Barlow everyday for a week. One day Papaw sat down next to him on the steps and asked if he was ready to make an exchange. Andy assured him that he was.
There was a sense of loss from the old one and a thrill in receiving the new special gift. Papaw hugged his neck and told him he loved him. Andy wasn’t sure what meant more that day, the exchange, or the fact that that’s God’s love showed through Papaw’s pride in his success. The exchange had many lessons for Andy. Not only did it teach him responsibility, but also that when he makes a choice to start something in his life, no matter what obstacles stand in the way, He should finish it.
Oh, and one more thing, always return things in better condition that when you received them.