The above picture is of my dad’s old pocket knife.
Just some thoughts:
Legendary singer-songwriter Guy Clark died here in Nashville this past May, 2016.
I considered Clark one of the greatest at his craft. Songwriting has to be hard, difficult. Writing period is difficult but if one is writing a book, a novel they have “pages” in which to create their characters, their plot and tell the story.
Not so with a song. A songwriter has to very quickly get to his point. Thus words are very important. I have a very successful songwriter friend tell me a songwriter might spend days on the selection of just one word to use in a line. Clark was one of the best at this craft. I was raised by a father who loved gardening. I hated it. But when Clark wrote and sang about “Home Grown Tomatoes” I have to admit their was a slight urge for me to grab a hoe and weed the plants.
One of the all time “book” songs in my opinion is the song “Let Him Roll.” The story of a down and out guy living in “a one room cell” and never recovered from a broken love affair. Or as some folks I grew up with liked to say “he’s kinda run down at the heels” type of person. You listen to the words of that song and it is truly a book told in a matter of three or four minutes.
Another of my favorite Clark songs is a favorite because of something he wrote about that I so identify with on a personal basis. He wrote a song called “Randall Knife.” It is written from the standpoint of a son and the death of his father.One of the things the son identified with was his father’s Randall pocket knife.
I grew up in a time when knives especially pocket knives were very common. Practically ever male in my family I knew when I was a young boy had a knife. Not only had a knife but I had seen them use that knife. My two grandfather’s, my uncle and my dad numerous times I would be in their company and they would have their knife out. Sometimes it was doing something as common as whittling. I can even remember one of them picking their teeth with the blade of their knife. Ouch. I was fascinated how one of my grandfathers would clean and trim his finger nails with his pocket knife. How did he keep from cutting himself? A sign of a young boy moving into maturity often was when he would receive his first pocket knife. I can even remember in grade school pocket knives being played with on school grounds. Can you imagine such?
My dad died in 1975 I was thirty-two years old at the time. That’s about the age one learns life is not always going to be or turn out like one might have first thought. After his passing my mom ask me if there was anything of his that I wanted. I ask if I could have his pocket knife.
My father had a Randall knife/ My mother gave it to him
When he went off to WWII/ To save us all from ruin
If you’ve ever held a Randall knife/ Then you know my father well
If a better blade was ever made/ It was probably forged in hell
My father was a good man/ A lawyer by his trade
And only once did I ever see Him misuse the blade
It almost cut his thumb off/ When he took it for a tool
The knife was made for darker things/ And you could not bend the rules
He let me take it camping once/ On a Boy Scout jamboree
And I broke a half an inch off/ Trying to stick it in a tree
I hid it from him for a while/ But the knife and he were one
He put it in his bottom drawer/ Without a hard word one
There it slept and there it stayed/ For twenty some odd years
Sort of like Excalibur/ Except waiting for a tear
My father died when I was forty/ And I couldn’t find a way to cry
Not because I didn’t love him/ Not because he didn’t try
I’d cried for every lesser thing/ Whiskey, pain and beauty
But he deserved a better tear/ And I was not quite ready
So we took his ashes out to sea/ And poured’em off the stern
And threw the roses in the wake/ Of everything we’d learned
When we got back to the house/ They asked me what I wanted
Not the law books not the watch/ I need the things he’s haunted
My hand burned for the Randall knife/ There in the bottom drawer
And I found a tear for my father’s life/ And all that it stood for
My dad’s knife …..well it has laid on my bedroom night stand since his passing forty-one years ago…I see it most everyday…like Clark…I often have found a tear for his life.
August 29, 2016