This is an almost verbatim recounting of a story from my grandfather about how his father helped his family make it through the depression. The story also brought to light one of his most cherished possessions, his 1930s EDC--a small Case Mini Trapper in a home made sheath.
I now own this piece of family history. My grandfather, thankfully, is still alive and tells us stories like this on a regular basis, but it highlights just how different things are. In the 1930s a boy without a knife was like a sandwich without bread--unheard of.
My grandfather used his knife daily. As a stable boy he used it to dig out dirt from a horse's hoof. As a kid goofing off, he could whittle a whistle from a branch in about twenty minutes. In the summer time it helped him fasten a fishing pole out of a switch.
That small knife was with him from the day his father bought it for him in the mid-1930s until just after 9/11 when an overeager TSA official freaked him out, complaining about the speck of a blade that was on his belt, as it had been every day for sixty years. Worried it would get him in trouble, my grandfather retired his daily companion and when he found out that I appreciated knives, he gave it to me.
It now sits in a chest surrounded by high-end custom and production knives with steel so advanced it was inconceivable in the 1930s. But this knife, unlike the majority of knives I have, has the signs and wear of a truly used and beloved object. There is a noticeable amount of steel missing from the blade.
It has been sharpened probably about a thousand times. The springs are stiff still and the nail knick works fine. The sheath is also pretty useful still, capable of riding on a belt easily. The stitching is what you'd expect for a homemade item from the hands of a boy in the 1930s, but the context it is a downright marvel.
A while ago, my grandfather asked if the knife was valuable. I checked with noted knife purveyor and auctioneer Bruce Voyles. I asked him how much the knife was worth. I snapped a few pictures and sent them off. A few weeks later Mr. Voyles informed me that the knife was a mid-30s Case Mini Trapper and in the condition it was in, it was probably worth around $30-$40. Mr. Voyles seemed almost apologetic it wasn’t worth more. Frankly, I’d never sell it anyway, so whatever he told me was irrelevant.
The next time I spoke with my grandfather he asked me how much it was worth and I told him it was very expensive, probably the price of a very good bottle of homemade moonshine, you know the kind that starts cars and strips enamel off a bathtub. With that he laughed. The knife now has a good home, probably with only person that can appreciate it as much as my grandfather.
Check out more EDC info over on Everyday Commentary.
Images ©Tony Sculimbrene.