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A boy and his barlow

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by SubSpace, Aug 14, 2016.

  1. SubSpace

    SubSpace

    622
    May 26, 2011
    When my Uncle Johnny was 9 or 10 years old, he got a Davey Crockett Camco barlow for Christmas. My father got one, too, but his has since been lost to antiquity. Uncle Johnny didn't have it easy growing up. When he was still in high school, he ran away from home and lived in a cave on a farmer's property several miles down the road. He probably could have lived there indefinitely if he hadn't started having parties there. He even carved, with his Camco barlow, a sign that read, "Johnny's Den" and planted it right in front of the cave.

    Needless to say, the farmer caught him, and Uncle Johnny returned home. Briefly.

    He volunteered for Vietnam. He knew his number would come up eventually, and volunteers allegedly got a better deal than draftees. Johnny served as a medic and came home with two purple hearts and only eight fingers.

    He rarely talked about the war. I heard people calling my Uncle Johnny a hero, but whenever I would ask him about it (child that I was, I could not yet understand how someone could be a hero and be reluctant to talk about it) he would just say he went to Vietnam, got shot, and came home. Often, after he had a few shots of bourbon, I would catch him holding the old barlow--a true boy's knife--as if it were an anchor to simpler, better times. Or a portal to memories that he preferred to keep to himself.

    Five years ago, he was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer. Whatever he was exposed to in Vietnam, coupled with a lifetime of smoking, had caught up with him. I never once heard him complain. Never once did he display a self pity that, quite frankly, would be understandable. He told me that he was not going to waste what was left of his life in an attempt to preserve it. And so, after the chemo and all the treatments began taking more than they were giving, Uncle Johnny decided to let nature take over.

    Around this time, the Lick Creek Barlows became available. I had thought Uncle Johnny might like one, but I failed in my quest to get my hands on one. I don't think Uncle Johnny would have particularly cared. He wasn't a knife nut, clearly. I believe he carried that knife more for the memories it held than the utility it could provide. Davey Crockett's name is barely visible on the black synthetic handle.

    Out of the blue, Uncle Johnny answered my question about his heroism. He sent me a link to a website that contained an audio file of a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who was trying to extract soldiers from a hilltop that had come under fire. Medics were trying to reach the wounded and being cut down from all sides. Uncle Johnny, though he had been shot up himself, was the last medic standing that day.

    He passed away shortly after sending me that file. After the funeral, my father hugged me. He had something in his hand. It was the the old Christmas barlow.

    I was fortunate enough to attend the GEC Rendezvous, and I got to meet Charlie and Lyle--fantastic gentlemen. And I was lucky to have been able to get a Lick Creek barlow from Charlie himself. My own life has been infinitely easier than my Uncle Johnny's ever was, but I will no doubt find myself pulling that shiny new barlow from my pocket and watching as each memory I create with it adds patina and character.

    There is a wonderful thread on this forum titled, "What makes a good, traditional barlow?"

    There are many, many answers.

    But for me, the answer is, "memories."
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
  2. 1 ADAM12

    1 ADAM12

    Nov 22, 2013
    Great post..., thank you.
     
  3. Jack Black

    Jack Black Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 2, 2005
    Fantastic post! Your Uncle Johnny sounds like a great guy. Sorry for your loss. That's a real special Barlow :thumbup:
     
  4. Ernie1980

    Ernie1980 Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 19, 2012
    Thanks for sharing! That is a terrific piece of family history you have there:thumbup:
     
  5. jackknife

    jackknife

    Oct 2, 2004
    So many people never understand how a small object can be such a repository of memories. Your wonderful Uncle knew, and we on the porch know. He sounds like someone who would be very welcome here on the porch. With his portal to memories!

    And that is what makes that old Davy Crockett Barlow a priceless object. A true family treasure.
     
  6. glennbad

    glennbad Knife Moddin' Fool Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 13, 2003
    Memories and history like that turn ordinary knives into priceless treasures!

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  7. blademan 13

    blademan 13 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 25, 2000
    I've always said the most valuable knives are the ones that possess the human element. Thanks for sharing your story.:thumbup:
     
  8. GasMan1

    GasMan1 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 27, 2015
    As I've gotten older I have come realize what being truly rich means. And it looks like you have too. :thumbup: Great post.
     
  9. TinyDog

    TinyDog Gold Member Gold Member

    961
    Feb 28, 2015
    Awesome story.... Hang onto that Lick creek... it will always be a reminder of your uncle.
     
  10. PNWJimbo

    PNWJimbo

    711
    Sep 29, 2015
    Wow, what and incredible story and post man. Dudes like uncle John are rare. Can you post a pic of the old Crockett next to your new lick creek?
     
  11. paulhilborn

    paulhilborn Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Wow, a wonderful post of wonderful memories. A family heirloom for sure.

    Thanks for posting this:thumbup:
     
  12. hamsco

    hamsco Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 30, 2015
    Once again I am blown away by this website and the people who post their stories. Thank you for sharing.
     
  13. RobbW

    RobbW Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wonderful and tragic account. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad you have his Barlow to remember your uncle and his life lessons by.
     
  14. Jolipapa

    Jolipapa Basic Member Basic Member

    Jun 4, 2015
    A very moving story. And a cherished knife for you now. :)
     
  15. SubSpace

    SubSpace

    622
    May 26, 2011
    Thank you all for the kind replies. Here's a pic of the Crockett with the Lick Creek.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
     
  16. 5K Qs

    5K Qs Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 20, 2014
    That's a thoughtful, touching story, Subspace! :thumbup:
    Thanks for posting, and thanks for the photos, too! :cool:

    - GT
     
  17. btb01

    btb01 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 26, 2008
    Thank you for sharing, SubSpace. Very nice story! :thumbup:
     
  18. BearBug

    BearBug

    501
    Jun 18, 2015
    Thank you for this post. A great write up. This is how and why knives matter!
     
  19. PNWJimbo

    PNWJimbo

    711
    Sep 29, 2015
    Thanks for the picture update! They look great together with the single lined bolsters. The saw on that TC is purdy too. They're both just lookers in general.

    Thanks again.
     
  20. pmek5

    pmek5 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 27, 2007
    What a great story, and a very special knife to carry it on to future family generations. Thank you for sharing.
     

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