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A gift from a friend.

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by jackknife, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. jackknife


    Oct 2, 2004
    Sometimes an object can hold and bring back strong memories. A vase your mom always kept fresh flowers in, an old pipe dad smoked after dinner. Or an old pocket knife. I think getting older has made some changes in my perspective. We get old, and see things in a whole different light. Sometimes we see things that went right over our heads before.

    When I was fresh out of the army, and was just getting serious about traditional archery, an un-expected aid came from someone I didn't think of. I had met Bill Moran in the late 1960's, when I read about him in a Washington Post article about a guy up in Middletown Maryland who made knives. I had known of Bo Randall, and had a few of his knives, so I took a drive up. There I fond this little white cement block building that looked inside like a tornado had blown through. Organized chaos seemed a good way to describe the inside of the shop. I didn't know the owner at that point, but I had brought along a few knives to get sharpened, but I could't find a soul around. The door was open to the very warm summer day, and I head a noise out the back door, that was also open. I poked my head out and saw a guy shooting an old fashioned long bow. He released the arrow as I watched, and the shaft flew downrange right into a cluster of arrows in the dead center of a excelsior bale.

    "Hello, are you Mr. William Moran?" I asked.

    The man with the bow looked around at me, and made a good humored reply,

    "I was when I woke up this morning, so I may be. What can I do for you?"

    I was a little hesitant, facing the famous man at last, but I told him I had some knives to be sharpened. He told me to bring them in and he'll take care of them right off. I did so, and as I watched him put a new edge on some knives, I saw how he did have a fine touch with the steel. They were shaving sharp in no time. All for a few dollars. As he was sharpening my knives, I had taken out my pipe and loaded it and had got it going good. Bill looked at my pipe and made the remark how he didn't see many people with Petersons. This of course started a whole other conversation that went on for quite a while. We both were dedicated pipe smokers, so a common ground was found. Then the subject of archery came up. I made mention of how I had been trying to shoot a old recurve Ben Pearson bow with little luck.

    "Well, next time you come up, bring it and we'll try to figure out what you're not doing." Bill said.

    I was a little taken aback, but I was to find out later that this was Bill Moran's nature, always trying to help or teach those who needed. And he was a good teacher.

    The week passed slowly, but finally Saturday came, and I went dashing up to the little building on Rt 40, only to find it deserted. As I was dealing with my dejection, an old green and white VW microbus rattled up with Bill at the wheel. Now this was funny, because Bill got out of the window bus and looked at my khaki tan bug siting there and smiled.

    "Well, you smoke a good pipe, and drive a good car, so lets see if we can get you shooting a stick bow right!" he said.

    He did. I think I learned more from that man about getting an arrow down range than any other three sources. Along the way conversations about pipes, guns, knives, and history took place and I felt like a dried up sponge soaking up moisture and knowledge. I think Bill took the place of teacher, role model, mentor, and father confessor to me. Always teaching, but in a way that he didn't seem to be teaching. More like friendly advise from a favorite uncle. Did I mention we talked a lot about knives? I think I had a few major attitude changes take place in that one room shop.

    While we talked about many things, I noticed that Bill would fiddle or whittle with his pocket knife. It was an interesting knife, one single blade set in a stag handle that was actually a single piece of crown stag that had been split to make two mirror scales. A simple slip joint single blade folder, it looked like it had a ton of character from years of use and carry. The stag was already that soft buttery smooth texture from years of handling, and it was sharp enough that the slivers of wood he shaved off a piece of scrap lumber were tissue thin. You could read a newspaper through them. Intrigued by the knife, I asked him about it, finally.

    "Why this old thing is my first handmade knife. Not that I made it, but it was the lesson on how to make a folding knife." he said. " We had some German P.O.W.'s on the farm during the war, and this nice old fella that was one of them had worked in the Solingen knife trade before the war. Albert was his name, and he showed me a lot. "

    Bill went on to tell how the old German guy was put in the blacksmith shop because of both his knowledge of how to forge weld for repairs, and he was not really fit enough to work the fields. A combination of injuries before being captured and age was affecting him, so he was put in the shop. The whole time Bill is telling this story, he had handed me the knife, and I was chicken eyeing and coon fingering it to beat the band. It was a grand old knife, and Bill liked it so much, he didn't bother with any other pocket knife. It had been with him constantly since about 1943. I was reluctant to hand it back.

    Over the years we had a deepening friendship, and went to pipe shows, archery shows, and even knife shows together. Every time Bill took that knife out of his pocket to cut something, I felt my eyes glued to it. There was something so special about it, but I couldn't put a finger on it. It seemed somehow both plain and exotic at the same time. And the maker, the old German guy named Albert, had made the knife so that it somehow felt like it was crafted just for you.

    As the years past, I finally got to be a decent shot with a traditional bow. After a while I found myself with a small collection of stick bows, and Bill and I hit the local bow shoots. The three-D shoots had started to become popular, and it was worth my time to see Bill amaze a lot of the more modern folks with all the wheels and pulleys on their bows. He seemed to be able to just think the arrow onto the target. Even to this day, I sometimes wonder if he had an alter ego named Yoda.

    Sometimes in the mid 1980's he retired his old P.O.W. made knife and started carrying a nice stag handle Hen And Rooster stockman. Beautiful stag like only the Germans could do, with thin razor blade sharp blades nested together in a trim package. The action was like warm butter when you pulled open a blade. It became Bill's everyday pocket knife, though the term wasn't in use back then.

    One day I went up to his shop to meet up with him to go to a pipe show over at the Holiday Inn near the airport. Many years had passed, and I pulled up in front of the familiar white shop and his VW Rabbit pickup was there waiting. Inside I found him touching up the edge of his old P.O.W. made pocket knife.

    "Taking the old soldier out of retirement, Bill?" I asked him.

    Bill took a moment to answer.

    "No, just touching up the blade before I give it away to friend." he said calmly.

    ' Give it away' I thought!? I felt amazed, like somehow the sun rose in the west. For one, I never thought Bill would part with that knife, he'd carried it so long. Another, I felt intense jealousy toward the unknown person getting what I considered a treasure.

    Bill handed me the knife and I felt the edge that he had put on it, and it grabbed at my thumb print, eager to cut. I went to hand the knife back and Bill put both hands in the pockets of his jeans and stared at me. Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, I didn't get it. I kept on holding the knife out to Bill wondering why he stuck his hands in his pockets and wouldn't take the knife back. It took a bit, but the humorous glint in Bill's light green eyes finally made me realize what was going on here. I was hardly eloquent.

    "Oh sh-- you're giving me this knife!!!???" I blurted out. "Are you sure? I mean…holy crap…I don't know what to say!!!

    Needles to say I was blathering like an idiot.

    "Well Carl old boy, a simple thank you is usually said somewhere about now." he said with that smile of his.

    We went off to the pipe show, and I vaguely remember looking at pipes, and even bought a nice little Peterson Tankard for 10 bucks that was in great condition. But they are hazy memories in the shadow of the memory of William F. Moran giving me his pocket knife that he carried for at least 40 years. I don't now if I took my hand out of my pocket the whole afternoon. I must have, I paid for a pipe, joined some pipe aficionados for lunch, and all that would have needed two hands. I know Bill was pleased at my reaction, and as we drove along in his VW, I remember openly fondling that knife. Of course this was not a bad thing, as Bill's driving left a bit to be desired. Bill often left squealing brakes and blowing horns in his wake, along with shouted curses. But that afternoon all I could see was that knife.

    It's been ten years now that Bill's been gone. Time has moved on, I'm living in Texas now, and sometimes I miss my old friends. We drove back to Maryland recently and had a chance to see the old friends again that are still here. But looking at that old knife, I can still see and hear the arrow smacking into the target, smell that Dunhill 965 that Bill loved in his well used Peterson's. It amazes me that a pocket size item can hold all those memories.

    Bill's knife and his favorite old Peterson meerschaum pipe that smoked the heck out of.
    [​IMG][/url]Untitled by Carl Levitan, on Flickr[/IMG]
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2016
    Storm 8593 likes this.
  2. joeradza

    joeradza Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 6, 2014
    One of the nicest things I've ever read in my 70 years. Nothing like a friend.

  3. r redden

    r redden Platinum Member Platinum Member

    May 23, 2015
    Great story Carl I really enjoy your writings. By the way have I ever mentioned you should write a book. :D
  4. Will Power

    Will Power

    Jan 18, 2007
    The best teacher or mentor is the one who inspires their pupils and friends, treats them as equals merely lacking knowledge or skill. It's a passing on thing and it is never forgotten. He wanted you to have that knife Carl, as not only a mark of friendship but acknowledgement, he knew it was right to pass it on where it would be esteemed, and the right moment. Lucky for both of you.

    The story behind that knife has always intrigued me, a hand-made knife by a POW far from his home in not the best of circumstances for anybody, but he too wanted to convey something, passing on values skills, hope? That's a noble thing actually. War may be glorified by people, it brings out courage of all sorts for sure, but it is an ultimate failure of human behaviour. So I've often thought about that man who made the knife, not young, not powerful and maybe uncertain if he would ever see his family and familiar places again-or even if they existed anymore. But making something useful and beautiful that others would use and delight in, kind of immortality.

    Your stories are a passing on of wisdom, atmosphere and experience, that too is inspirational for all concerned.

    Thanks, Will
    Storm 8593 likes this.
  5. mitch4ging

    mitch4ging Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 16, 2015
    Fantastic story! Love the time line, starting with when the old German soldier and when he must have learned the trade, thru when the pocket knife must have been made, to the gift moment and the forged friendship! Magazine and book quality story! Thanks for posting it!
  6. JustinR

    JustinR Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 1, 2008
    Beautiful knife, beautiful story. Thank you Carl.
  7. GasMan1

    GasMan1 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 27, 2015
    That's the things money can't buy. Thank you for taking time to share this. :thumbup:
  8. Ernie1980

    Ernie1980 Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 19, 2012
    Amazing story! That is a great memory that you get to carry around with you:)
  9. bozack


    Nov 8, 2005
    A great story, Carl. Inspiring story of friendship and how to treat people you meet. You never know when you will meet a friend. Especially one as cherished as Mr Moran. Thank you for sharing your story.
    And that knife is fantastic. I hope you have a friend to give it to one day.
  10. WhittlinAway

    WhittlinAway Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    What a touching story. Thank you so much for sharing it.
  11. popedandy

    popedandy Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    That's a wonderful story, Carl. Thank you.
  12. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 15, 2016
    Thank you.
  13. Tilley Knife

    Tilley Knife I'm Daniel, I make stuff

    Jul 6, 2011
    Thanks Jack! That made my evening.
  14. mrknife

    mrknife Gold Member Gold Member

    May 9, 2010
    what a story! very well told :thumbup:
  15. Chris Montgomery

    Chris Montgomery

    Dec 8, 2011
    Wonderful story Carl. From the morning I sat across from you as you traveled through my area I can understand how Bill could become friends with you easily. I can honestly say that being a part of those knife discussions and archery shooting would have been right up my alley.

  16. Wurrwulf

    Wurrwulf Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 3, 2015
    A magnificent telling of a very touching story. Thank you so much for sharing, Carl. Younger bucks like myself hope to create and maintain strongly bonded relationships like you had with Mr. Moran.
    Storm 8593 likes this.
  17. AFAustin

    AFAustin Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 8, 2004
    Wonderful story and irreplaceable memories. Thanks for sharing this, Carl.

  18. Halfneck

    Halfneck Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 30, 2005
    Read hints about the history of that knife, the full story is even better.

    Memories do stick to things, sometimes not good though. This year at BLADE I was fortunate to help a friend unload such a knife. He had a 70's Case Canoe that had all kinds of bad memories attached to it. As a teenager in the 70s he'd agreed to do a whole summers worth of work for a Church Elder in exchange for a couple hundred dollars. The money was going to be used towards a muscle car he wanted (a GTO I believe). So he busted his hump all summer to do a good job and when it came time for payment the Church Elder gave him the Case Canoe instead of the money. Nothing written, job was just done in good faith. So he was put behind schedule in raising the money for the car and it ended up selling before he could raise the necessary amount. So he's always hated that knife

    So prior to this BLADE show he's going through some stuff and sees that Case Canoe. He repeats the story of it to me again, but this time practically flings it at me and says "Keep it, or give it to one of your boys". So I had it in my pocket when we got to BLADE as he stumbled across a new Case Tiny Toothpick he liked. He's really fond of the Tiny Toothpick pattern and always says they make the perfect pocketknife for cigar smokers. The one in question was one of the new Denim Pocketworn versions with 2 blades. Got to admit I was even admiring it. Gentleman selling it runs a hardware store in the area and we all got to talking about how Marietta, Ga. has changed and old landmarks. As we were talking I asked if he had any interest in buying/trading old Case knives, to which he replied "What do you have?" So a deal was struck, sealed with a handshake, and I handed my good friend his new Case Tiny Toothpick. He's been going through a lot lately so the smile on his face pretty much made my day.
    Storm 8593 likes this.
  19. Rockon75

    Rockon75 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 8, 2008
    Thank you for sharing. It was a wonderful story, so eloquently told.
  20. runninmike


    Oct 19, 2005
    great read

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