By Tank Hoover
It started out brand spanking new, like me, in my chosen career. I had just graduated from the police academy. Mom asked me what I wanted for a graduation present and I told her a Buck knife would probably come in handy for my new job. I was thinking of the classic Buck 110 folding knife, what else is there?
I ended up with the Buck Ranger 112, a shorter version of the original. Not one to refuse, or appreciate a “gift horse” I admit to being a little disappointed at the time. I never let on to mom that it isn’t exactly what I had in mind, and graciously thanked her for the gift.
Getting my “Sam Brown” belt ready for my first night as a street cop, I slide the leather Buck sheath onto the thick belt, just behind my Ruger Service-Six .38 special with 4″ barrel. Although numerous guns and holsters were changed over time, the Buck knife stayed on that belt for 27 years. I buy a nylon sheath for hunting season, so I can carry the Buck Ranger without disturbing my duty belt.
I quickly learn the shorter blade is perfect-sized for field dressing deer, cutting flex cuffs off prisoners, slicing chunks of venison stick for lunch in the woods and any other knife chores popping up frequently. The more I carried and used the knife, the more I liked it! It became a part of me and taught me what can initially be a disappointment in life, is actually a blessing in disguise.
Over the years, the tough leather sheath softened, the sharp bottom edges curled outward, conforming itself perfectly to my contours, making it unnoticeable, but handy when needed, much like a great mom.
My Mom was a great mother, I think. From a young age she taught me how to do things and fend for myself. She would send me to my grandparent’s home in Pennsylvania every first week of summer vacation to expose me to farm life and my grandparents and uncles. I loved it and developed a deep love for the farm and country way of life. It was, and is, one of the greatest gifts she gave me. I could pretty much cook for myself by the third grade and continue to do so for my family now, due to mom. Mom wasn’t being mean or neglectful, she just wanted to make sure I knew how to do such things. Washing clothes? No problem.
She let me do things and make mistakes, as this is how you learn. Far cry from today’s parents — and I admit to being kinda’ guilty here also.
Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. After I retired and having carried “my” Buck Ranger for 27 years, I carried it every time I went into the woods in its original leather sheath. It brought me good luck along with being “good medicine.”
After one particular enjoyable hunt, after walking out of the woods by flashlight and a full moon, I stow my gear into my aged Tahoe. Reaching back to feel the comforting heft of the Buck knife, my heart sinks and an empty feeling hits the pit of my stomach. The knife is gone! Best I can figure is the stitches had just let go on the belt loop of the sheath.
I immediately backtrack in the dark to no avail. Although my deer hunt was successful with a dandy 8-pointer, my hunt for my Buck knife is for naught. I backtrack the next several days and every time I hunt that particular farm and never find it. What was once considered an imperfect gift quickly became a favorite and then, a most-cherished gift.
Mom retired after working 37 years, six days a week, at the local grocery store. Two years into retirement, two days before Thanksgiving, she slipped on some black ice in her driveway and brook her pelvis and five vertebrae. She was later diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer that attacks the bones from the inside out. On Memorial Day she was sent home to die.
I took off every Wednesday and visited on weekends to help out and do what needed doing. Mom died the last day in August. I had the privilege to say goodbye to her and tell her how wonderful she was and that I loved her. With heavy heart, I got a last weak hug from her. No boy could have had a better mom.
Like it or not, there are times when we all have to “let go” of things we love. Like life, they are usually out of our control. These lost treasures remain as memories for us to remember — and to cherish forever.
Don’t ever feel like you got the short end of the blade, as it were. Appreciate what you have — and had — every single day. Nothing lasts forever. How you look at things makes all the difference in the world.
And that’s another great lesson my mom taught me.