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My Grandpa has had an apple orchard in his single-acre yard for as long as my Da has been alive, maybe longer. I spent weekends there, visiting him, Grandma, and Da, and helping tend to the fruit trees and apiary. There's no telling how many times I watched Grandpa graft his trees: a clip of pruning shears, a bit of quick paring at the bark with a sharp Wharncliffe blade produced from the pocket of his worn red plaid flannel shirt, an application of homemade grafting wax and cheesecloth and twine.

The same knife - a trapper - had a clip point blade, which saw extensive use as a skinning knife in Grandpa's taxidermy studio. He did some magnificent work in that studio, some of it still adorning the walls of his home, and many pieces mounted in a traveling educational display owned by the county. One of these pieces, a Great Horned Owl, was found dead in Grandpa's driveway, ostensibly having run into the windshield of a passing car. Possession of such a corpse and any of its components is very illegal, but the local game warden waited for Grandpa to turn the bird into a piece of lifelike art, before seizing it and putting it into the traveling display. If you visit the DuQuoin State Fair in any given August, look around for a small outbuilding on wheels; you can see his work there to this day. Which pieces are his? The ones which make you do a double-take, because for a moment there, you thought you saw that varmint breathe.

At the time of this writeup, Grandpa is eighty-seven years old. He has very advanced dementia; for awhile we couldn't trust him with tools, cars, and sharp objects. He's past that stage now, and no longer possesses the coordination and focus to open his knife, much less use it purposefully. Nine Christmases ago, I gave him an ornately joined wooden box to store his pocket contents - keys, knife, handkerchief, and so on - securely when they're not in his pockets. The knife hasn't moved out of that box in twenty-seven months.


Iron Noder 2016, 10/30

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