Ed Pfeifer: Lessons from dad last a lifetime
June is here and that's exciting. We have the first day of summer, Flag Day and, of course, June 17 — Father's Day. Dads do a ton for us in our lives, that is certain. But what normally stands out are the life lessons our papas have bestowed upon us.
Lessons from dads come in many forms. There are the “let me show you how it's done” type, the “let me lecture you” type, and the quick verbal tidbits for which most dads are famous. Forget long stories and sage advice, these bullet points are spat from dad's mouth like an empty sunflower hull.
Chances are you have heard some of these doozies: “Don't touch that, you goof,” “that's stupid, don't do that” or “let the tool do the work — LET THE TOOL DO THE WORK!”
That was exactly the type of counsel my dad served up with such regularity that I, over time, developed a resistance to. He would speak clearly and I would ignore or “interpret” as I like to say. That's exactly why, at the age of 11, I found myself applying direct pressure to stop the bleeding from my left index finger for the biggest part of a two-hour car ride.
We were leaving home for vacation and I was in the back seat toying with my favorite pocketknife and 3 feet of baling twine. My dad repeatedly, and quite clearly, told me to put the knife away. I didn't do that; I promptly cut my finger, commenced bleeding and until this moment never said a word. Eventually the wound healed, but the scar, like my dad's lesson, has been with me ever since.
For those of you who may be wondering, let me spell this out for you. The lesson my dad taught me that day, without saying these exact words, was simple: Never let your pocketknife go dull. Instead of a sharp blade, my knife was an embarrassing shaft of gray steel softened by the whittling of a thousand sticks. So I had to saw, instead of slice, through that length of twine. The knife slipped and blood spilled.
Since that day I've kept my knives as sharp as possible. It's a good thing, too, because pocketknives are perhaps the most used and abused tools in my ample collection.
Proper knife sharpening is a skill for which there are manuals, books and plenty of online videos. But for my money there is only one way to learn; get a stone and hone. Failure is likely on the trial run so don't start your knife-sharpening career with a family heirloom. Pick up a cheap knife, use it until it's sufficiently blunted and then give honing a try.
Before long you will be shaving the hair from the back of your arm and smiling at your newly perfected craft. I for one can't help but grin when I finish a blade.
My smile, though, is only partly one of pride. The rest is a happy recognition of my dad's way of teaching a life lesson and my unique way of receiving it. Thanks, Dad.
Ed Pfeifer is a Tribune-Review freelance columnist and owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc. If you have hardware-related questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.