Grim's Tales: A tradition nobody thinks about

An item that represents personal growth between father and son

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There are certain things out there that feel like universal symbols.

You might find yourself telling your friends about your own personal experience with such symbol, only to find they have their own story.

These things are important in that they link us in ways that aren't necessarily spoken or even sometimes rational.

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I think one of the more universal examples in my own life is the pocket knife.

I remember my brother, Brent, had a pocket knife before me. He was only a couple years older, but - like my gun safety permit, driver's license or even the right to buy cigarettes or alcohol (an unused right for me) - pocket knife ownership was perhaps the first "when you're old enough" experience I ever had.


I vaguely remember my first knife. I think the scales were black and it may have been an Old Timer. It doesn't help that I'm a forgetful, clumsy person, so I almost certainly lost it early on.

Oddly, I remember the box slightly more than the knife, and I remember the excitement and awe of holding the box and knowing what was inside even more.

I remember that a couple knives later, Brent actually stabbed himself in the hand trying to put holes in the top of a bottle for a pet water beetle. He didn't want to get in trouble, so he hid the injury and went to school until it was too painful to hide.

There's a reason it's a symbol of growth, age and responsibility.

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For young boys of my generation (today I honestly hope the same is true for young girls, because it's just that great), the pocket knife was a right of passage. One of the first privileges where we prove ourselves old enough, responsible enough and by that means, worthy of something.

Maybe that's why it's still a fascination to me today.

I do own, and have owned, many pocket knives over the years. Even ones I don't like go in a box. The 1970s Imperial knife I dug at Shingobee Hill near Walker is still one of my favorite metal detecting finds, and I was irrationally excited when I dug a rusty 1936 Imperial out of the Backus school field last year.

I suspect a found pocket knife will forever remain a treasure to me, even too rusted to open, right up there with gold jewelry.


I don't think I'm alone in this. One of my coworkers was sitting at his desk more than a year ago and he said, "I'm thinking of buying another pocket knife."

He had recently gotten a fairly nice knife, and I had compared it to my own Kershaw that I carried everywhere. Knowing he had a love for watches (another traditional father/son symbol), I said: "Great, now you're becoming one of those guys who collects watches AND knives."

He huffed at me, indignantly, and denied it.

Today, I believe he has about a half dozen more pocket knives and he has acknowledged that he is a collector. I think it was a guaranteed result. Every now and then I come into work and he says, "Guess what?" and it's almost invariably that he found a knife online that he likes.

I, again, joked that he would start buying accessories for them, which he said he wouldn't ... and then did only weeks later. He says he wants to have at least one nice watch and nice knife to pass on to his son.

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The last time they visited, Brent's oldest son was excited to show me his own Victorinox pocket knife. Quite a bit bigger than the traditional Swiss Army knife and with a wooden handle, it still has the classic shield logo and likely the same quality.

I couldn't help but smile remembering how that felt. I showed him my own Swiss Army knife that I carry now that the spring went out of my Kershaw. It's a model that comes with a flashlight as well as all the basic utilities.

I also added a fire starter where the toothpick would go and installed a pocket clip that made the difference between me carrying it and not.


I use it at least three times a week, and while I like having something I have customized, I still often think about my first pocket knife.

I'm planning before the fall to revisit the farm where I lived back when I got my first knife. It was there that I found a 100-year-old pocket watch while metal detecting once.

Travis Grimler - Grim's Tales.jpg
Travis Grimler, PineandLakes Echo Journal Writer

That was exciting, but I must admit, almost nothing would compare to digging that little pocket knife I got when my parents decided I was old enough.

To that end, wish me luck. I just hope I didn't lose it in the woods nearby or it's gone forever.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Opinion by Travis G. Grimler
Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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