It was late summer when my family went to visit my grandparents. I was probably 14 years old and was anticipating the upcoming hunting season. My Grandpa Berner, also a hunter, would beam whenever I told him stories about my hunts. I was one of twenty grandkids, and one of maybe six that hunted.
I remember sitting at my grandparents kitchen table and seeing my Grandpa disappear into the garage. I assumed he was going out for a cigarette. He returned with a knife in a leather case and handed it to me. He explained that he used it as his hunting knife at one point, and that it was now mine to have. I was radiating with pride. Out of six kids and their spouses, and twenty grandkids, he chose to give his hunting knife to me. It was such a simple item, not incredibly expensive or “pretty,” but it was his. It immediately became one of my most prized possessions. The following spring, the night before my birthday, he passed. The next day, my Dad gave me a belt to loop the knife onto. I remember bursting into tears.
There hasn’t been a single hunt where I haven’t had his knife on me. I’ve dulled it time and time again, to sharpen it again, and kept it in pristine condition. I’ve made sure it’s touched every animal I have ever harvested, and that it’s been with me on every single hunt. Having it makes me feel closer to my Grandpa Berner. It makes me feel like he’s right there on every hunt.
You could deck me out in all free gear, give me a gorgeous, rare gun, or send me on the craziest hunt of a lifetime and I wouldn’t treasure those things nearly as much as my Grandpa Berner’s hunting knife. These days there is so much emphasis put on the gear we use, the guns and bows we shoot, and even the land we hunt. Everyone wants the latest and greatest product and if someone doesn’t have it, they feel irrelevant, but the gear isn’t what makes the hunt. In fact, I don’t think I ever tell a hunting story and give a run down of what products I was using. If I’m listening to a story however, I would rather hear about the history behind a meaningful item they had with them, or meaningful moments and why it means so much to them. No new product can provide that much meaning, or that much history.
I hope there never comes a day when heirlooms aren’t handed down or get thrown out. I hope there never comes a day when some new, cheaply made product, becomes more special than an heirloom, but I do hope there comes a day when I’m fortunate enough to pass my Grandpa’s knife down to my own children or grandchildren and they cherish it as much as I have. It would be pretty awesome to hear a kid say, “My Grandma gave me her hunting knife! It used to be my Great Great Grandfather’s!”
Do you have a hunting heirloom? What is it and what’s the story behind it?