A couple months back in the process of moving my mother to a new home closer to us, I stumbled across an old hatchet head that was my dad’s. I remember him using it many times when I was a young buck and seeing it brought back a lot of memories. I remember his frustration at trying to teach me how to hoe a row in the garden only to realize I was never gonna get it. Surely it had nothing to do with the fact that he was left handed and I am right handed so every thing I did to copy him turned out backwards. I remember going into the woods in Lincoln county near my mom’s old home place to cut saplings to use for stakes for the butter beans, tomatoes, and other goodies he was so adept at growing in his massive backyard garden. So when I saw the hatchet it was a quick decision and a declarative statement to my mother that “I found this hatchet, I’m taking it. Thanks.” This was something of his and special to me.
My dad was a good man and had a lot of talents. He could grow anything. I tell people often I would swear he could put pencils in the ground and grow pine trees if you wanted him to. He also had a knack for putting a keen edge on tools and this hatchet head was no different. He would put an amazing edge on that hatchet and could go through a one inch sapling in one shot and then would use the back side to hammer those same saplings into the tiled earth to assist in bringing forth it’s bounty. So sharp was the edge on this hatchet that in the process of doing the cord work on it, I bumped the bottom corner of the edge with my knuckle. It eased out a sesame seed size bit of skin leaving it sitting on the side of the edge. So clean was the cut it didn’t even bleed. This hatchet head had been sitting in a shed for at least 14 years, he’s been dead that long, and could still cut that easily.
As soon as I had the hatchet head I knew what I wanted to do. I knew dad had put a great edge on that hatchet and I knew he had shown me well enough to be able to keep that in great shape . I bought another handle for it and thought I would make it my go to hatchet for car camping and the like.
This is what I ended up with. The wrapping on the handles is my doing. I added a tubing stay to the top locking it in with friction tape and the paracord bindings. The Coxcombing (spiral hitching) is in honor of his Navy service and it looks cool, adds to the gripping power and the Turks head knots are more decorative. The black ones, however, are done with a reflective paracord. Should be nice to have when grabbing the hatchet at night to add the fire or whatever else needs to be done.
I know my dad would have given me the business about putting all the fancy stuff on the handle of something meant to be so functional. That was just his way. As a family we love to crack on each other. Few things are off limits and the sensitive need not apply or participate. You know we like you because we pick at you. If we don’t it’s because we won’t waste our time, effort or considerable talents thinking of ways to gig you just a bit so we can put our arm around you after and pull you close and let you know you’re worth the mental gymnastics we invested into your particular torment. Privately though, in a quiet moment with my mom more than likely, he would share how proud he was of the work and thought I put into it.
It’s an old hatchet head. Nothing more than a hunk of steel with an edge on it. Penned over back edge showing the years of service and sacrifice it put into the life of my father, but it’s a part of him. His hands touched that, his sweat fell on it, his care and focus were centered on it if only long enough to hone the edge to make it so effective in its intended purpose. In it lays the beauty of form, function, toil, growth, purpose and hope. My dad gave us all of those things and so much more.
I’ll be proud to use it, proud to tell the story and proud to hand this to my son’s son some day. A hatchet. Cutting through the years to sharpen the heritage of a family and drive it firmly into the soil where our roots run so deep.