Godbey: Some skills are better than others

Published 1:29 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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By Jack Godbey


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the values that I had as a child have been lost on the upcoming generation. I would spend my time growing up doing all sorts of things, such as trying to break Evel Knievel’s jumping record on my bicycle. Today’s youth seem too busy trying to find an invisible cartoon character called “Pokémon.” They walk around like zombies, staring at their phones, trying to locate the mythical creature. I hate to be the one to tell them, but even if they find him, what have they accomplished?

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I went into the store yesterday to pick up some pickled bologna and somehow found myself in the electronics section mesmerized by a 72-inch television that I’ll find an excuse to purchase sooner or later. While there, I saw a small child throwing a hissy fit because his dad wouldn’t buy some video game he wanted. Almost instantly, my mind raced back in time to 45 years ago when I, too, found myself begging my father for something.

In those days, we only went to town once a week, so it was a treat to go into a store. My father and I went into the Ben Franklin store on Main Street in Stanford, Kentucky, and it was there that I saw a glass case containing the most beautiful pocketknife I had ever seen. I dreamed of owning it and asked my dad to buy it. My dad told me that a boy didn’t get a knife like that until the time was right. The following week, he gave me a single-blade pocketknife and told me that if I did alright with that, we would see about the knife I saw in town. The knife was never mentioned again for the next three months. One day, my father asked me if I still had the knife he gave me, and I whipped it out of my pocket to show him. I was never without it. I carried it to church on Sunday and to school during the week. Although that would cause folks to panic today, it was no big deal in 1978. That weekend, my father took me back into the store and I ran straight to the knife display to see if it was still there. To my dismay, it was gone. Then, I heard the store clerk ask my dad if he was there to pick up his layaway item. There it was—a beautiful three-blade Old Timer pocketknife just for me.

It was then that my father taught me the art of whittling. Whittling is a lost art now. Kids today are too busy trying to achieve pretend status by fighting a pretend war in a video game. I recall that one of my proudest moments was when I learned how to peel an apple in one piece without it breaking. That was a much larger accomplishment than protecting the princess from Donkey Kong.

Don’t get me wrong. I used to enjoy playing video games as a child as well. I’d rock “Frogger” on my old Atari 5200 with the best of them. However, I usually found something much better to do.

Some day, when I go to that big food buffet in the sky, folks will talk about my accomplishments. Forget about the money or status. Just remember that this guy could peel an apple with his pocketknife and could whittle like nobody’s business. I say we need a little more of that. What about you?