I think I started going hunting when I was about eleven so that would make it about 1947. I went out with two neighbor boys that lived three doors to the south of us. Gary Casner was a good friend and was my age. His brother, Billy Bob, was about four years older than Gary and I. Bill had an old Stevens .22 Single-Shot rifle and he would let Gary and I take a shot now and then. We felt pretty good when we managed to hit a tin can or two.
I dreamed of owning a .22 and my Dad promised I would get one on my 12th birthday. Well, my 12th birthday came and went and no rifle showed up. I didn’t really expect it to happen because I knew there was no money in the household for an extravagance like that. I knew I would have to make it happen myself.
Across the street and two doors north lived the Breeden family. “Red” Breeden was a WWII Army vet who had managed to bring home some souvenirs from Europe. He had a metal helmet, a helmet liner, canteen and web belt, German money, and some German equipment. To me, the prize was a German Officer’s dress knife. It was a beautiful thing and you could see it was made of the finest German steel. Sure enough, stamped on the blade, right under the hilt, was the name “Solingen”. The hilt was a cast piece with some decoration. The knife had a beautiful stag handle and the butt piece was cast in the shape of an eagle’s head. The sheath was also of beautiful and shiny chrome-like steel with cast decorations attached.
Red kept his souvenirs out in his garage and if he happened to be working out there when we came by we would stop and talk and he would show us those articles he had brought back from the war. While looking at his stuff I also noticed that Red had a pair of men’s figure skates. I was really impressed with them because all we kids had at the time were clamp-on ice skates that rarely stayed on more than a few minutes at a time. A pair of shoe skates would have made any kid happy.
Talking with Red I discovered that he was interested in getting his young son an electric train set. I happened to have a nice train set that I had outgrown and never played with. Red mentioned that we might make a trade so I began thinking about the stuff in his garage that I might be interested in.
Meantime, Bill Casner had just acquired a new Mossberg .22 caliber Bolt-Action Repeater. While showing me the new rifle, Bill indicated that he would be getting rid of the old Stevens single-shot. I had already told Bill about my possible trade of the electric train and had told of the items I might trade for. We talked about the shoe skates and I told him they were not my size and he indicated they would be perfect for him. I took this information into account and went home to think about it.
The following Saturday I went over to Red’s house to make a deal. I proposed trading my electric train to Red for the ice skates and the German officer’s knife. Red told me he had taken that sheath or scabbard from the knife and used a hacksaw to cut a couple inches from it so it would fit another knife he had. I couldn’t believe it! That would be like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa! I couldn’t believe that Red placed so little value on the knife and sheath and was broken-hearted. I still wanted the knife though and went back at him with a new offer…my electric train for his ice skates, the German knife, and an American Army bayonet. Red agreed and we exchanged items.
My target was still the rifle so I went to Bill next. After a couple of days of thinking about it, Bill was eager to swap his old single-shot for the ice skates and an old stripped down Schwinn bicycle with no fenders. (I had a nice Schwinn bike but figured this old one would keep the wear and tear off my good one). I couldn’t have been happier. I hunted with the old single-shot for a few years until I was also able to buy a Mossberg bolt-action. I ran my hands over the German Officer’s dress knife and admired it for its superior craftsmanship and beauty. All of the wheeling and dealing I’ve described took place in 1948. In 2007, I decided to sell my collection of knives and started listing them on E-Bay. The German Officer’s Knife sold for $237.00. Such a deal!
I don’t have my original pictures but found this similar knife on the Internet. My knife had a more attractive stag handle with a silver casting in the center of it.
May 14, 2014