Category Archives: Family

Pocket Knives

by Jim and Melanie

My father had a collection of pocket knives. He gave some of them to our son when he was a young boy. Our boy is now in his 30s and has a son of his own. We have been going through some of the things he left at our house when he moved out. One of those things was his knife collection. I picked out three that were from my Dad and scanned them to show their detail.

The old car in the top knife matches the car Dad had when he was a young man. I even have the receipt he kept when he bought the car. The bottom knife has a steam locomotive pulling several train cars. Our son was a big fan of trains when he was little.

The middle knife turned out to have an interesting story associated with it. The reverse side is different from the front.

I went with Dad several times to a town 20 miles away with loads of hogs to sell at their stockyard. The town was on a rail line that ran into Chicago connecting it with the Union Stock Yards. Animals were easily transported there from our local yard.

I don’t remember Dad ever going to the Union Stock Yards as I grew up. Maybe he got the knife when he visited before I was born. I know he and his brother went to Chicago in 1933 to visit the Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Century of Progress Exposition. In August 1933, he and my mother were married. This trip with his brother was likely before the wedding.

It is possible, though I am not certain, that he and his brother visited the stock yards where they had sent a lot of animals over the years with their father. He might have acquired the knife there as a souvenir. I cannot confirm it. But, it seems possible.

I showed the knife to Melanie. She was intrigued by the name J. M. Doud and started doing some web searching. Genealogy sources identified him a James M. Doud (1864-1926), son of Royal Doud and Mary Sheldon. The Douds became wealthy in the meat packing business. James and five siblings were born in New York state. J. M. was a businessman active in livestock sales first in Iowa and later in Chicago. His name and company appear in ads and legal proceedings. The knife above was probably an item used to promote his sales at the Union Stock Yards.

Opening the blades on the knife revealed the manufacturer as Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. The history of that brand goes back to 1855 in Chicago. They were a leading wholesaler of hardware in the U.S. by the late 1800s. In 1932, the company introduced a new line of hand tools under the name True Value. The hardware business in the U.S. evolved. By 1962, the company sold the name True Value in order to focus on the real estate business.

Royal and Mary Doud had another son named John Sheldon Doud (1870-1951). John met and married Elvira Carlson in Boone, Iowa in 1894. One of their children was Marie Geneva Doud, also known as Mamie. She grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado, and San Antonio, Texas. She married a young man named Dwight David Eisenhower in Denver in 1916 at the age of 19. They moved often due to military assignments. He later became the 34th President of the United States and she First Lady from 1953 to 1961.

It is interesting how a simple object can be a clue to some facts and history. It is a blessing to have access to so much information literally at our fingertips. It needed a curious mind and some careful digging to bring it to light.


Family Christmas Photos 2020

The year 2020 has been bad in many many ways. It is hard to remember any positive things about it. We each have our own personal list of negatives. We are eager to put it behind us and move on.

One of the hardest parts about 2020 is the way we have been separated from our loved ones. We miss the hugs and the good food. We miss the grandchildren. They are growing up fast. One of our daughters lives far away. We’ve been together via video. But, it isn’t the same as in person. She recently post their family Christmas photo. Everyone is masked, symbolic of this strange year. But, the photo was great. They are healthy, smart, and strong. We are proud. They will help make the future brighter.


Helping Hands

We lost a sincere songwriter and creative musician with the death of Bill Withers. He will be missed. We are fortunate to have his songs to help us remember. One especially moving song is a tribute to a special person in his life who helped guide him in both big and little ways. That person was his grandma. Her hands were strong when they needed to be. They were tender at the right time. They could express many emotions. Many of us had a grandma in our lives who did those things for us when we needed a helping hand.

Lines | From Past to Future

My daughters and I visited teacher friends on July 2, 1979. They had sparklers in preparation for the July 4th celebrations. Of course, the girls wanted to play with them. It seemed like a good opportunity for a picture. It was getting dark as evening neared.The camera needed a longer shutter speed of a half second or more. The pictures turned out much better than I expected. Sparks flew and burst into small branches before dying out. We had fun.




In 1985, the Chicago Tribune Magazine ran a photo contest. Readers were invited to submit photographs with the theme ‘Lines‘. These two pictures from six years before seemed to fit the theme. I submitted the top photograph. A few weeks later I received a big envelope in the mail from the Tribune containing a check for $250 and a framed certificate. I won second prize.

Today, both beautiful daughters have wonderful children of their own. Some are the same ages as in these photographs. Much has changed in all three of our lives. Important things have also remained the same. When they look back to see the lines connecting their pasts to the present, I hope they see many lines full of happiness.

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

How I See It

The proverb was recorded by John Heywood in 1546: “Whan the sunne shinth make hay.” It appears to be of English Tudor origin. The phrase was used in a non-farming context in 1673 in Richard Head’s Canting Academy: “She … was resolv’d … to make Hay whilest the Sun shin’d.”

It takes several days to make hay once the crop has grown mature. Most important, there should be no rain during that time. First, it must be cut and allowed to dry in the warm sun. Next, it must be gathered in a way that makes it easy to store until it is fed to livestock. Stacking in the field was a common practice. Several people were needed to tend a large field. The stack shape was designed to shed water. Claude Monet painted many beautiful scenes with haystacks in them. This is one of my favorites.

Claude Monet | Haystacks (Midday)…

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