El Tío Knife

Uncles play an important and often unique role in our lives. They are built-in male role models to nieces and nephews, reinforcing family values and traditions and may also play other roles from confidant and mentor, to partner in crime or questionable influence.

 

Labrado Forge's El Tío knife is dedicated to the memory of my Great-Uncle Jesse, a man whose life is shrouded in a bit of mystery and family legend. Uncle Jesse was my father’s paternal uncle and he passed many years ago. I don’t recall ever having met him, but I’ve heard the stories. No one in the extended family seems to have a photo of him, and when you ask anyone living who actually knew the man, boy, do they have stories to tell about Uncle Jesse, “Jess”, “Michoto” or “Jesse James Ramirez”.

 

Uncle Jesse was born in Guadalajara, Mexico in the early 20th century. The whole family moved to the U.S. some time before 1920 and settled in the Central Valley of California; Del Rey, California, to be specific. The family was, in many ways, a typical migrant farm-working family of the time, moving from place to place as work was available. Jesse served in the US Army in the Pacific in WWII and after that, he never really settled down. To call him a drifter would not be the best term, but for the rest of his life, he never stayed in one spot for very long, alternating mostly between the family hometown of Del Rey, CA., family in Sacramento and my grandfather’s ranch in Suisun Valley, CA.

 

Apparently, he would show up unannounced and stay for a while, perhaps some weeks or a few months, helping out working the ranch and spending countless off-hours regaling my dad and his four brothers for endless hours with his “war stories”. He also carried a small pouch of “momentos” from the Pacific War that he often showed to the boys to bring his stories to life. Then, just as mysteriously as his arrival, they would wake up one morning and he would have left without saying a word.

 

Jesse kept an unusual appearance for a Mexican-American in that era. Though his “uniform” denim work pants, shirt and jacket were fairly common, from the time after the war, he wore his hair in a long ponytail that reached to the middle of his back. Though very short in stature (perhaps 5’3”-5’5”) he had a very distinct way of carrying himself as if he feared nothing. He enjoyed having a good time, he enjoyed drinking and he worked very hard. He also did not seem to take life very seriously. I can’t help but imagine that his experiences in the Pacific War were at least a factor in this aspect of his personality.

 

There are such great stories of Uncle Jesse that have been handed down and even more stories long forgotten. One of my favorite stories takes place in probably the very early 1960’s and it involves Uncle Jesse walking into town from the ranch one day (about 7-8 miles) to enjoy a few drinks, as he did from time to time. Apparently a sheriff's patrol picked him up on his return trek to the ranch, highly intoxicated. When they asked him to identify himself he defiantly declared “My name is Jesse James Ramirez” (footnote: James was not his middle name) The deputies brought him to my dad’s service station (it was a very small town at the time) to see if he was a relative. The deputies explained the situation and turned him over to my dad and according to my dad, the deputies were pretty amused at the whole incident. Jesse was by all accounts, a fun-loving, interesting and unique individual despite, or perhaps due to the experiences of his youth. I remember most of my great uncles and aunts and they were all very interesting people, but I really wish that I had known Uncle Jesse and I dedicate this knife to his memory.

 

Like Uncle Jesse, El Tío Knife is sturdy, interesting and maybe even a little eccentric. 

 

El Tío Knife will be a legend in your kitchen with looks that will spark good conversation and performance that will create great meals, and greater memories. 

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