|The Tale of the Henning Knife
by Carl Crabtree
"Do you want to eat with the Henning Knife?" I can remember my grandma saying to my brother or
me. Eat with a knife? We would think... cool! Then I am sure an argument would ensue between my
brother and me as to who would get to use it. I would guess we were somewhere between 8 to 12
years old at the time. Grandma (Mildred Johnson Crabtree) would usually settle the argument by
some agreement in sharing the prized knife. Then, of course, Grandma would proceed to tell us
about Mr. Henning, his old silly ways, and how he lived by himself around Roxbury, southeast of
Lindsborg Kansas. That is where my grandmother was born and raised. Grandma loved to tell
stories of when she was young and growing up with her four sisters and six brothers, and no father.
We heard that story and others many times, and it never seemed to get old.
In looking through Grandma's things after her death in 1998, I ran across the old knife. It was
heavy and simple, with a wide blade and plain handle. A faint inscription on the blade reads,
"Rogers Nickel Silver." I suppose it was perfect if you used your knife as a spoon or fork. I was
recalling this tale Betty Parker, my father Robert Crabtree's cousin. Betty still lives in Lindsborg,
Kansas. We visit Betty's home when we returned for the Swedish festival every other fall. The
festival is named Hyllningsfest. Betty remembered Henning and the story. It was exciting to once
again hear the story my grandmother told over and over again. The following is Betty's recollection
of the Henning story.
On many Sunday afternoons looking west from Grandma's (Bettie Johnson b.1870 in
Sweden d.1947 and buried in the Elmwood Cemetery, Lindsborg) back yard one could see a
man crossing the pasture towards the house. Henning, a bachelor, lived a mile or two from
the Johnson's. He was a simple man - always dressed in the same black suit, it was so dirty it
could have stood by itself. He came calling at mealtime and seldom said anything. Our
grandma was a very neat and clean person so she had a special table service for Henning.
He always ate with his knife so grandma kept that knife aside just for him. No one else used it,
hence "The Henning Knife."
Brother Dan recalled the time
Grandma, Dan and Carl had a contest
on who could keep the most peas on
the blade and make it to their mouth.
He also recalls ballancing the
"Bill-ding" crew set on the wide blade.