Tucumcari man left legacy of honesty — and knives, son said

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Mike Sasser said his father, Jim “Sonny” Sasser, could be summed up in three ways — honest, straightforward and rough around the edges.

But that barely scratches the surface, for Jim Sasser, who died on Jan. 3 at the age of 70, was also an expert knife maker.
With a shop in Tucumcari one of many places this free spirit could call home, Jim Sasser whittled his first knife out of wood at the age of 6 and notched his way to the top from there.

Born May 7, 1935, in Cheyenne, Okla., Sasser spent his lifetime in Colorado, Texas, Germany — while in the Army — and New Mexico, easily crafting more than 1,000 knives.

Mike Sasser said they were in high demand by people in high places, like an East German man who ended up giving it to an emperor in Mongolia. They were also featured in publications and in shows. One of his clients was country-western singer Hoyt Axton.

“He sent knives to Japan, Sweden,” Mike Sasser said. “They ended up in every crack of the world.”

Crafted freehand with elk antler, exotic woods and often carrying unique design — like Sasser’s invention of the hook knife that could easily skin a deer while cutting it open — Mike Sasser said his dad may have given away as many knives as he sold.

“It made me proud,” Mike Sasser said of his father’s craft. “He was one of the founding father’s of the knife maker guild.”

Sasser also said his dad was eager to share his skills and expertise and taught a college class on the art for 13 years.

In addition to the adoration of his knife crafting, Mike Sasser said his dad had an equal fondness for history and animals, especially Shadow, a dog known for “going to more places than most people did.”

Mike Sasser also said his dad would feed stray cats that showed up at his shop and at one time even owned two pet eagles.

“I’m too young to remember,” Mike Sasser said, “but he told us a story how he was out hunting with the eagles and one swooped down and tore the shirt off his back.”

“You could find him either out hunting or treasure hunting,” Mike Sasser said, adding his dad would come home with a wide array of silver, old baking pots and a most unusual octagonal pickle jar.

Jim Sasser’s cousin Monty Sasser said he remembers the pickle jar — and also how Jim Sasser was a “man’s man.” He also recalls his honesty.

“When he would borrow money,” Monty Sasser said, “I had enough faith in him that when he asked for $200, I’d give him $300.”
Mike Sasser added, “He didn’t like to owe nobody. A handshake was a man’s word.”

“We miss him big time,” Mike Sasser said of the clan who includes his sister, Phyllis Anselmo, Jim Sasser’s granddaughter and great-grandson, his own sister, brothers, cousins and plenty of pals.

“No matter where he went, he had friends and people who liked him,” Mike Sasser said.

To help preserve Quay County history, QCS is seeking other individuals with backgrounds integral to the community. To suggest someone, Contact Managing Editor Ryn Gargulinski at:

Jim Sasser’s typical day

1. Get up at 5 a.m.
2. Go to bed by 9 p.m.
3. Pray and study first thing.
4. Put in at least eight productive hours in the shop.
5. Keep track of all money spent.
6. Keep up exercise.
7. Use all God-given talents. Push ahead with the book you have wanted to write.

Source: The Sasser family