I do admire a good pocket knife. Something about the heft of a sturdy, well-balanced blade in my hand offers a sense of satisfaction, a feeling that, if need be, I can cut through anything from red tape to bramble briers. I can skin a squirrel, gut a fish and peel an apple—after wiping the blade on the back of my britches, of course.
I can tend to delicate operations, like a manicure. When you’re out in the boonies and a nail breaks, a good sharp knife blade can trim off the excess and smooth down the rough edges. It can also, delicately I must emphasize, remove the grease, dirt and fish scales that lodge under your fingernails.
I was reminded of how much I appreciate a fine pocket knife recently when my colleague Chris Bennett blogged about an Australian farmer who dug himself out of a life-threatening situation with nothing but a chest full of heart and a pocket knife. I’ve never had to do that, thank goodness, but I have cut out splinters, repaired fishing rods and field-dressed small game, and if I had to I would try to dig my way out of a catastrophe.
I’ve toted—that’s the word, tote; you might carry change or car keys in your pocket but you “tote” a pocket knife—for about as long as I can remember. But possession of my first blade was short-lived. My mother bought us new socks when I was in first or second grade and inside the package was a free, black-handled pocket knife. I was permitted to keep mine until I cut my finger, about an hour. My mother appropriated the knife—an unfair act I thought since I had already learned what happens if you’re not careful.
A few months later my dad gave me one of his old knives, compensation for helping him scrape some chairs—with the knife—prior to painting. I kept that knife for years but lost it sometime after I went off to college.
Currently, I own two dozen or more pocket knives, half of them Case knives that I never use and rarely take out of the boxes. I have several kinds—trappers, peanuts, stockmen, mini-stockmen, Texas toothpicks, lock-backs and one fisherman’s knife in bright yellow displayed in a fine tin box.
I take them out occasionally to test the blades and note the sharp snap they make as they close up. I have blue-bone, red-bone and green-bone handles with a few synthetic ones that look like bone, kind of. I like Case because my dad usually had a Case knife in his pocket, or sometimes a Boker or Remington.
I keep a red-bone Case trapper in my pocket most of the time. It holds an edge well, feels good in my pocket and is sometimes useful.
I have others, some of which I’ve kept since I was a boy—two Barlows, which will be passed along to my grandsons at some point; several lock-backs I picked up somewhere or another; and a rather large Schrade that I keep in my fishing bag in case I’m attacked by a bear on the river. I have several Swiss Army knives and four or five multi-tools, which I consider more tool than knife. I have a combination knife/money clip—two ways to protect your cash in one tool.
I don’t need all these knives. They take up room I could use to store buttons or arrowheads or rare coins; I don’t have much interest in those things. But I do admire a good pocket knife.