A few days back I bought a new Lew’s bait caster reel and on the box was a special bonus offer: a free new Buck Knife. Never one to turn down anything free, I set about getting the free knife ordered. When it arrived, it made me think about the good ole days at Sandy Point where just about every male carried a pocket knife. Today, I don’t suppose they could go on school grounds with a pocket knife without being arrested and you can’t get through security at the airport with one. I don’t know anyone today that carries a pocket knife but then maybe more do than I would imagine.
My neighbor walked over a few weeks back and rang my door bell. He had been somewhere and bought some of the small Swiss Army knives and wanted me to have one. They make great little cleaning tools for your fingernails and great little gifts but are not much as a working tool. I didn’t tell him that I have several lying around. I had purchased several in Switzerland at the Victorinox factory store to give away years ago. They even have a toothpick built in!
There are many things that are referred to as a rights of passage for young boys. Young women have them, too, but I am not as familiar with all of those. Such things as first BB gun, first ball glove, first fishing rod, getting a big bed, senior proms, high school, 16th birthday and driver’s licenses, first .22 or shotgun, first car, going off to college, marriage, kids, and on and on. Today, every young boy (and girl) gets an iPad or such while they are still riding in the shopping cart at Publix.
When I think back on in them my own life, one of them was getting my first pocket knife. My grandfathers carried a pocket knife and most adult males had one of some description. For a lot of the older guys it was used to cut off a slice of chewing tobacco from a plug of Brown’s Mule or their favorite chewing tobacco. They were used to open feed sacks and to remove splinters. They worked well for cleaning out from under your fingernails back when people actually did work that got their hands dirty. They also worked well when you had reached your limit with a workplace bully as happened to Mr. Tidwell and the bully’s thumb was almost removed by a well-sharpened Boker Tree Brand. Just about everyone practiced “concealed carry”. Folks who couldn’t afford a good pocket knife often had a folding razor tucked in somewhere on their person. Carrying a “blade” was quite common when going into a rough area or a rowdy beer joint. Cuttings and stabbings were more likely than a shooting back then.
Of course you had to have a knife to play mumble peg. And, by the way, there are about as many ways to spell the game as there are versions of the game.
Having the right pocket knife showed everyone that you had stopped being a child and had become more of an adult.
Whittling was another pastime for old and young alike. With no TV’s, video games or iPods, you needed something to do. Carving on a stick or piece of wood was about as good as anything. Of course, a good sharp pocket knife was required.
Some knives had a corkscrew. Others had bottle openers. One had a fork and a spoon.
These knives weren’t made in China but mostly right here in the good old USA. Some, like Boker, came from Germany, renowned for its tools. There were a number of brands that I now don’t recall but most had some type of bone, pearl, stag, bakelite, celluloid, or wooden handle. No plastic as we know it today. Switch blades were frowned on but were fun. You pushed a button and the spring loaded blade jumped out. Blades that locked open were a good safety feature and helped keep one from cutting your own finger off by the blade closing inadvertently.
Once, Ray and I were out under the big pecan tree where they split the kindling on a little wooden chop block. My Grandmother had planted the tree when she was a little girl and it had grown to massive proportions and yielded a lot of pecans every year. It also provided a shade for the kindling operation, some chairs where many peas and butterbeans were shelled and the rabbit pens and a dog house.
A small hatchet was normally used to split the light wood into small pieces of kindling for the wood stove. Ray had acquired some big folding knife and he was chopping at some kindling with it. Just playing around. He said that he could move his hand so fast that if he placed it on the wooden block that I could not hit his hand with the open knife blade. So. He placed his hand out flat with fingers wide and said he would demonstrate his lightening fast hand withdrawal.
It turns out that he was not as fast as he thought and I commenced to almost chop off one of his fingers. Needless to say, he was not happy and neither was my Grandmother.
The Old Timer line of knives was one of the brands I remember. It was made by Schrade for 100 years. The brand has now been sold but that was one of the mainstays back in the day. Sears, of course, had their Craftsman knives. There were Gerbers, Solingens, Imperials and Queens. Case and Bucks were almost generic names like Scotch tape. Remington and Winchester each had a knife. Western Auto had a brand. On and on they go and collectors buy, sell, and swap them at knife shows across the internet and the country. Far too many brands to list here.
I ordered a “Malaysian Throwing Dagger” from some magazine or the other one time. If I threw it at a target 10 times it might stick once. I also had a “Frogman” knife in a sheath that I got somewhere. Those guys I guess are called Seals now. I don’t know what happened to either of those treasures.
Looking at my current small assortment I have a US made Kabar, a Japanese made Khyber given to me by my son, a Swiss Army and a Buck. I have a Leatherman tool which I’m not sure qualifies as a pocket knife. And, I have a custom made knife made by a friend of mine. There are some old knives in some tool boxes in various conditions that were working knives on electrical projects and construction but don’t have much personal attachment.
In the old days, carrying a knife produced some side effects. One such effect was holes being worn in the corner of the pants pockets that resulted in lost knives and pocket change, if you had any. Very frustrating. You would not remember the hole until the next time you put something in the pocket that fell through to the floor or ground. The hope was that you would be aware of it in time to retrieve the lost item.
No, I guess getting a new pocket knife isn’t a big deal anymore. But, I have to tell you, I was excited when I opened up the little box with my new Buck knife recently. Maybe it had something to do with the free part. The knife lists for about $40 and you could have bought a good one at Bankston’s for about $5 back when. But we think the Chinese work cheap today!