Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Story of My Knife

I remember the first time we met with clarity though I don't remember the exact year. It was Christmas morning and I was probably seven or eight years old. I took off the wrapping paper, opened the box and there it lay snugly in the packing. It had a black plastic handle with textured grip for no slip holding with a small two inch blade with about half the blade being serrated. The word Kershaw was stamped on the handle. Kershaw was the best of the best when it came to pocket knives with possibly the only exception being Gerber.

I carried that pocket knife with me for several years before I broke the tip off of it while prying dirt away from a grease zerk fitting on the cultivator that I was using to weed my dad's field corn. I was broken hearted over the loss but couldn't bring myself to get rid of it and so I used it like that for a couple more years. From time to time I missed not having a point on my Kershaw knife but it seemed like it was compensated for by having a regular screwdriver instead.

I was probably fifteen or sixteen years old when a friend of my family who hunted on our farm from time to time and whom I wrote about when he committed suicide last fall, gave me a gift of a new pocket knife as a thank you for hunting privileges. It had a black textured handle and a knob on one side that allowed one handed opening of the three inch blade and wasn't a Kershaw. It was a Buck. The only drawback was that it didn't have any serrations. I liked the knife and it felt good in my hand but it was never a Kershaw or a Gerber. I carried it around for awhile but found that I kept going back to my Kershaw with the broken tip.

Sometime in my mid twenties, over a decade ago, I was walking through a store when I saw it under the glass counter. It was silver metal with a black rubber grip and a three inch black blade with knob for easy one handed opening and serrations on the rear half of the blade. It had a clip on one side so that it could be easily clipped to one side of a pocket for easy access and so that it wouldn't fall to the bottom of the pocket where it would fall sideways and be uncomfortable to carry around. It was a Gerber.

I bought that knife from that store and have carried it with me for well over a decade. The black coating on the blade has been scraped off the tip and large portions of the sides. The silver metal handle has lots of scrapes but the knife is still in perfect order. Although I carry it with me everywhere I go except when I have to go through security checkpoints, I still have my Kershaw with the broken point and the Buck that just never felt quite right.

To me, that knife is as essential as my right arm. This weekend, I used it as a shim on a 4' by 8' sheet of plywood to get the edges to line up, I used it to scrape off some stickers off the same plywood before painting, I used it to open up the paint can, I used to fish out a screw that I dropped and it fell in a hard to reach place for big clumsy fingers and I used it as a staple remover. That was all in one day. I essentially have used it that way for over 3650 days exactly like that.

Although that knife is the only one that I carry and use on a daily basis, it is far from a monogamous relationship. I have lots of other knives that I've picked up here or there or have been given to me for various reasons. I've had Swiss Army, Old Fashioned, Buck, various carving, and even a USMC K-bar knife. I still have them all and I like to pick them up and admire them from time to time but none of them have the practicality that my Gerber pocket knife has. I even have a Kershaw Multi-tool but I've carried that with me few enough times that I can add them up with one hand. I also have a couple knives that are more like collector knives such as a replica of the knife that John Rambo used in the movie First Blood, complete with compass, hooks and fishing line in the hollow handle.

Everything in my life always comes back to the Gerber and the Kershaw still with the broken tip. If I have one thing that I can probably say will be among my possessions when I die that I own right now, it is surely one of them. A Kershaw with a broken tip will probably also be there. Old loves die hard.


sage said...

Nice "ode" to your knife. I still have a Kabar sheaf-knife and many others, including my other grandfather's electrical knife (on sharp point--this is the other grandfather, not the one who had the lantern). I mostly carry a Swiss Army Knife, I have several (and have donated a couple to security when I forgot to take them out of my computer backpack). I like the one with the corkscrew--which has made me the welcome guess at many parties!

TC said...

I could never carry a knife. I'd slice a major artery and not even realize I'd done it until it was too late. I'm a klutz like that.

Nice post.

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - I've owned two Swiss Army knives but find them a little bulky to carry with me. On one of them, the plastic covers over the metal body fell off but later I think I determined that it was a knock-off of the real thing.

TC - My brother is like that too. This post was inspired by a comment that Beau of Fox Haven Journal made a couple weeks ago. He deserves some of the thanks.

Murf said...

I second TC. I'm still suffering from a knife wound on my index finger from cutting up lettuce for a salad on Sunday night.

Beau said...

I do the pocketknife thing too-have had many kinds, also a swiss army knife for years. I lost one in the washing machine somewhere and I'm still looking for it!

The Real Mother Hen said...

Wow, man with a pocket knife is a dangerous man - my mama said so!

Well dude, I associate man with a pocket knife with man with a flat comb in the pocket behind, so ready to draw the comb and run it through the oily hair while smoking a camel. Now I'm going to think of Ed the same way, haha :)

Sage said...

Murf, you really use a knife to cut lettuce? Cabbage yes, lettuce you rip with your hands!

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - Did you know the number one cause of knife accidents is a dull knife? That is why I keep a set of diamond honing blocks around at all times.

Beau - I think I have every knife I've ever owned. That has probably got to be a record.

Mother Hen - When I have to use a comb, I cut my hair so I can't think of the last time I've actually used a comb much less carried one with me. I'm guessing in another decade or two, I won't have to worry about combing even if I let what hair I have grow. Darn genetics!

Sage - Murf is crazy like that.

Murf said...

Ed - I have heard that but the idea of a really sharp knife scares me even more. Should I even reveal that I was cutting the lettuce with a steak knife? :-)

And yes, I do cut lettuce. Well, maybe not anymore maybe. Next time I'll try your ripping technique...but why wouldn't you rip cabbage too?

R. Sherman said...

Great post. I still remember my Elder Son's eyes when I gave him his first Victorinox Swiss Army Knife at age 9. My wife was furious, but he hasn't destroyed anything yet. He treats that thing like a precious heirloom already.

My current knife, a Victorinox Climber, I've had since 1976. Man, has that thing seen a lot. Good thing it doesn't talk.

BTW, I commented on your post from Monday, late because I needed some time to digest it.


Murf said...

I just wanted to share this link just to get it into the record. I am not crazy and there are thousands more of me out there. :-)

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - If I were going to cut lettuce with a knife, I would use a serrated knife like a steak knife. But I just tear lettuce. Cabbage is too tough to cut with a knife.

R. Sherman - I almost feel naked without my knife. It's a wonder I can sleep at night with it on the dresser across the room. Don't worry, I get email updates when someone comments on a back entry so I usually catch it.

Murf - Thanks but I didn't get a link. The record still does not have whatever in it.

Murf said...

It was working! It was just a link to a website selling special lettuce knives.