A knife is a basic tool, one of the most basic tools of all. Knives can do a lot of harm, but down through history they've done a lot of good too—certainly far, far more good than harm. We use knives every day, and if we don't, we're the beneficiaries of someone else who has used a knife.
A knife is more than a knife. It's even a communications device—a knife will speak. What does a knife say? Find out in my June 12 column in the Jamestown Gazette, “A Kid-Sized Knife,” and think about the knives you have or have had. My bet is that when you need a knife, a kid-sized knife is your go-to.
To access more of my writing on hunting topics, go to the home page of my blog, Mission: Hunter.
Photo caption: Neither of these knives is kid-sized. Neither will do a good job at field dressing a deer. But both have treasured places in the author’s collection. (Steve Sorensen photo)
A Kid-Sized Knife
Dad looked at the foot-long knife lashed to my six-year-old thigh and said, “You’ll never need a knife that big to field dress a deer. A small knife works a lot better, like this one.” He held out his small, fixed blade knife with a white celluloid handle. He had just used it on the biggest buck he would ever kill.
As a budding outdoorsman I believed Dad was the greatest deer hunter in the world, and his small knife would suit me just fine. Unlike the knife hanging down to my knee, his seemed kid-sized. I asked if I could have it and he carved my name on the back of the sheath, promising it would someday be mine.
Fast-forward a couple of decades. He handed me the knife and said, “Do you remember asking for this?” I remembered him sharpening the knife on the eve of every deer season opener, while my fingers traced the letters STEVE cut into the back of the leather sheath.
The gift of that knife was more than a promise fulfilled. It was a rite of passage. It marked an unbreakable bond. In retrospect, Dad was wise not to give it to me when I asked for it. By giving it to me when he did, he conveyed respect, friendship, and a legacy. That knife will always be special.
Today I have more knives than I will ever use. Hunting knives, pocketknives, fixed blade knives, folding knives, Swiss Army knives, homemade knives and more. My favorites aren’t the highest quality knives, or the ones with popular brand names. My favorites are the knives that once belonged to someone else.
Besides Dad’s hunting knife, I now own the knife I had strapped to my pint-sized thigh those many years ago—a Ka-Bar “survival knife” with USN stamped on the tang. It was post-war gift to Dad from his big brother, my uncle Ken, a patriot and a Navy veteran of World War II. It’s big because if a man ever needs it, he’ll need to ask a lot of it.
At the other end of the spectrum are a couple of miniature “gentleman’s knives,” gifts from a long-departed friend. You can’t ask those knives to do much more than trim cuticles or slice open a letter.
Of the many knives I have, I mention one more. It’s an interesting knife purchased by an elderly lady at some Middle Eastern bazaar more than 60 years ago during her round-the-world excursion. Likely made in a backyard forge, it has a rough bone handle. Engraved on both folding blades are characters in what appears to be a Semitic language. It’s a conversation piece, and I trust the conversation isn’t about “Death to the infidel!”
Although women own and use knives, if we have any category of things we can call “manly” (a word seldom used these days), knives are in it. The proof? In mixed company you’re not likely to ask a woman if you may borrow her pocketknife.
Whether carried by man or woman, a knife is a tool, perhaps as simple as a blade and a handle—and maybe the handle is an extension of the blade. A knife is the original multi-tool, useful for countless tasks.
And whether a knife is old and rusty, shiny and artistic, fixed blade or folder, it isn’t just for cutting and slicing, or for abuse by prying or pounding. Sometimes you’ll see a man use a knife by taking it out of his pocket, examining it closely, then putting it back. You might say, “He didn’t use it,” not realizing he used it to focus his thoughts. There’s a mysterious connection between a keen edge and a sharp mind.
If I have any advice about knives, it’s this. Keep a few on hand for no other reason than to give them away. Give a man a knife and you forge a bond. You trust him. You believe in him. A knife is a message. “You’re important to me.”
A knife is always a good gift, even if it’s a kid-sized knife, because a kid-sized knife suits every man. And because even the man who has everything doesn’t have enough knives.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com.