Lamenting empty pockets

A pair of .22 rimfire case heads adorn the pivot pin, covering the cracked walnut scales. The quick and dirty repair job has held up for nearly two decades now. Abused it may be, but still the most useful tool ever invented.

It can slice cheese, open boxes or trim sheets of paper. It can cut rope or trim arrow shafts from straight-stalked dogwood.
Last year, it boned out a 3×3 muley and cut a mesquite thorn from my swollen pinky finger.
Years ago, with the help of several glasses of whiskey and a Zippo, it seared a relief hole in a friend’s blackened finger nail at a bar room table.
Countless times, I have used a half-open knife to pull a piece of cholla cactus from the dog’s leg and sometimes from my own.
Every once in a while, I head into the workshop and build a new folding knife for myself.

Always though, I end up giving the new knife away and returning to my old standbys. A two-bladed Case that was a gift and the carbon bladed slip-joint knife my dad gave me decades ago.
There are others, an auto I built on a whim, several variations of factory-made liner locks, lockbacks and other stainless steel contraptions that were made for intentions other than whittling and minor surgery. They lie in a drawer, unused. Pointless in their existence.
It’s the little brown knife that proves most useful, though I fear even it faces an uphill battle.
Knives are steadily becoming relics, feared weapons of mass destruction.
Only a few years ago, I traveled on flights all across the country with a modest knife in my pocket.
I took it to school every day from the 4th grade on. Now, I can’t go into the Post Office, the County Courthouse or dozens of other places because of a small carbon-steel blade that doesn’t even lock open.
How do I teach my sons to carry knives? How will they be able to trim a nail or cut a toothpick when a Swiss Army knife can get you kicked out of school?
The post 911 era has brought some worthwhile security reforms, but in my opinion it has limited what I consider a basic right.
In the grand scheme of things, my 3-inch knife is not any more dangerous than a ballpoint pen or a medium-sized rock. It’s certainly less dangerous than the two-ton cars which we routinely let 17-year-olds drive to school.
That schools trust kids with cars and condoms but can’t trust them with a pocket knife baffles me. That adults can’t be trusted with a knife in many public places blows my mind.
Who are these people that think a pocket knife is to be feared?
Maybe the more pertinent question, who are these people that don’t carry a knife and what do they do when they need to cut something?
The people without a knife are foreign to me, unknown and unknowing.
Familiar is the feel of smooth walnut and filed tool steel.
Adrift in my pocket, surrounded by loose change and lint, the little brown knife awaits its next task.

– G. M.

12 thoughts on “Lamenting empty pockets”

  1. Great piece, Greg. I’m assuming that’s an old sodbuster? One of my favorite patterns. I’ve got an older Case myself, but if I ever have the coin to have a custom slipjoint made, it’s gonna be a sodbuster pattern.

  2. Who are these people that think a pocket knife is to be feared ?
    Unfortunatly they are the people we have become. We are not the same people who built this country. Today we are a selfish, self-absorbed people who think only of themselves and expect the government to fix everything. Be honest with you I don’t want them carrying a knife either. For so long I have been against gun control. But that was when a man or woman could be responsible and had self reliance and respected others. Not so sure anymore.

  3. C –

    Thanks for sharing your opinion, and I think you bring up some interesting points.

    But I have to respectfully disagree.

    I don’t see myself as one of those people that you claim “we have become.” And I know many others who would be exceptions to that as well. We’re still alive and kicking and all is not lost.

    While technology evolves, and the things that distract us change, and the population explodes, creating all sorts of concerns that people didn’t used to need to worry about, I don’t believe human nature has fundamentally changed. I’m willing to bet there were just as many selfish, self-absorbed people during the formation of this country as there are now. And as there always have been. Dealing with a population that is largely selfish and self-absorbed is something all cultures and civilizations have had to deal with. It’s always easy to romanticize the past.

    Are there many self-reliant skills that used to be basic common knowledge that have been lost to much of the population these days? Undeniably. And to our detriment, for sure. But I bet there were old codgers in the 1700’s saying the same thing about how much more self-reliant people were 200 years prior in the 1500’s, and lamenting what silly ponces their present-day countrymen were.

    So stay strong and don’t give in. Gun control will never save us from ourselves. Neither will banning pocket knives. If we go down that road, it won’t be long before slingshots, ball point pens and chopsticks are illegal as well. Until we’ve eventually legislated away every way that we can possibly hurt ourselves or others. Just imagine how “safe” we’ll be then. These are the well-intentioned, but clueless, attempts of exactly the sort of people you warn us about. Admitting that there may be good reason for banning useful implements only reinforces this and moves us farther down that road.

    As the bumper sticker says,

    “Guns Kill People Like Spoons Made Rosie O’Donnell Fat.”

  4. Chad: It is indeed a sodbuster. Tough to beat for utility.

    C Bannecke: There are plenty of responsible, self reliant people around. In fact, I’d say they are by far the majority, it’s just that no one talks about them.

    Bruce: Ditto.

  5. Well Bruce, I was just answering your question in my comments. Your email wanted to know who these people were ? I gave you what I thought was the answer. If “Human nature hasn’t fundamentally changed then why the comment about schools trusting kids with condums and cars but can’t trust them with a pocket knife baffles me …..” ? Metal detectors in our schools baffes me !
    We probably agree on pretty much the same thing. I know we both have an adoration for pocket knives. And I sure don’t personally believe in gun control. However I do believe the good Lord carries a pocket knife and it’s a Case XX “Trapper” with a bone handle. Probably made from a piece of that rib taken from Adam when he created Eve ……. but I digress……
    Thanks for your responce.

  6. Thanks, Craig. And I hope my response didn’t come across as directed too personally – I was instead using your comments to speak to wider issues that you touched on.

    I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.


    – Bruce

  7. Nice reflection, Greg.

    I miss the Schrade “mini-trapper” myself. Left my last one on a rock alongside the Red River after cutting an apple and cheese, then walking away from it like I haven’t done with a knife before or since. I was a hundred miles away when I realized the mistake. Went to pick up a new one and found out that Schrade had gone out of business when I wasn’t looking.

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