Pastime: Pocket knives I have known

By MAYLON T. RICE

Special to the Saline River Chronicle

It is August.

The longest month of the year which is a prequel to the shortest part of the year.

The tomatoes are all picked. Most of the hay is out of the field and on the farm. Football and band practices have yet to start.

It is hot. It is humid.

August is, oh, so boring.

For me that brings me back to memories of many hours of staring into the large, glass topped pocket knife showcases for these handy little knives that were on display at C. W. Hankins & Son, Hurley Hardware or some of the smaller country stores, found all over Warren and Bradley County.

Back in the late 1960s, every boy over the age of 9 or 10, carried a folding pocket knife.

It was more than a status symbol.

It was a needed and necessary “tool” to have, no matter what job you had, around the house doing your “chores” or if you had a part-time job somewhere else, it was almost mandatory.  I had a legendary job, as one of the several generations of “printer’s devils,” down at the Eagle Democrat.

And to do that job, you needed your own pocket knife.

There was string to cut, paper to split and splice, tightly wrapped packages to open, thick cardboard to trim, and well there were just lots of things one could do independently, if you had your own pocket knife.

If you had to “borrow” someone else’s knife – well then someone might as well have to stop his work and do it themselves. Before long, someone says, “you really need to start carrying your own pocket knife, young man.”

Message was received.

Soon after I got that job, I began to carry my own two-blade Case brand pocket knife. It was not a very big, or long folding blade knife, just right for my left hand and all the things a boy needed a knife around the farm or on the job. 

It wasn’t razor sharp, but it would skin a squirrel, pop a sea-grass string on a bale of hay or cut up an apple, peach or pear for a quick snack.

There were the Case knives, a larger and more study knife called a Barlow brand and the Ka-Bar brand knives that I can recall being sold at area hardware stores. And I do remember the Buck knife brand.

Today, the knife names are wild and unfamiliar, such as Spyderco, Benchmade, Boker, Micro Tech, Kershaw, Cold Steel, CRKT, Gerger Gear, Victorinox and don’t forget this ominous sounding brand, Zero Tolerance.

The late Martin Hankins sold a lot of the Case knives. I doubt he has a Zero Tolerance, in the display cases. In fact, I know he didn’t have a single one of L. L. Bean or Cabela’s outwear knives offered by these mail-order houses.

It was only after a substantial down-payment and a short schedule of monthly payments, I had my first very own, bought-it-with-my-own-money, saved, that I had my very one two-bladed Case knife to carry in my jeans pocket.

I think it took me from June until August to pay off the small balance owed to get the knife out of a lay-away contract.

I kept it oiled, sharpened and clean of paint, tar, glue, on the blades and even gave it a great bath in gasoline and paint remover as I dropped it in a paint roller brush pan during a room painting project – it was still a great knife.

Somehow, I also learned on the fly how to sharpen a No. 2 pencil to perfection with the seldom used and shorter and stubby blade on the knife.

It served me well until I went to college and somehow, keys and carrying a wallet and money clip made me quit carrying the pocket knife.

Only in a pinch or a known setting, such as going hunting, fishing or outdoors on a camping trip would the little Case knife go back into the jeans pocket.

Years later after carrying that first knife for about a decade, it went into a drawer, then a glass catch-all sitting on my desk at home, the pocket knife found a home where it rests today.

I dare not start carrying a pocket knife again. There are too many metal detector locations I visit, even in retirement.

And I hear that the TSA at the local airport seized over 6,000 knives from passengers last year.

Maybe that’s why I rarely fly.

Every boy needs a pocket knife of his own. And a scar on his “holding hard” thumb to teach him to “whittle” on anything carefully.

There seems to be lots of time in August to whittle with a small bladed pocket knife.

Just another Pastime to sharpen the memory of days gone by as August drags on.

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