Knives have always fascinated me. I can’t remember not carrying a pocketknife as a child. It was the handiest tool of all, and got me through all sorts of odd scrapes. Once, at the bottom of the Merced River Canyon, I managed to snap off the petcock of my car radiator. I whipped out my handy jackknife and whittled a wooden plug, which I pounded into the hole in my radiator and was able to get all the way home without boiling over every five miles.
I have whittled tinder to start a fire, cleaned fish, and skinned deer, bear, and boar with my trusty knife. Once, when my dog was retrieving a duck in a farm pond, he became trapped in an illegal trotline consisting of dozens of fishhooks suspended from a hundred foot line strung across the pond. Without the aid of my ever-present jackknife old Skippy would have surely drowned.
Some years ago, the King Tut Exhibit was making the rounds in several American cities and my wife Mary and I were lucky enough to be able to see it in San Francisco. Like everyone else, I was fascinated by all of the beautiful artifacts from thousands of years ago. Probably the single most impressive treasure of all was a gold dagger about twelve inches long. The knife sheath was engraved with hunting scenes much like our knives of today. Somehow I felt more of a kinship with a boy-king who had lived and died 33 centuries ago.
I recall buying some of my early knives at Carp’s Sporting Goods. Of course, Carp wasn’t the proprietor’s real name, but everyone in town called him that. I guess it wouldn’t make sense to give a young kid a really good knife, because he’d probably lose it or abuse it. I considered it a high honor when my parents gave me a hand made engraved pocketknife for my 12th birthday. I guess I was old enough and responsible enough to take care of it properly. I still have that knife today and can still read the inscription on it as well. Perhaps because of that knife so long ago a tradition was born. My Father and I began to give each other knives for birthdays and Christmas. We each would purchase a knife for the other and wrap it in a box covered with colorful outdoor scenes which we’d cut from outdoor magazines. Each year we’d save the box and give it back with yet another knife inside as a gift.
It was no coincidence when I gave my son his first custom made knife for his 12th birthday. I’d found a fellow here in Ripon who was a master knife maker. He didn’t advertise but already had all the work he needed because he was truly gifted at making custom knives. The knife he made for Donald was both functional and beautiful. If a truly custom knife is something you’ve always wanted, you may want to consider a custom knife. It won’t be cheap, and it won’t be quick, but, you’ll have a quality tool that should you a lifetime.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a custom made knife, don’t despair. There are lots of good quality knives out there made by well-known manufacturers who will give you a heck of a value for your money. The Old Timer series by Schrade are excellent knives at reasonable prices, as are Case Knives. A little higher up the price scale are knives made by Buck, Kershaw, and Gerber which are all great knives. If there are any old G.I.’s out there who think fondly of the K-Bar knife they carried in WWII, they can rest easy, too. K-Bar is still making knives and they even make one just like you carried in 43.
If you’ve got an outdoor enthusiast in the family, your shopping problem is solved. Whether its for birthday, anniversary, graduation, or Christmas, get your outdoors enthusiast another knife. I guarantee you it will be appreciated and won’t be taken back the day after Christmas. I don’t care what anybody says, you can never have enough knives.
Until next week, Tight Lines