Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Influence stories - Knife carry

I was recently thinking about my possible influences as a kid that led me to start carrying a knife at such an early age, and I remembered an incident that may have played a role. I was probably 10 or 11 and I was walking around my neighborhood with Ian LeSage (yeah, another one), my best friend at the time, and when we got down to the Harvey St.(?) beach access we found that some local punk kids we knew had strung a strong string across the road at about waist level. We decided we'd better save the day and take it out before someone hit it, so we grabbed a rough rock and started trying to saw through it. We didn't get very far before a car did come along, so one of us started waving our hands at it to stop while the other kept frantically sawing, but it ignored us and drove right through it, snapping it and I guess doing no damage. We had good intentions and were trying to help, but we were unable to follow through because we didn't have anything sharp and were forced to try improvising in an inadequate fashion. To make it worse, I think I probably already had a couple pocket knives by that time, so it was a good lesson in the value of EDC.

But well before that, I remember wanting a pocket knife more than anything. I remember hanging around the old HART sidewalk event they used to have in town and looking around their old storage shed, thinking maybe a pocket knife might magically appear if I just kept looking for it everywhere. I was probably about 6. When I was probably 7, I finally realized my dream. I gathered up like $10 that I'd saved from my allowance, had my mom take me to the hardware store that used to be where the antique place is now in the Creekside center, asked the old guy there for the price of the little traditional pocket knives I'd seen in a glass counter, and then told him I'd be taking one. I think the price was around $6. It never occurred to me that he might have refused to sell a knife to someone my age, and it's sad to think that nowadays he probably wouldn't. But he just smiled and fished one out for me, like he knew he was playing a key role in a rite of passage. I was so happy to finally have my first knife, and it was probably just about the most expensive thing I'd ever purchased at the time. It's still around somewhere; it's a little two-bladed clip point with an imitation-wood plastic handle, probably just over 3" long closed and very thin. I carried that knife for probably around a year before I was given a Wenger Swiss Army Knife for Christmas (I think) when I was 8, which I used for years.

I've sometimes wondered what gave me such an incredible desire for a pocket knife at that age, and today I think the answer just might have hit me. What I realized is that one of my favorite childhood books was My Father's Dragon, which I found in my garage and read probably around age 7. In a climactic scene, Elmer must free the dragon from his tether by sawing through the thick rope with his pocket knife before the jungle creatures that enslave it can catch them. I think that may have elevated the value of being prepared with a knife considerably for me. Also, around that time my mom was seeing a guy named Larry, who was known to always have a small pocket knife on him. I liked him a lot and used to hang out at his house playing computer games sometimes. The example he set of always being prepared for little tasks that could come up probably stuck with me too.

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