Knife with a few tools on it.
« on: November 18, 2018, 07:46:41 PM »
Kids learn a lot by watching their seniors. Like pups watching the older dogs and learning from them, we kids watched and learned. Dad's, uncles, neighbors. and in some cases, the scout master. I was in the Boy Scouts, and it was a huge learning experience for this city kid. Our scout master was a crusty, semi semi prickly retired career marine named Mr. Van. He could yell loud enough to be heard in the next county, and when he gave orders he expected them to be obeyed. We loved and grew to worship him. Yeah, he was strict, but fair. If the troop patch was suppose to be 2 inches from the shoulder seem, that didn't mean 1 7/8th or 2 1/8 inches. Yes, he carried a small tape measure on inspections. This was the man that a bunch of city kids from Wheaton Maryland learned how to live in the woods, make camp furniture, make a one match fire, and the holy trinity of marksmanship; sight picture, breath control, and trigger squeeze. And how to care for a knife.
One of the subjects he was fanatical on, was our knives. Our weekly scout meeting was on Friday night at the local church that sponsored the scout troop. At 7pm sharp, not 6: 57, not 7:03, his footsteps would precede him to his entrance and the scout troop came to attention with scout knives ready to present. Mr, van would slowly go down the line and inspect all uniforms and then take the scout knife from the young scouts hand and give it his exam. Woe, to the scout who's knife was not to Mr. Van’s standard of sharp and well oiled. These were all the same pattern of knives, the standard scout knife of main spear tipped blade with screwdriver/bottle opener, can opener, and awl. Kind of like, well, a Victorinox pioneer. Or even better, my old and trusted war horse of a few decades, the Wenger SI. Mr. Van’s own knife was a scout knife. Not just any scout knife, but a 1930’s vintage Remington scout knife with real jigged bone handles. To us young kids, it was like Arthur’s Excalliber. Those old Remington’s were a beautiful thing to behold. Craftsmenship like wasn’t seen anymore. His knife was old, but well cared for.
The scout pattern was my first pocket knife in my life, and it set a pattern for me to always have a knife with a few tools. I remember once a young scout, maybe harboring thoughts of suicide, asked Mr. Van why we carried scout knives with extra tools instead of extra blades. There was a moment of silence while we waited to see what the answer was going to be from our resident demigod.
But Mr. Van was thoughtful in his response.
"Well Mr. Ryerson, sometimes a knife is not what's needed in certain situations. A knife is a highly tempered tool that if abused may snap. Sometimes a little light prying is needed and a more mildly tempered tool like a screw driver is better to open a can of putty or such. Then you may have a loose screw on your rifle or something has to be fixed but has a cover that has to be unscrewed to get at the works. Or you may be out in the boonies and have a can of chilli to open and heat up your supper. An awl is a handle tool if you have to sew any leather or heavy canvas in the field to repair it. It's a very handy thing to have a pocket knife with a few tools on it."
We all took a breath as Mr. Van finished his explanation to Bobby Ryerson and his words were never forgotten. It's like that with God like figures you know, their words are never forgotten. For the rest of my life after the Boy Scouts, I've kept a SAK around. That Camillus Boy Scout knife dad gave me at age 12 was carried until I enlisted in the army not long after high school, and the army gave me a knife with tools on it. The famed 'demo' knife. That was carried for quite while until I got my first SAK. A pocket knife with a few tools on it, as Mr. Van would say. It set a lifetime habit with me. I’d try “other” pocket knives now and then, but they all would get replaced again with a SAK. For a while, the stockman was around, then back to the old Wenger SI. Then a peanut, and back to the SAK. After a while a small classic was added to the keyring to augment the larger SAK in the pocket. I’ve long lost count of stuff I’ve fixed with a SAK while out someplace on the go. A dead Vespa motor scooter on a dirt road in the country side, a trolling motor on a canoe out at the far end of a big lake, a loose cylinder latch screw on a Smith and Wesson revolver out on the range, not to mention can’s of Chilli or Dinty Moore beef stew opened at a campfire out in the woods. The small screw driver on the can opener of the SAK makes a fine Phillips driver. For whatever reason, the whole world now seems to be held together with small Phillips screws, and having a tool to fit them seems like a very important tool to have on you.
Now and then I think back on Mr. Van’s advice on having a pocket knife with a few tools on it. It seems as sound today as it was over 50 years ago when I was a disciple of his. But then, I still practice the holy trinity as well.