THE KIND OF MEN WHO CARRY POCKET KNIVES
Jason Jami Jackson
Less than 40 years have passed and I am astonished to see how the times have changed since my father bought this knife for me as just a small boy. I do still have it, which by today’s standards is an anomaly. I’ll leave the discussion of our throwaway culture for another time.
Yes, this pocket knife has witnessed many changes in our society. Technology, communication, transportation, and even education have dramatically changed from the way it was just a generation ago. My pocket knife and I are neither quite certain if all the changes have been for the good. When I look across the landscape of America and take note of the differences, the greatest change that I see is in the people themselves.
RURAL AMERICA AND THE POCKET KNIFE
Growing up in rural Northeast Alabama in the foothills of the Appalachians, I was privileged to catch the tale end of what was an era marked by ruggedness and self-sufficiency. I grew up around men that were willing to fix what was broken and take the time to do it right.
My father was a Vietnam veteran and the product of growing up farming the hills of these same mountains where I was raised. He always carried a small pocket knife much like the one pictured. He had an affinity for Case knives, but would carry the occasional “Old timer” or “Buck” or even “Schrade”. One thing was for sure. He always had one with him, wherever he was. You could be pretty sure that his pocket knife would be super sharp. If you stared at it too long your eyeballs would bleed. Now that’s pretty sharp. The pocket knife was an important part of his life.
Whether it was to slice a freshly picked apple, or to cut some twine, (coincidentally twine can patch most any broken farm implement until you can get home) he was always prepared. At Christmas time, my father always had his knife waiting to help open those pesky gifts that needed cutting open as only a father can do best.
REMEMBERING MY FATHER’S POCKET KNIFE
My father was not the only man in my young life that I watched wield his trusty 3 bladed pocket knife. He used it as if it was a surgeon’s scalpel. My uncles, my friend’s dads, my bosses, they all carried pocket knives. I watched and learned a resourcefulness in the these men, that is seldom seen today. For my father and many others of a generation gone by, a pocket knife was an essential tool for daily life.
The men who carry pocket knives are hardworking, do it yourselfers. They were raised to rely on themselves in nearly every situation. I’ve seen a pocket knife start a tractor, remove a splinter, slice a watermelon, carve a toy, and open a can. They have been used to clean wild game, cut gum/tar out of hair, sharpen pencils, cutting bait, and teaching responsibility. The list goes on and on. The uses of the pocket knife are as varied and strong as the men who use them.
GIFTING POCKET KNIVES
I adopted this tool at a very early age as one that would always be at my side. A pocket knife has always been a part of who I am. So much so that I was almost offended when I encounter a grown man who didn’t have one in his own pocket. I took it upon myself in my 20’s to start gifting knives. Sometimes to random strangers, sometimes to close friends.
The conversation would start by asking if I could borrow someone’s knife. Knowing full well that I had 2 in my own pocket. If the answer was proudly “why sure”, then I would take the knife and inspect it for its level of wear. This is an indicator of how much work it had actually seen. Often paying a simple compliment as I return the knife. If the answer was that they didn’t have a knife to let me borrow, I would quickly reach into my pocket and deliver one to their hand along with a reference to the fact that every man should carry a knife. To date, I have given out somewhere north of 300 knives.
So, who are the kind of men who carry pocket knives today? They are typically utilitarian. They are the type of men who earn an honest living, work hard, and stand fearless in a world gone mad. To put it simply, they are the type of men that I feel this world needs more of.
If you find yourself in a tight spot and need some help, just ask the guy with the pocket knife. They may be few and far between, but chances are he can and will be able to lend a hand.
I carry, do you? JEJ