Take a lesson from my friend’s kid in Missouri, a Cub Scout, who has already moved on to the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared.”
Last week he attended his first Cub Scout meeting after his family relocated to Kansas City. His
Den Leader asked the kids: “What kinds of things might we need on a hike or camping trip?”
Kids: “Water.” “Snacks.” “Compass.” “Rain gear.”
New Kid: “A knife.”
Den Leader: “Why might you need a knife?”
New Kid: “Well, say you were hiking with a friend and you tripped and got your foot stuck under a rock, and no one came to help you, and you needed to escape. You could use it to cut your foot off.”
The kid is not faint-hearted. Maybe he heard the true story of a canyon explorer who amputated his own arm in order to survive — a story made into the Oscar-nominated movie “127 Hours” starring James Franco. Certainly his dad, a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and former instructor at West Point, takes seriously his fatherly role of teaching life lessons at home. Either way, I say the kid is a cutting edge leader. But few kids carry knives today. Some people even discourage carrying a knife. Why? Well, they say knives can be dangerous.
But since when is danger a reason to avoid something? America was founded and has been preserved by people who did dangerous things. Today we drive, yet more than 100 people are killed in automobile accidents per day. We swim, yet more than 3,000 people drown annually, and many are children. Football causes head injuries, so many parents prefer their kids play soccer or lacrosse. (Both of those also cause plenty of head injuries. You can look it up.)
Growing up rural, I carried a knife. Sure, I had accidents. My left hand has more scars than my right hand because my right hand held the knife, but those lacerations were less important than my knife getting the job done.
It’s hard to imagine not having a knife handy for a variety of everyday chores. One challenge I never faced as a kid was breaking and entering those stubborn plastic packages retailers embed their products in. They’re virtually impenetrable without a knife. I also sharpen pencils, open mail, slice packing straps, remove tags, cut rope, open cardboard boxes, and do my manicures.
If you need to start a fire you can make fine shavings from a stick for kindling. If you’re a gardener you can open seed packets, cut suckers from your tomato plants, and graft buds onto root stock. If you’re a woodworker, you can trim splinters, wedge a crack apart so you can work in some glue, and trim dried glue. If you’re a hunter you can trim shooting lanes, field dress and skin an animal, and cut twine to attach a harvest tag.
You can play electrician and use a knife to strip insulation from wire. You can play mechanic and cut wire to clamp a coolant hose, or clean corroded battery terminals. You can play florist and cut flower stems with a knife. You can dig the mud out of your shoe treads, then open a can of peaches, then extract a sliver from your finger. (If you’re a country kid, maybe you’ll rinse the blade in a creek. Maybe.)
Let’s face it. A knife is a necessity. It’s probably the simplest tool man ever invented. Using a rock as a hammer pre-dates the knife, but a rock hardly qualifies as an invention. A knife is arguably the most useful tool. If you play Rock-Paper-Knife instead of Rock-Paper-Scissors, my money will be on the knife. A good knife will get the job done before the rock damages it.
You probably have your favorite knife. The one I carry every day is a folder made by Havalon, with a strong 3-inch blade for the tough jobs and a wicked-sharp replaceable surgical scalpel for my hunting needs. So in case I’m ever on that hike with our Cub Scout friend, I’ll be prepared.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting , he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.