Thursday, July 8, 2010

One of My Best Old Friends

I recently got a wild hair and decided to restore and repaint the double door complex which leads to the rear deck. I gathered all the necessary tools, tape, masking papers, paint, brushes, hand sanders and started the project. Vines had crept up the columns and sullied the good finish and it all needed to be restored. It actually takes far longer to do a masking job on windows, floor and adjacent siding than it does to do the repaint.

With all that pile of equipment, I found, yet again, that the most often used tool for that job was already in my britches—my pocket knife. Once the job was done and as I was putting all the tools away, I discovered that my knife was missing.

It is a Frost Cutlery “Cheyenne” with a bone handle and 2½" blade. It has nickel bolsters and the business end is 440C surgical steel. That steel is a little tougher to sharpen with my Lansky kit but the reward is that it keeps an edge longer and shows little evidence of wear after twenty plus years. I love that knife.

Having been in the business, I retained many blades when I left the ill-fated Cochise Trading Co. back in the eighties. I also carry a Leatherman Tool when I wear a belt and it has bailed me out many times when I needed a multipurpose tool. I also keep the huge Compass Bowie sheath knife whose most arduous task was cutting the wedding cake when Granny and I tied the knot. I also have a “manila folder” which is too clumsy to carry but does put on a great show when I open it. In addition there are other blades which I keep, more or less, in reserve as back ups.

On balance though, nothing is quite as essential as the pocket knife a man carries on every occasion. I could catalog the everyday problems which that little gem solves but if you have formed an attachment to a pocket knife, I don’t need to relate each and every one. If you don’t carry one then you probably also call some one to change a flat tire on your car. If you wear a skirt or are incapacitated by a ventilator then I understand why you have probably stopped reading by now.

When my father-in-law, Dick Shepard, died in Cooperstown, NY, one of the kids suggested that I go into the bedroom and see if there was anything there that I could use as they had individually taken their “first pick” and justifiably found those mementos which they held to be important. Imagine my surprise to see on the chest of drawers that no one had taken his two-bladed tiny pocket knife. I picked it up and immediately returned to where they were gathered and double checked to see if any of the natural family members had inadvertently over looked it. None of them registered any interest and I felt honored that I now possessed his most personal of all tools and have enjoyed the constant reminder of his nobility and goodness. He was my kind of man and I treasure his memory every time I use or see it.

Every one of my antecedents which are now long gone carried his own version of this invaluable tool. As farmers, most had a double bladed affair with the smaller blade sharpened to a razor edge for neutering animals. My grandfather Frank finished his on his razor strop. It was also always available for removal of a kid’s splinter or an assist in separating fruit from a tree. The general antiseptic was a quick wipe over the leg of bib overalls. My uncle Jess Frank, a vet, who I followed as a kid, probably relied on his pocketknife more than any tool in his bag. He was much in demand and well respected among his clientele whether two or four footed.

Among those who treasure their knife there is rarely a temptation to ask another man to loan his temporarily no matter how close the relationship. That piece of cutlery is just all too personal. Most men clearly understand this prohibition. As one realizes a constant companion is absent, the sense of possible loss is immense.

As I straightened up the office this morning in advance of its annual “clean up and reorganization” and floor sweeping, there on the floor was my Cheyenne. Don’t even ask how it got there. Somehow, it had made the journey from the back deck to the office floor and there it was. I now have at least partial knowledge of how a mother feels when a lost child shows up. My only obligation now is to God who I promised everything if He would only facilitate its return. Keeping those promises will be difficult but it will be more than worth it.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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