Constant Companion

By , April 17, 2014

A friend and I have fallen in to a weird codependency lately, enabling each other’s love of knives. We spend a lot of time emailing about them to each other, and we’ve both acquired a few new ones, possibly encouraged by these exchanges. Our wives do not appear to have caught on yet, so for now, no real harm has come of it. But in thinking about my knives lately, I realize that I take one in particular for granted: my pocket knife.

It’s obvious to me why I would forget about my pocket knife when cataloging my knives. If I were to make a list of the tools I own, I most likely wouldn’t list my hands; they are my primary tools, so ubiquitous that they’re off the radar. The same goes for my pocket knife.

My Remington UMC camp folder (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

My Remington UMC camp folder (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I believe I received my first pocket knife when I was 5 years old. Someone, I think it was my oldest friend, gave me a camp knife for Christmas that year. I don’t believe I’ve ever been without one since. Even before entering the Boy Scout program as a Cub Scout, my father taught me that a knife is an essential item to carry each day.

I don’t remember how long I’ve had my current knife, a Remington UMC camp folder. I remember using it in 1994, but don’t know whether I still considered it new then or not. Aly and I were riding with my folks down the dirt road to Cannon Beach in Yakutat, Alaska, and found our way blocked by fallen saplings wedged into the foliage on either shoulder. I used the knife’s saw blade to cut them off the road.

Since then, I’ve owned it long enough that the bolster pins have worn down until their edges are blade sharp. These pins, rubbing around as I move, have ruined the pockets of several pairs of pants.

The saw blade is an extra in the classic camp folder configuration: drop point blade, clip point blade, can opener, and screwdriver/bottle opener. Frequency varies, but all of these get used about once a week for some task or other. I can’t begin to enumerate the variety of jobs my knife allows me to perform on a daily basis. It is my most used tool, period.

I carry the knife almost constantly. I definitely carry it more often than I carry my car keys, which have a day to day usefulness for me because I keep a flashlight on the ring. I probably carry the knife more often than my wallet.

This is why I’m always momentarily stumped by the acronym EDC (every day carry). I don’t think in those terms—am I standing up? Then, of course I have my knife, my wallet, probably even my keys. It’s a natural part of my waking moments, so specific terms or conscious thought seem superfluous.

Unfortunately, one can’t carry a pocket knife anymore while traveling by commercial air carrier. When I was a kid, we sometimes exceeded the knife restriction, which may have been over 3 or 4 inches. In that case, we’d hand over our knives when we boarded, and a flight attendant would hand them back when we deplaned. That seemed to be enough of an imposition, not being able to carry the knife on my person. As an Alaskan, I am statistically far more likely to experience a plane crash than a hijacking or other terrorist attack. Should I be so lucky to survive a crash, I’d definitely want to have my knife with me. The restriction against carrying it seems like a death warrant to me.

I carry several other knives with more specialized purposes at various times, but my pocket knife remains my constant companion, my minimum level of preparedness, and a natural part of each day.

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