Appalachian Thursday – Pocketknives

pocketknivesI had no idea something as common and everyday as a pocketknife could stir such passion. Last week I posted a link to an essay in Appalachian Magazine titled “The Kind of Men Who Carry Pocketknives.” Man–the clicks that link got!

Since I don’t see men whipping out their knives so much these days, I guessed maybe carrying them had fallen by the wayside. Not so if the comments on that post can be trusted.

When I was a kid, most men I knew had a pocketknife on them. Dad carried a Case knife if I remember correctly. My brothers carried them. I even had a small Swiss knife I kept in my purse. (Those tiny scissors were next to useless.)

Knives had a bazillion uses. The one that came to mind when I posted the link was the way Dad would pull out his knife to open Christmas presents. He’d carefully slice the tape so as not to damage the paper. A holdover from days when they saved the paper from year to year. It was sheer torture for us kids, wanting to rip open our own packages while being expected to politely wait for Dad to surgically open his.

Now I miss it. Durn gift bags.

Here’s a handful of things I saw my dad do with his pocketknife over and over again:

  • Slice an apple.
  • Cut baling twine.
  • Kill tics (yuck, I know).
  • Cut a switch for a naughty child.
  • Skin squirrels or rabbits (deer required a larger, skinning knife).
  • Clean fingernails.
  • Sharpen sticks for roasting wieners or marshmallows over a fire.
  • Sharpen the knife itself on a whetstone. I can still hear that gritty whisking sound if I close my eyes . . .

Of course, the knife was cleaned after the ickier uses, but it does bring to mind a story Dad loves to tell about the local fur trader in our neighborhood. Dad stopped by Colman’s house one day when he was skinning a groundhog (a pungent job, trust me). As they chatted, Colman wiped his knife on his pant leg, reached into a box of windfall apples, sliced one, and offered dad a bite.

I know you aren’t supposed to carry a knife in your pocket a lot of places these days. Then again, there are still places where it’s expected. So, I fished one of the several pocketknives floating around in our kitchen drawer out and dropped it in my purse. I know it’s going to come in handy.


Published by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author, wife, child of God.

10 thoughts on “Appalachian Thursday – Pocketknives

  1. My Dad and all five of my brothers carry knives at all times. At the same time, my sister and I are a little bit obsessed with knives, so it’s no great surprise to find us carrying one in our pockets, purses, sewing bags, etc. We love shocking people by whipping out our knives whenever one is needed (or just because we want to show it off!). Poor Mom despairs of ever making us into truly proper ladies. 🙂

  2. This brought back some memories! I think my Dad even trimmed his nails with a pocketknife back in the 70’s. And somewhere I have a specially engraved pocketknife – it was a “safety award” for achieving a certain amount of time with no industrial accidents in the steel fabrication shop I worked for. Handy things, I think I need to find mine again. 🙂

  3. My Grandpa and Father both carried pocket knives. My husband carries a leatherman (knife and tool) in a pouch on his belt. I have one myself, floating around in one of my handbags. I shockingly was able to make it through airport security once with the knife in my purse. I had forgotten it was even there! But when I went through security, they pulled me aside to search my purse and wave the wand. The lady that checked my purse had me pull out the larger items (my wallet, keys, etc.) then before she stuck her hand in my purse asked if there was anything that would stick her. I said, “no”. She felt around and then waved me through. After I arrived at my destination I took everything out of my purse and then held it over my bed an shook it just for good measure. Out falls a pocket knife! I was shocked! My only guess is that because I had taken the long strap off the purse and had it in the bottom of my purse, that the strap coiled up and the extra fabric from the purse itself hid the knife. For my return trip, I tucked it safely in my checked luggage.

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