I received my first pocketknife when I was 6 years old. We didn’t call it a pocket knife, though. According to my dad, who gave it to me for Christmas that year, it was a jackknife.
The knife itself was the second part of a two-part Christmas gift. The first part was a pair of Gokey botte Sauvage boots, arguably, then and now, the most prestigious boots a man can put onto his feet.
The boots were particularly appropriate since we lived that winter in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. It was below zero much of the time, and snow was already deeper than I was tall.
I thought my heart was going to burst from my chest as I opened the box of boots. After I had oohed and ahhed and whatever else it is that ecstatic 6-year-olds are prone to, I noticed on the outside of the right boot a small leather holster that opened from the top and was secured with a heavy snap. It was empty.
My dad noticed it, too, and commented that he didn’t see how I could wear such good boots with an empty holster. He then presented me with my first knife, an American-made Case knife with a bone handle and three blades.
Obviously, I could hardly wait to get back to school to show off my treasures. At home I took them off only long enough to oil them with waterproofing boot grease. My mother drew the line at sleeping in them, but she did consent to keeping them right next to my bed.
Sadly, I outgrew my boots in only a year and reluctantly gave them to a younger kid who didn’t have any boots. I kept the knife.
I have carried a knife with me pretty much every day since then, and frankly I don’t feel dressed without it.
I have had an assortment of Case knives, Schrade knives, and even a couple of Buck Brothers knives. Sorry to say, I drew the line at the Swiss Army knife, however, when it expanded to include a popcorn popper and a drill press.
Today I carry a Schrade Old Timer. It was one of the last ones the company made before going out of business in 2004 after a century of knife-making. My single Case knife is the large W.R. Case & Sons folding knife that I bought from a navy shipmate in 1962. Case stopped making knives years ago when the company was sold to Zippo Corporation.
And, truthfully, I would really like to have another pair of Gokeys. The ones with the knife holster.