His First Knife

I remember when I got my first jackknife. The exact date is a little foggy, but I do recall it was also the day I got stitches for the first time. I was out of diapers by then, give or take a few years, which was a suitable milestone for a boy raised in the unforgiving prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada; to get his first knife. Ralph Goodlad quietly pulled it from his pants pocket and handed it to me. It was magnificent. It was shiny silver with a pearlescent green handle, the kind Daniel Boone would have carried when he was a boy, I imagined. I could hardly breathe.

My mother was unamused, but only mildly so. With a furrowed brow she issued the standard maternal disclaimers and warnings about eyes being poked out and fingers getting chopped off and none of it being her fault as I ran out the back door to find a tree branch to whittle. The hills behind our house were undeveloped, wild, thickly treed, and teeming with every manner of nature. Befitting of all romantic and heroic tales, I hiked deep into the forest on my quest, and it was there that I found the perfect whittling stick. I examined it closely with the eye of a seasoned artisan. Satisfied with my discovery I opened my knife carefully and placed the razor-sharp edge against the wood. With one hardy stroke the bark yielded to my blade, and I had entered the dawn of my manhood.

I whittled away on that chunk of wood for a while and when it started looking like something worth showing off, I put it in my pocket. Then I began folding my knife. To this point, my jackknife orientation had been limited to how not to brandish the weapon irresponsibly, but regrettably, I have no recollection of any discourse on the topic of safely folding the knife once I was done using it. In the absence of that particular skill I was destined to learn, much to my chagrin, how to do it the wrong way.

The new blade struck my finger sudden and sure, with the malice of a viper. I ran home as fast as my boots would carry me, still clutching the weapon. Blood gushed by the gallon, I was certain, and my mother with the obligatory “I told you so”, brought little comfort to the situation. My dad, showing remarkable composure, was making light of the whole ordeal knowing it was, as I understand it now, a rite of passage. It was a quiet ride to the hospital, but then it may have just seemed that way being so close to death from blood loss. The nurse was comforting, kind, and gentle, and she most assuredly saved my life that day. As I recall she made a swishing noise when she walked by, like an angel would. It took a few minutes but soon enough I was stitched up and on my way.

Despite my early concerns, I survived, evidently to one day write this story. And the offending finger, now functioning as well as any finger should, is one of many I am using to write this tale. It was a special time in my boyhood, and now the time has come for my sons to take their necessary and indelible steps into manhood.

Today it was Cole’s turn. He is four now, almost driving age in Saskatchewan, and high time the boy got his first knife. There must be rules, of course. There is responsibility to prove and trust to earn. Most of which will be gained by him not touching the knife unless dad is right there with him. I planned to begin with the standard brandishing guidelines, complete with examples of gory endings to decisively drive the point home. Excuse the pun. He received it well and agreed.

And avoiding the oversight of my father so many years ago, we invested extra time discussing the physics and engineering related to folding knives and how sharp and pointy blades are the natural enemy of fingers. Once I had regaled the boy with my historic recollection of what knives like doing to fingers, sheer terror had sufficiently dwarfed his curiosity and I was certain any accident would be just that, and not the result of some misguided attempt at testing his invincibility.

I pulled the truck into a parking lot where there were plenty of trees. We took our time and together we found a stick, looked it over real close and deemed it a good candidate. I set him on the tailgate of the truck, he pulled out his knife and opened it. I would be lying if I were to say the moment wasn’t misty, but I soon recovered. I opened mine and showed him how to skin the bark off a branch, then started whittling. He watched intently, serious as can be, and when I handed him his stick, he followed every step to a tee. I sat beside him and we whittled together like two old-timers, swapping stories about everything and nothing as we passed the time together.

I won’t forget today. It was one of those days you dream about having with your son. I don’t suppose he will either. I asked him to keep it a secret for now. It’s Kwamane’s turn tomorrow and he will get the exact same kind of knife as I gave Cole. It will be just as special a moment for him too. Cole was just as excited for Kwamane as he was about getting his own knife. When we got home, he kept his word and refused to share our secret, a testament to the love he has for his big brother Kwamane.

It’s been said that boys need fathers, and I stand on that belief. I also believe that fathers need their sons, and both need plenty of time together like God blessed us with today. It’s how we teach our sons to become good men, and we become better men in the teaching. If we don’t like the world and what it has to say, we have the power to change it. And it’s done with love, and time spent, as we lovingly shape our kids by our example into the adults God intended them to be.

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Feature Stories

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Shop Blessed