I had to go through security in the Social Security office in Springfield recently. I knew enough to leave my pocketknife in the truck, but, before I was done, I thought I should have shown up in a hospital gown — you know, the kind that hides no secrets.
Standing in line for 20 minutes and going through a full body scan really isn’t a big deal these days. I’ve come to accept it as a symptom of our 21st-century paranoia and the assumption that anyone who isn’t in uniform could be a terrorist.
I’m old enough to know better, and I’m retired. I have time to put up with it. I’m reminded, though, that the closest I ever came to a terrorist incident involved a man in uniform shooting up a hospital.
I don’t mind security screenings. I know they’re for my own safety, but I’m not sure I feel any safer today than when I could carry my pocketknife anywhere I wanted, greet folks at the airport on the tarmac and decide for myself if I should buckle my seat belt. It’s not that the new rules are bad; it’s just that they’re rules. But, I digress.
I planned to write about Barlow, Case, Kabar, Schrade and me.
I’ve carried a pocketknife for about as long as I’ve had pockets.
The first I remember was a folding filet knife — probably made by Imperial — but it’s now at the bottom of Table Rock Lake. I was about seven years old, I reckon, when I accidentally kicked it off a big rock Dad and I were fishing from on Flat Creek. The lake hadn’t yet filled.
Dad didn’t buy me another knife for a while, but the Christmas season I turned 9, Santa Claus brought me a fixed-blade hunting knife and a Davy Crockett shirt. I eventually lost that knife, too, but found it later on our pond bank.
Throughout my youth I had several pocketknives, all inexpensive versions, but good enough for skinning possums and cleaning fish. As soon as I was out of high school and earning a little money on my own, though, I bought a good one — a Case stockman’s knife. I still have it, minus the small blade I broke off prying the meat out of a coconut.
I’ve had a lot of knives since that first Case, and several different brands, from A.G. Russell to Schrade, in a variety of styles. I’ve peeled a lot of different things with them, too, from the bark off weiner-roasting sticks to the hide off squirrels — even washed ’em all a couple of times.
But, I’ve never stabbed or threatened anyone — not as a kid or as an adult. I’ve never even considered it. Pocketknives have always been indispensable tools in my hands, not weapons. The same for kitchen, hunting and filet knives. They don’t scare me at all — except when I’m watching someone else use one.
Of course, they all could be weapons, and I guess that’s the common public and official perception of any knife today.
Folks are afraid of them.
It’s not always been so.
When I was in high school, we carried pocketknives to school. Some of us even carried Zippo cigarette lighters cranked up like flame throwers, and I sometimes had a pair of pliers and a few random .22 shells in my pockets, since I was wearing the same jeans I’d worn doing chores and hunting the night before.
Today, I’m sure a pocketknife, lighter and rifle shells would be considered contraband. I could be kicked out of school, or possibly arrested — the assumption being I was up to no good.
In today’s world, that might be a fair assumption. But, in a country school in the early 1960s, I was just another kid fresh off the farm. Apparently, that same contraband could still cause me lots of trouble in a courthouse or federal building. I try to remember that, but some days I’m still that kid fresh off the farm.
That’s when I’m glad it’s a short walk back to the truck.
Copyright 2019, James E. Hamilton