by Mitch Lee
As a ten year old, I carried a folding knife in my front right pocket everywhere I went. I never feared having it in my possession at school because in those days every boy had one.
We all understood it was a tool and not a weapon.
You never knew when you might need to whittle a stick, cut up a bit of string or rope, or tighten a screw head.
That jackknife sure would come in handy.
I was thrilled when I got my Swiss Army Knife.
The bulk of it sitting in my front pocket let me know it was with me every time I took a step.
All my pants pockets were worn out in front, which before long led to a frayed hole.
No matter how I shifted it in my pocket it was never comfortable to pedal my bike or climb rocks and trees…but it was there when I needed to cut new arrows for my bows made from Striped Maple.
The bowstring of my new weapon was carefully cut from an old tire tube using the tiny scissors inside of this Swiss wonder.
I sharpened the ends of six arrows using the six blades hidden in this knife. I made a decent effort to whittle each as straight and pointed as possible.
I would spend many hours shooting these missiles into old stumps and punkie dead tree bases.
I was just happy to always have the knife with me, so I could find out what other things it might come in handy for.
I didn’t always remember to bring my watch so I would be home in time for dinner, or remember to wear a sweatshirt or the right coat to ward off the weather.
And most of the time I wore the right kind of footwear for exploring the swamps and mountainsides…but I always remembered to put my knife in my pocket.
On one particular day in early September 1976 I was pulling my runner sled down to the Sand Road.
There was a pretty good hill there for runner sledding—especially if there were icy rain conditions the night before.
The trick was to get there before the Town plow and sander truck arrived.
Luckily for me it was one of the last roads to be sanded because there were no full-time residents living there.
I spent quite a bit of time that day using my knife to cut long sticks to use as slalom gates.
I used the leather awl to make holes in the icy surface to poke the sticks through to the ground.
I spent the next two hours trudging up the hill and whipping back down trying to veer in and out of the poles.
It all came to an end when the large plow truck lumbered down the road, taking every one of the sticks—and all my fun—with it.
Mitch Lee, Adirondack native & storyteller,
lives at Inlet. firstname.lastname@example.org