My First Time

 

No, no, you nosy deviants!  That happened when I was 17.  What I’m talking about is knives – and magazines about knives.

While never needing or wanting to actually use them, I’ve always had a fascination for all types of weapons – how they’re built, how they’re used.  Early in 1991 I’d been noticing a particular magazine among others on the sales rack, Knives Illustrated.  Finally, in the summer, it was my first time to purchase a copy.

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It carried a story about a $20,000 sword, inlaid with gold, and adorned with jewels.  I had discovered Art Knives.  I was hooked!  Soon, I was sending away money to ensure a year’s worth of these printed treasures.  This was my first time that I’d ever subscribed to a magazine.

For the first several years, they had a contest where you could send in a postcard to be put into a draw to win a hand-made, donated knife, from a maker looking for some cheap promotion.  Every issue, I faithfully sent in a card, even if the featured knife was not to my taste or use.

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Suddenly, in my third year of trying, back before the Internet, I received a real letter.  I had been chosen to receive a little three-finger skinning knife, made by a cutler in Orlando.  All I had to do was send a letter to the magazine, lauding them and proving the contest was real, and a letter of thanks to the maker.  Done and quickly done.  Soon a package arrived, and it was my first time to own a handmade knife.

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The letter from the magazine said that it was worth $35, a ridiculous claim.  The handmade leather sheath alone is worth that much.  Somebody slipped a zero; the package is worth $350.  Note the grooves milled into the top and bottom, to control the blade, and prevent slipping.

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I told the maker that, if I ever got near Orlando, I’d stop in and personally thank him – and forgot about it.  A couple of years later, my brother had bought a trailer in a park in central Florida, and needed to go down to get it opened up and ready to rent for the winter season.  Would I like to accompany him on a whirlwind, 9-day trip.  Oh boy, my first time going to Florida!

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The brother’s trailer park was close to Orlando.  I tried to call the maker, but later found that the phone was in his wife’s name.  After about 4 days, when the brother could spare both me and the van at the same time, I drove over to his address, fuelled by hope.

I was fortunate.  He was at home, and gave me a couple of hours of his morning.  I got to see his neighbor’s lovingly restored 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza; he gave me a tour of his workshop, showing me all his tools, and different styles of knives he built.  While the Internet might have existed, this was before I even had dial-up connection, much less high-speed.  I couldn’t just research him.

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Since he couldn’t research Ontario, he didn’t know that most residential, and all farming is below the Great Lakes, with mining to the north.  He had a map with pins stuck in it, of all the people who’d received one of his knives.  He had my pin in the muskeg, somewhere off Hudson Bay.  I moved it.

His wife was some kind of medium-sized wheel at the University.  Several years later, she accepted a more prestigious position at the University of Connecticut, and he quietly loaded all his tools and moved north.  His production may have gone down a bit, because of the need to shovel snow.

This knife is well designed and built, though there’s not much of it.  I’m not a hunter/skinner, so I have no actual use for it.  It languishes away in a drawer, with several other of my acquisitions.  I keep it because it was a first, accompanying several other firsts.  Perhaps one day my heirs can get a little money for it.

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