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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.