Gut Rumbles

June 03, 2008

my bowie knife

Originally PUBLISHED May 24, 2005

I bought my first Bowie knife from K-Mart for about $19 after I got my 1-A draft notice in the mail back in 1971 or 1972. The Vietnam War was was cooking full-tilt back then and I expected to end up there. I lost my 2-S deferment and was looking the draft right in the eye.

I took a whetstone to that knife and put and edge on it that was sharp enough to shave hair. I showed it to my father and he was quite impressed. I was MAYBE 20 years old at the time. "Pop, if I get drafted, do you think they'll let me take this knife with me if I get sent to Vietnam?" (You young shits don't remember those days, but I do. I was gonna be John Wayne if I had to go fight. And I fully intended to stick that knife into a Viet Cong the first chance I got. I even practiced THROWING the damned thing.)

"No, they WON'T," my father replied. "Whatever branch of service you end up in will ISSUE you what they think you need. You can't bring your own knife, even if this is a pretty good one."

I never had to serve because I won the draft lottery. (Number 353 in the very first one) Years later, my dad said that he would have sent me to Canada if my luck hadn't turned out the way it did. That was hindsight and bullshit talking. I would have gone if I was called. In fact, I EXPECTED that to happen. I would have no more run to Canada to hide than I would have sold my mama into slavery.

It's a good thing that the military DIDN'T get me back then. I'd probably be dead now, because I wasn't afraid of ANYTHING back then. I was young, and in my mind, ten feet tall and bullet-proof. And I owned a Bowie knife, too.

That knife turned out to be one of the best backpacking tools I ever owned. It was an all-purpose knife that could be used as anything from a hatchet to cut wood to a manicure device to clean your dirty fingernails. I had it for several years before I broke the blade trying to split a stubborn piece of Joshua wood in Pisgah National Forest. I banged on the blade with a rock and the blade snapped.

We named that campsite "Broken Blade." I gave the knife a good burial right there.

I bought another one just as soon as I got back home, but it was never as good as the first one. I never could get it as sharp, nor could I get it to hold an edge the way the first one did. It LOOKED the same, but it just WASN'T the same.

I lost that one in my last divorce, but that was okay with me. I wasn't that fond of it anyway. So, I bought another one, this time a really GOOD knife, made by Buck, and it is supposed to be an accurate replica of the original Bowie Knife. I think I paid about $100 for that one.

It's got a 14" blade, with the brass parry-strip down the back of the blade and the nice 4" cutaway edge at the tip, which I keep as sharp as the front-side of the knife. It looks like a genuine Bowie to me.

That mini-sword was designed for a knife-fight. The brass is soft enough so that if you parried an opponent's slash, his blade would stick in the brass, and you could back-hand his throat with the cut-away blade on the backside of the knife. And YES... if push came to shove, I could shave with that thing.

I've never taken that knife out in the woods with me. I keep it sharp and clean. I just like to look at it every now and then, and maybe watch western movies while I work it with a whetstone and some oil. It's a fine knife.

Heh. And you people thought I was a gun-nut.

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