The Old Pocket Knife

Ah, the old pocket knife–the Sodbuster, the Peanut, the Buck, the Trapper, the Swiss Army. It used to be a comfort to carry a small blade. Now it’s a burden. I had to trek all the way back to my truck to deposit my pocket knife. Moments earlier, with a little Case Peanut in my possession, I had been denied entry into my local county agricultural fair. Imagine that: agriculture without pocket knives. Alas, we live in such a time.

I’m not sure how much damage someone could do with a Case Peanut. As its name implies, it’s a small implement with two tiny blades. I wouldn’t call it a weapon of mass destruction per se unless it’s the hands of a very well-trained criminal. Most well-trained criminals usually overlook it for weapons that pack more punch. Still, the security guard wanding people was just doing his job and banning entry to all weapons, tiny pocketknives included. 

The Case Peanut

I could be wrong, but I believe it was once possible to win pocket knives at the fair. Cheap flashy folding blades were prizes used to lure boys into spending all their money. In hindsight, a knife as a prize may seem like a bad idea, but the games were rigged. No one ever won one, so the knives posed little safety hazard. 

The main reason I carry a knife is because I never know when a woman will ask, “Does anybody have a pocket knife on them?” I’m a happily married man, but thought of being caught empty-pocketed when a distressed lady needs a blade is too much to bear. Since my wife carries her own pocket knife in her purse, I rarely get to indulge that little pleasure of rescuing a damsel from an unraveling thread or over-taped box. The only time my wife has requested my pocketknife lately was when she ordered me to slash tires on a gas-powered moped with no muffler that rides by our old farmhouse at 3 AM every night. 

I got my first pocketknife when I was eight, and it was promptly taken away. As I remember it, the knife was a little red beauty, and so was the wound. As my mom prepped for a trip to the emergency room on a Christmas morning, I could barely hold in my tears of pain I was so elated. The thought of a legitimate scar was exciting enough. Showing off stitches would have made me the most popular boy in second grade. “What did you get for Christmas?” I imagined my friends asking. I would hold out my hand stoically, three stitches in my forefinger. My friends would clamor in envy. Unfortunately, my dad was able to stop the bleeding with old fishing rags and super-glue, so I couldn’t brag about a trip to the ER.

But, like I said, little pocket knives are only dangerous in the hands of well-trained criminals and eight-year-old boys.

The Biggest Problem with Agriculture

Some people finish what they’ve started. Others forget. Mind you, it isn’t always easy to forget; in fact, despite my best efforts, a few unfinished projects still rattle around in my brain, causing intense feelings of guilt and overwhelm. Mostly, these are the unfinished projects I see every day, like the new hardie board siding near the back porch door that I’ve been meaning to paint for six months. If I keep my head down and avert my gaze, I can sometimes successfully enter my abode without the unpainted hardie board penetrating my consciousness. 

That said, it isn’t easy to live in forgetful bliss. When we bought the farm, I knew it had a pigweed problem, but little did I know it was fertile ground for unfinished projects. Everywhere I walk and look, an unfinished project is sprouting up and spreading insidious spores. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t rid the place of them. There is the half-built fence I’ve been meaning to complete, right beside the pasture I’ve been meaning to finish bush hogging, right beside a barn I need to finish cleaning out, in which is a tractor I repainted, save for one fender that is still splotched with rust, and speaking of paint, I’ve got about fifty honey supers that have one coat and need another. 

Most other farms I visit are also overrun by unfinished projects, and nobody seems to know how to control them. It’s probably the biggest problem facing agriculture today–well, that and English majors. Poor souls read Thoreau, then try to live off the land; then at the brink of starvation, the smart ones write something with an irresistible title like “Pasture Poultry Profit$: Net $25,000 in Six Months on 20 Acres” and then become millionaires. The dumb ones dabble in agricultural humor and die. Which is just as well. Death may be the only solution I know of to unfinished projects.

How to Make Fire

Ok, I’ll admit it: my guilty pleasure is Survivor, the tv show. Been addicted to it ever since the first season, you know back when Richard Hatch frolicked naked on the beaches of Borneo (sorry for dredging up that old mental image). Hate to say it, but I’ve watched all 40 seasons of Survivor, most multiple times. 

Maybe the reason that the show appeals to me so much is because, long before the first episode aired, I was already drawn to mastering basic survival skills. By eight years old, I was so resourceful in my ability to make fire that even my mom was surprised. “Stephen, what are you doing? Why is the backseat smoking?” she asked, glancing in the rearview mirror. 

Who knew reading glasses could harness the intense sunlight flooding through a rear window and focus it into a ray beam worthy of flame? I hardly had a chance to explain my scientific breakthrough before my mom began naysaying the usefulness of my discovery. I can’t remember her exact words, but I’m pretty sure they started with the most dreaded phrase a boy could hear in those days: “Don’t make me pull this car over.”  

(It was one thing to get spanked in the privacy of your own home–and entirely another thing to get spanked on the roadside where all the world could see. I only got spanked once on the roadside–and it was by my grandma, not my mom. For some reason, I thought it would be another interesting experiment if I opened the door while my grandma was barrelling down the highway in her Oldsmobile. Right then and there, my normally sweet ole grandma stomped on the brakes, screeched to a halt on the shoulder, and then got out and escorted me to a bush where she armed herself with a switch.)

I don’t want to take all the credit for my scientific discovery about reading glasses. Truth is I was standing on the shoulders of giants–really, one giant in particular, Ryan Stegall. He had already failed the second grade once, so he was a good bit bigger than the rest of us. Usually when the art teacher came to our class each week, she was pushing a cart full of coloring implements. But on this particular week she brought a bunch of magnifying classes so we could examine artwork in finer detail. Ryan Stegall sat right next to a window, and while most kids were using the magnifying glasses to look up each other’s nostrils, he quietly and diligently set to work on other pursuits. I just remember Britney Shankle shouting, “Ryan’s coat’s on fire! Ryan’s coat’s on fire!” After that incident, Ryan was well on his way to failing second grade a second time. Still, in terms of making fire, he seemed to me like a genius.

Sadly, last I heard, Ryan Stegall was in jail for various and sundry crimes, arson possibly one of them. But I think Ryan was ahead of his time. If he would have been born in the future, say, in a post apocalyptic age, his fire making abilities would be in high demand. Or if he could have gotten cast for Survivor, he might be a millions dollars richer.

My Philosophical Thoughts on Clothes

I don’t go clothes shopping often, but when I do you can rest assured I won’t find my size. In fact, there is nothing that fits me so well as ill-fitting clothes. My wife complains that I always buy clothes a size too big, but finding a men’s medium hanging on a clothes rack is like finding leftovers in a pig trough. Doesn’t normally happen. There’s always a small or large, but mediums, nay, never, nada. 

As far as pants go, I’ve leveled up a few sizes over the past few years, which makes pants shopping depressing. However, the other problem I have with new pants is that in T-minus twenty-four hours after I buy them they’ll be smeared with grease, grime, or grass stains. This is a pet peeve of my wife who says I don’t take proper care of my clothes. Best I can tell, proper care means I should hardly ever wear my new clothes, which I think defeats the whole purpose of buying them. When I tell her that, she says I should just come inside and change into old clothes before doing farm stuff. But farm stuff waits for no man. If I had to go inside and change clothes before feeding the cows or piddling around the barn, then I would get even less accomplished than I already do. 

Sometimes my wife and my mom tag-team me on proper clothes care. Yes, shudder, you should–it is never good when a man’s wife and mom combine forces on anything. Together, they’ll regale each other in stories of jeans I’ve defiled, with my mom bringing up days gone by when she had to sew knee patches onto my jeans. This was common practice for moms back when I was growing up because instead of playing video games and watching TV, boys played outside in huge ravenous hordes. Riding bikes, climbing trees, crawling under barbed wire fences–there were numerous ways for holes to appear in garments. These were natural hard-earned holes, not the faux prefabricated holes that adorn jeans of youngins today. My opinion is if a kid wants a hole in their jeans, they should go outside and earn it. 

Admittedly, as an elder Millennial, by the time my generation came around, we, as a nation, were completely dependent on foreign laborers in sweatshops for our clothes, but this new generation–Generation Z or whatever they’re called–now requests sweatshop laborers produce the holes in their clothes as well. Oh, how far we have fallen! 

Furthermore, isn’t clothes production a matter of national security? All China has got to do is just quit shipping over clothes and the vast majority of us will freeze to death or die of embarrassment, plus our armed forces will have to fight naked. Of course, I would still be afraid if a bunch of naked Marines came charging after me, but the steely-eyed Russians would probably just say “stremites’ k penisu” which means roughly, “aim for the dangly bits.”

So those are my thoughts on clothes.  

There and Back Again

There are many things no one tells you before you have a child. Sure, you could lump these untold things into the catch-all phrase, “your life will never be the same,” but it would have been nice for a more specific heads up on needing a CDL license. No one, not a single person, told me we would need a tractor trailer to haul all our toddler’s belongings to the beach if and when the time came for us to go on vacation. Well, that time came this past weekend, and having a CDL would have been helpful because my wife was determined to leave no stone unpacked. Isn’t it crazy that a creature who weighs twenty-five pounds requires a convoy of vehicles bursting at the door seams with toddler paraphernalia? 

I say just about everything because we did forget one item, small in size but great in import, my glasses. If at some time this week I lose my contacts and can’t see anymore, I guess I will still remember this vacation through muscle memory. Your muscles don’t forget hauling two tons of luggage up beach house stairs. 

In my opinion, it’s all a little ridiculous, the three-ring traveling circus required for a toddler. I mean this is the same human being who is content trying to eat a sea shell. I’m not sure we need to pack twenty books for the boy to read. One would have been sufficient given the fact that there’s a fifty-fifty chance he’ll try reading the book right side up. 

Truly, the boy loves the beach, though. Play in sand. Chase water. Bark at sea gulls. Toddle up to complete strangers (still working on stranger danger). My parents came with us, and I’m not sure who has had more fun playing in the sand, my dad or Thomas. He is determined to teach Thomas how to build a sand castle, but Thomas is more wrecker than builder. He enjoys demolishing the sand castles right after my dad flips over the bucket and plops the castle onto the beach. 

One thing everybody tells you after having a child is “cherish the time you have because it goes by so fast.” To that, I heartily agree. This week has flown by. In a couple days, we’ll be packing up the circus and heading back to the farm. But it has been nice to make memories, even the ones in my muscles. 

P.S. My wife wanted me to post this post-script. If you’re a robber who reads people’s posts about vacations and then goes and robs them blind, please be advised there is nothing of value in our house because, read above, we packed it all and brought it with us.

P.P.S. Even if you are a robber, thank you for reading. It means a lot.