I was rummaging around in a box of odds and ends the other day when I spotted a pocket knife. Then another. And another.

It was a small wooden box that holds such items as old key chains, pens, rubber bands, paper clips — and pocket knives, evidently. I just didn’t realize how many.

Intrigued, I decided to round up every pocket knife I own to see just what I’ve got. I came up with nine.

That’s not including sheath knives, by the way. That’s another story.

Pocket knives have a way of accumulating, like caps. You get one here, one there, and before you know it you have a collection of sorts.

I’m of the generation where every male carried a pocket knife, starting in boyhood. I recalled my dad’s — the small, slender pen knife variety, used for cleaning fingernails, sharpening pencils and paring apples (back when people used pencils and pared apples).

When I was 8 years old I read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and found myself craving a Barlow knife, even though I wasn’t sure what it was.

In the book, “Mary gave him a brand new ‘Barlow’ knife, worth twelve and a half cents; and the convulsion of delight that swept his system shook him to his foundations. True, the knife would not cut anything, but it was a ‘sure enough’ Barlow, and there was inconceivable grandeur in that — though where the western boys ever got the idea that such a weapon could possibly be counterfeited to its injury is an imposing mystery, and will always remain so, perhaps.”

Mark Twain’s irony bypassed me, and I thought a Barlow knife must be really special. At some point in my boyhood I got one, though I can’t say I remember it. I do remember that a folding knife in my left pants’ pocket was part of my daily outfit.

n n n

When I lived on the island of Okinawa at ages 12-14, I bought a butterfly knife and learned how to flip it around dramatically. But I quit carrying it back in the States after I was nearly arrested for having it on me in an airport.

In my early 20s I splurged and bought a Buck knife, which was all the rage back then. However, it didn’t hold an edge to my liking and I switched to a Schrade Old-Timer sheath knife for skinning.

Next I bought a fancy “Squirrel Hunter” knife from Gander Mountain. It was small, teardrop-shaped, with pearl handles, and I kept it with me until it fell out of my pocket somewhere in the woods one day and I never saw it again.

After that I decided not to be so particular about pocket knives.

However, when I got heavily into canoe-camping I succumbed to the Swiss Army knife craze, since its myriad tools make it useful when camping (especially the corkscrew).

But Swiss Army knives don’t have lock blades, and I became disenchanted when a blade snapped shut on my finger, slicing it open.

From then on I became partial to lock-blade pocket knives.

n n n

The knives I found in the box are a motley mix. There’s an initialed multi-tool in a black leather sheath I inherited from my late stepfather, Darrel E. Riales.

A tiny key-chain knife, the kind you would get for free.

An old, slender, yellowed ivory-handled pen knife like my dad’s generation used.

A bone-handled “Uncle Henry.”

A larger black-and-bone knife.

A lock-blade wood-handled Cabela’s, which I carry in the woods because it’s sturdy and strong, but is too bulky for everyday use.

Two knives, one violet-handled and one blue-black, that Dogwood Cross member Billy Gunther gave to everyone in the group.

A blue two-bladed knife with lock blades that I bought at Baggett’s store in Liberty for $20.

One of those large survival knives with a belt clip which I got at the Thompson Baptist Church annual knife swap.

I’ve been to a couple of the knife swaps to play bluegrass. The men meet for supper and each one brings a knife. They then swap them around, and you never know what you’ll get.

The first one I got there was a real jewel, a long blue-handled Case. I passed it on to a friend who collects Case knives and has done a lot for me.

But the knife inspired me so much that I got a Case for my grandson Andrew for Christmas 2018.

The other day I brought my collection of pocket knives to the Enterprise-Journal and showed my male co-workers in the news room. They all had knives of their own, though not necessarily on them.

Two female coworkers saw us gathered around and came over. When they saw what we were doing, business manager Kim Golden brought out her Smith & Wesson folding knife, and ad rep Stacy Godwin produced a Case.

Take that, Tom Sawyer!

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