I can vividly remember him setting me on his lap and handing me my first pocket knife. It was a little Colonial Peanut; I still have it in my collection. He, in his distinguished old voice, said “P.D. don’t cut yourself and keep that in your pocket at all times, unless you are with an adult and have permission to take it out.” My immediate response was “Yes grandpa” as that little knife went into my right front pants pocket, where it stayed for months. Prior to his death, about one year later, he gave me an original Barlow pocket knife; it too is still in my collection.
There was something masculine about carrying that little pocket knife. My dad carried his, my other grandpas carried theirs, and every boy I knew carried a pocket knife. In fact, since that day, on great grandpa’s lap, I have never walked out of my house without a knife in my pocket, never ever would I leave my bedroom without a trusty pocket knife. That knife and all of the subsequent ones that I have owned and carried were symbols of manhood and masculinity.
Dr. James Dobson, in his book “101 Things a Father should do for His Son” the number one thing, very first in the book, is to give him a pocket knife! Every boy needs a pocket knife. He needs to be taught how to carry it safely and properly, how to keep it put up until it is needed, what he can use it for and what he can not. That pocket knife taught me respect, responsibility, and the proper use of both tools and weapons. It helped us to grow up as responsible men, able to use those tools and weapons properly. I carried my pocket knife, along with every boy I knew, to school every day. Every male teacher we had carried a pocket knife. There were many times that teachers and students showed and traded knives, right on school property (aghast!) and even in the classroom. The women teachers would whine, complain, and squirm every time a knife was talked about or (surely not) would be seen out of one’s pocket for some admiration by friends or even the principle.
This week, in numerous news reports simple pocketknives have led to the suspension and expulsion of young men and boys from their schools. One little boy, excited because of a Boy Scout award, brings his scout multi – tool, simply an eating utensil with a dull knife as part of its make-up, is facing 45 days in a juvenile detention facility, because he brought that knife to school to eat his lunch with and show off to his friends. Absolute foolishness! A boy can no longer be a boy and a man is castigated for being a man.
We have allowed a feminization of our young boys to rob them of the many rights of passage to manhood that made men from my generation and the ones preceding it stronger, more apt to work, maintain a family, and fight for their country. We have made them into a girlish lot. A mother of a family that I am acquainted with told me that she would never let her son have a knife, just a simple pocket knife, because it would make him violent.
A local man was mauled to death by a pit bull. I asked the question to several men in our church, “Why didn’t he at least have a pocket knife to defend himself with?” To which some responded “I don’t carry a knife, I don’t even own a knife.” They were all under the age of 30, don’t hunt, don’t fish, and don’t own a single firearm. They do dress in the latest trend, operate computers well, know every video game on the market, and have never served in any branch of the military.
Both of my sons had knives by the time they were four. My oldest had one of my knives in his pocket when he was killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq. I have that knife on my shelf, it is a cherished possession. My daughter has always had pocket knives and she will be passing those on to my grandson very soon.
A simple little item, an old pocket knife, placed in my hand by a sweet old man set the stage for my growth from childhood to manhood. Those pocketknives that have been passed down from grandpas and dads to grandsons and sons, created a generation of manly men. Perhaps we should allow little boys today, to share that same right of passage that we did. Let these boys carry their knives, even to school and even in class.
By the way, there were some who got their hind ends busted for getting their knife out at the wrong time or making a threat with it. I know that the NEA wants to make other people, beside teachers, responsible for disciplining and punishing children, but a good hind end busting would keep a lot of the mess in public school under control.
Give a boy a pocket knife and don’t let him be emasculated like many are today. In these days, when men, real men are needed; let’s make boys into men again.
Dr. Jerry Hillenburg