Gene Logsdon  @  ChelseaGreen

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Hail, The Mighty Pocketknife

Posted on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 at 12:18 pm by Gene Logsdon

Time was, a farmer would feel naked without a pocketknife in his bibs. Even today, it is the handiest tool of all. There is always a bale twine to cut, a splinter in the skin to remove, a fingernail to trim,  a scion to be grafted, a hoof to be cleaned, a pig testicle to be removed, a marshmallow stick to be sharpened, spark plugs to be scraped clean of carbon, an apple to peel, a hide to skin, a seed potato to cut, a lid to pry open, a beer bottle cap to pop off, string holding a sack closed to sever, a hole to be poked in fabric or rubber. It would be fun to hold a contest to see who can come up with the most uses for a pocketknife on the farm.

As boys, we used our knives mainly to play a game we called “mumblety-peg.”  (I have a hard time believing this, but Merriam-Webster says the first known use of that word, mumblety-peg, was in 1647, and that it first referred to what the loser in the game had to do— pull a peg out of the ground with his or her teeth.) The essence of the game was to stand the open knife vertically on arm, head, knee, whatever, and flip it so that the blade stuck in the ground. That’s how I learned that any knife will fall, end over end, and stick into the ground every time if allowed to fall from the right height using only gravity without any extra push or flip. Experienced mumblety-peg players knew that and had rules about how the knife was to be flipped or not flipped. Often it had to be flipped from between two fingers, going consecutively from one pair of fingers to the next. Off an arm, the player might have to execute a double flip before the knife stuck in the ground for the maneuver to be legitimate. We also spent a lot of time throwing our knives at trees so that they would stick like in Tarzan movies. This was a good way to ruin a pocketknife in a hurry.

Pop on over to The Contrary Farmer, Gene's personal blog, where you can read the rest of his musings on pocketknives.

sanctuaryoftrees Gene Logsdon is the author of, most recently, A Sanctuary of Trees: Beech Nuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions
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