Not Always “Just A Tool”

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The knife above is a relatively plain Swiss Army knife. It is a little over 15 years old and I have carried and used it almost all of that time. It;s nothing rare or worth any money from some kind of collectors standpoint and it is certainly a tool. And it is a very handy tool that I have often preferred to  carry and use over the large multi-tools.

But on the other had, it is something more. It has a sentimental value for me that makes it worth a lot more.

Back in 1999 I started a new job at a gun store.  With my first payday, this knife is the first thing I purchased at the store I worked at. I did it as a little gift to myself since it was only about 25 bucks with my employee discount at the time. I carried it the entire time I worked there for daily tasks.   One of the fellows who worked there was an interesting character and we became friends by the name Jody Bryant, nicknamed “PorkChop” by everyone who worked there and our boss. He was a very large guy, and way over weight to the point of it being very unhealthy, he was only 30 years old at the time I met him.

Indeed, I could fill the internet with  stories of this guy alone. He was that kind of guy.   After our unlikely friendship had struck up, a year later he found an engraving tool in the back of the shop and determined to learn how to use it. After showing me some of his work, I told him I always wanted something engraved and made personal to me, but never wanted it bad enough to pay the price. So he said he would do some for me free so as to get more practice.  I offered up the knife and told him I wanted my name on one side of the blade and then something cool. he could choose for the other side.

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He put my first initial and last name on one side of the blade and brought it back to work to show me. I was pleased with this, and it did look great at the time. The blade was newer at the time without the wear and marks from being used hard over the next years. So I asked him to go ahead on the other side.  He told me he was going to engrave “rifleman” on the other side since that is apparently what he thought of when asked to choose something cool that would be within my personality.

More than a month passes and he had not brought it back to me. And he kept saying he just keeps forgetting to bring it with him. After a while I start  getting on his case, because I used it every day and missed it.   He finally says to me one day “Shawn, maybe it has been a long time because I messed up on the engraving, and I have been afraid to show it to you because I don’t know what you’re gonna say”. “Did you ever think of that”?

I laughed and told him not to worry about it, if he did,  I was not gonna blow up over it. He admitted that was exactly the case and brought it to me the next day.  He had tried to engrave “rifleman” but forgot to put in the “A”, so then he tried to go back and some how over engrave the blade to fit it in,

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It looks bad but not awful, and it is a knife that I intended to use. Being I did not pay him for it anyway, I thought of it as no big deal. We had a good chuckle over it, and I teased him on it a few times and we forgot about it over the following days.

A few years later, we had both left the store for other things but still kept in touch. I saw him one day in late January and we talked a bit about getting together later on in the spring.

Then in February, on Valentines day, that evening I get a call and it is my friend’s  wife.  She had woken up that  morning of Valentines day and found her husband, my friend, dead in the bed beside her, He had died in his sleep over night from a heart attack. No doubt because of his weight problem.  She was devastated to say the least and I told her I would be there for her and asked her to tell me when the arrangements were made.  I did not even know what  else to say, He was only 34 when he died. and I was close to 10 years younger then him. At that age,  you certainly do not expect a friend to drop dead. Maybe a car wreck or in war, but not dieing in bed while sleeping.

Now, that screwed up engraving on a simple, plain Swiss Army knife, has made it more than just a tool for me. It is a reminder of my friend in a way. better than if he had done a perfect job,  Messing it up was something you would just expect him to have done. Especially with the half-assed attempt to fix it.

Some stuff are just tools. Guns, knives, hammers, whatever. But sometimes they can become more for the owner. Sometimes they can remind you of a better time, or a person you knew and was close to. I still miss my old pal, but I can look at that screwed up incompetent engraving from a 500 pound drunk guy and remember my friend . the laughs we had and our friendship.

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