The Swiss Army Knife

It was in 1989 or 1990 when I got my first authentic Swiss Army Knife. I don’t recall what prompted my initial fascination with the tool, but I remember that it was something that I couldn’t live without. Perhaps it was because of MacGyver or other television-based influence, something had me obsessed with owning a Swiss Army Knife.

I remember flipping through a Boy’s Life magazine—which was for Boy Scouts—and reading the advertisements in the back. There was a sales pitch targeting entrepreneurial children, whereby if you sold a certain amount of merchandise, you would be able to receive a certain item of your choice. One of the items just happened to be a genuine Swiss Army Knife with leather sheath. I cut the small ad out of the magazine and sent it in requesting one of the sale kits.

Within a few weeks I was sent a large envelope with a catalog, order sheet, and all of the instructions I needed. There was a chart showing how many items you had to sell to attain the specific prizes. Of course, I found out how much I had to sell to get the knife. At the time, it seemed almost unreachable and I honestly think that was part of the company’s ultimate plan. You would sell so much merchandise and realize how far away your goal was and eventually give up and settle on a harmonica or other useless item.

Not me. I grabbed the catalog and order sheet and hit the road. I drove my bike all over Milroy, stopping at houses, knocking, and presenting my sales pitch. I did this for weeks. Eventually, through my determination to get the knife, I had actually met the quota. I submitted the order and in a few days received a package with the merchandise. I then had to go collect the money and hand out the junk people actually bought. Once that was done, I sent in the money. A few weeks later, I received my knife.

I remember tearing in to the package to get the knife. I remember finally reaching it and getting my hands on it. The knife was a lot heavier than any other knife I ever owned. It was packed with so many tools: multiple knife blade, scissors, tweezers, a hole-punch, screwdrivers, and a saw blade. The sheath smelled wonderful. I went to my bedroom to find a belt so I could wear my knife with pride. I had worked so hard for it and I wanted to show the world my new multi-tool.

The determination I had in selling merchandise to be rewarding with the knife was great. I followed the process through to the end and it worked. But my determination involving that knife was far from over.

I used to take numerous bike rides every day. Usually it was with Tony and Adam—my two best friends at the time. One spot that we frequented a lot was an old railroad station. There was a wooden platform with a ramp leading to the top. We would spend a lot of time there, playing in the small tract of forest. Army games, war games, you name it—we always stayed occupied and out of the house. Beneath the platform was a small door that led inside. None of us ever had the courage to go the whole way in, convinced of some mysterious creature that lived inside. But on this one day, my focus was not on climbing the trees from the top of the platform to the ground below, it was on putting my new knife to the ultimate test: cutting down a tree!

At first, I thought I would zip right through it and have it down in no time. I quickly found out that it was no easy task, especially with my small saw. Since I had embarked on this mission, however, I had to prove to myself and my buddies that I could fell a tree with it. I spent many hours working on sawing that tree down. In fact, it took at least a week, but I finally made my way through and watched that tree go down. It was an amazing day. We all cheered and celebrated that tree falling. I don’t know if it was simply “cool” to watch the tree fall or if it was such a relief that my knife and my determination had finally made it through.

I took that knife practically everywhere. One time I even took it to school—accidentally of course. I remember giving it to my student teacher, Miss Reid, who held on to it until the end of the day. Can you imagine doing that nowadays? I would have been expelled from school, arrested, or even worse. That type of stuff doesn’t happen lightheartedly in 2018.

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