Posted by: Joe Palmer | May 27, 2010

Growing Up Country: A Boy and His Pocketknife

Growing Up Country

A Boy and His Pocket Knife

By Joe Palmer

Nothing is more fun to a little boy than a pocketknife. You can use it to whittle great works of art. Now to do this you start with a tree limb. First you strip the bark off of it. Then you begin to shape it into whatever you want. I can’t tell you much about the last part because after I got the bark stripped I was through whittling.

Still, pocketknives were lots of fun. I had several as a boy. Believe it or not back then even elementary age boys could carry a pocketknife to school without getting into trouble. We liked to play a game called mumbley peg. I figured many of you had not heard of mumbley peg so I decided to look up this old game online to share some information about its origin and meaning. I found that mumbley peg means any knife game a boy would play. Well not just any game, but there were several that used that name. I had played most of the ones I found online plus some I didn’t find.

A little boy and a knife obviously spell trouble at some point. Usually, it is our dad who will give us a knife, despite our mother’s objections. Moms and Dads both know that the boy is going to cut himself, but the Dad remembers the joy of his knife and knows it is worth the risk, while the mom simply continues to prophecy, “You are going to cut yourself.”

It is that warning that causes little boys a great dilemma, “What do I do when I do cut myself?” Usually the cut is small and inconspicuous. You can hide those, but what do you do when you cut yourself the way your mama warned you about?

That day came for me in the most unusual way. We were entertaining some friends, and I was walking around flicking my knife blade in and out. I had almost forgotten I had it in my hand, when I sat down in a chair. Unfortunately, the knife blade was out. As I sat down my arm bumped against the inside of the chair and as I sat down it pushed the knife blade straight into my leg just above my knee. I had stabbed myself.

Now what do I do? I can’t scream? I can’t just pull the knife out where people can see what I did, especially my mom. So I sat there with my hand over the knife, concealing it. After I gathered my senses I decided to stand up and walk out with my hand still hiding the knife. I took a few steps to safety and pulled the knife out.

I went to the restroom and cleaned up the blood and dressed my wound as best I could. I rejoined the group and, for a day, I got away with my stupidity. I went to bed that night feeling embarrassed but happy that I hadn’t gotten caught. The next day I woke up with the problem. The knife had stuck in my leg just above the knee and now the muscles ached and were causing me to limp. It was that limp that mom finally noticed. I was caught.

I can’t remember what my mom said. I am sure somewhere in there was an “I told you so.” Prophets always like to boast of their prophecies coming true. Even though this prophecy had about a 100% probability of happening. What I remember is the fun I had telling that stupid story.

It’s too bad that today any little boy who carries a knife is considered a terrorist. I am sure that our society won’t go back to the way it was. Somehow I am not sure that we are safer. Growing up I never had a boy threaten me with a knife. Not even once. Most of us knew that the knives we carried weren’t good weapons. The blade can fold up on you. We also knew our daddy would whoop us if we dared ever do that. I know what your thinking, today a dad can’t whoop a boy.

Our modern world has tried to take all the dangers away from our youth, and all the punishment for doing wrong. That is likely why our youth live in a more dangerous world. A boy needs to learn responsibility, earn trust, and receive punishment in proportion to his actions from someone who loves him. Today we wait till that boy stands before a judge who can put him in jail with more dangerous men, who will teach him more violent actions. How much better it is to have the dad who took you fishing, and tucked you in at night, the one who had given you the knife in the first place, to let you know that you had violated his trust.

Thanks Dad for the pocketknife, and the whoopings when I needed them.

Joe Palmer


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