My friend Don!, he loses about three knives a year. But its better to carry a cheap knife than no knife at all.
Don is a hunter and a fine one too. He embody's the finest and oldest tradition in hunting, he hunts for food not sport. He enjoys the challenge of the hunt and the triumph of success. If its edible, if it runs, crawls, flies or swims it stands a good chance of ending up on Don's table.
In the depths of winter 1995, Don was in the mountains with a friend when he shot an elk. As will happen on occasion the animal though mortally wounded took off up the mountain and Don and his friend took to trailing it. The conditions were bad and after about an hour his friend sensibly perhaps, couldn't take it any more and decided to turn back. Don pressed on alone, reluctant to leave a wounded animal on the mountain. He estimates he was above 14000 feet and moving around the mountain, when finally he spied the animal on a ledge at the other side of a 45% ice sheet, 1/4 mile away.
Getting across the ice sheet was a dicy business and to make matters worse the closer he got to the animal the more conditions deteriorated to whiteout. Only a hundred feet away and almost on the other side, he finally lost his footing.
Lemme tell ya about Don's knife. I don't remember how much he paid for it but it can't have been much. Its about a 5 inch blade, factory stamped out of 16 guage stainless sheet with delrin scales. You get the picture. Don doesn't buy expensive knives, he looses em too frequently, so he gets anything that will cut and treats them as disposable. I'm trying to reform him with the premise that if he owns a good knife he won't loose it.--)
Sliding down the mountain he had plenty of time to think. Today was a good day to die. Scenes from his childhood passing through his mind in a kind of dreamy way. The day his father gave him a rifle and took him hunting for the first time. The day he learned how to sharpen a knife.
Knife, damn it, the bloody knife. Of course!.
He scrambled to pull that cheap piece of steel from its sheath, almost loosing it in the process. Gripping it in both hands, he jammed it into the ice as hard as his depleated resourses allowed and finally came to a stop about a hundred yards below.
Slowly, painfully, he chipped out hand and foot holes to haul his battered body back up that slope. It seemed to take forever but eventually tired, freezing and numb, he arrived at the site where the animal had dropped. His gloves were long ago shredded and frostbite was seaping into his fingers. He could hardly hold the knife anymore and he began to feel light headed.
He reached for his trusty blade to cut the animal open and warm his fingers in the body cavity. He cut himself some meat and started to eat to restore his depleated reserves of energy. Although above the tree line he wasn't out of the woods yet. He would die up here in this weather. Obviously he had no way of getting down the mountain, or did he?. As the animal began to cool he formulated a plan.
He tied the beast up in such a way that the antlers were sticking upward like the handlebars of a Harley lowrider. Then he sat in the beast and pushed it over the edge. It was a rough ride, the elk was obviously a hardtail, no suspension worth mentioning. But it was steerable and as he picked up speed he began to think it was not such a foolhardy idea afterall.
It didn't take him any time at all to make it most of the way down the mountain and he eventually hit a dirt road that lead to the base camp. It was getting dark when he finally limped into camp where thankfully his hunting buddys were huddled around a good fire. After food and drink and recounting his unbelievable story they went out to retrieve the animal. It had a bad case of road rash and part of the backstrap and spine were worn away but otherwise it was in great shape with plenty of good meat left.
A day later he was back home in my living room telling me the story and my thoughts immediately went to the knife. So I asked if I could examine it.
The blade was 1/4" shorter and with a nicely rounded point, but otherwise it was in pretty good shape. It is now of course the most valuable knife in the world to Don because it is the knife that saved his life. I reshaped the point at his request and now it holds pride of place in his home. Doubtless it will be treasured in his family for generations.