Monday, July 25, 2022

Razor Sharp? No, Sharper

When my dad was preparing to leave for Vietnam, he invited me to watch him pack his suitcase. Even though I was only about eight, I remember watching and making note of one particular item that went into his bag — a brand-new six-inch Buck hunting knife in a matte black leather sheath. When he came back, a year later, I watched him remove that knife from his bag and lay it on the bed as he unpacked. Without asking, I picked it up and examined it. 

The sheath was now worn but still smooth but shiny from wear, and the handle of the knife had several deep scratches that marred what used to be a smooth surface. He took it out of my hand and set it on his dresser without a word. I never asked my dad if he used the knife in combat. Given my age, it was something I never really thought about. 

A few years later, on Christmas, he gave me a brand-new Buck knife of my own to use when camping with the Boy Scouts. The knife was the perfect tool; it was extremely sharp, and just the right size for every purpose I used it for. Unfortunately, it was stolen. I never replaced it, as I was aging out of Boy Scouts, anyway.

Years later, my dad began telling me about his experiences in Vietnam. I never asked about his knife. I was old enough to realize it was better to let him tell the tale than for me to pry it from him. All I knew was that the knife remained special to him for the balance of his life.

It was the memory of that knife, the lead me to place one in the hands of Evan Davis in Three Paperclips & a Grey Scarf. It also appears in each of the other books of the Evan Davis tales series. 

As I was in Kuwait when I started writing that story, I had very few options for obtaining a Buck knife to use as a prop while writing. Most of the knives for sale at the Base Exchange were folding style and none of them were made by Buck. The knife became one of the first items I ever bought from Amazon. However, the knife I ordered was not the same as the one my father carried. Mine was a 75th Anniversary version of the blade. 

The Buck knife lay next to my keyboard, as I sat alone at night writing the story of Evan and the troops he was embedded with in Afghanistan. Whenever I was stuck or thinking out the next part of the story, I would take the knife from the sheath and fidget with it. Since it had never been used will a piece of wood, field strip prey, or even cut through a length of parachute cord, it was every bit as sharp as the day Buck created it. This resulted in me finishing the book of several fresh cuts on my fingers and hands from my fidgeting. Hazards of being a novelist, I guess. 

Through the next two books, the knife has appeared and is used in different ways. The knife also served as an exemplar for the cover of Blood Upon the Sands. As I plan out the last two books in the series, I have a sub story about the knife’s origin that will appear in one of them. It explains how Evan got the knife originally, and the meaning he attached to it over the years.

For now, it lives on a display shelf with my other props.

370, 551

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