BRAD DYE: Ode to the pocketknife

photos by Brad Dye

I always carry these three items: a money clip/wallet combo, a tube of Classic Original Chapstick, and a pocketknife. My current pocketknife is the Leatherman Micra. This little multi-tool has been my pocketknife of choice for several years now. As I said, the knife, bottle opener, and screwdriver features are quite handy and the small scissors have been used to tame rogue facial hair in my beard on more than one occasion.

I always carry at least three things in my pocket — sometimes more, but always these three: a money clip/wallet, regular Chapstick and a pocketknife.

There once was a time when no self-respecting man would leave home without the last item on that list. I still adhere to that belief, and I realize that probably makes me a relic of some bygone age, but I am fine with that.

The money clip/wallet combo replaced the traditional back pocket bifold or trifold wallet years ago for me, a product of driving a lot for work. I was always taking out the wallet because it hurt my back or butt and, inevitably, I would walk into a store without it and have to return to the car to retrieve it. The front pocket combo solved that problem.

BRAD DYE: Ode to the pocketknife

The tools vary based on the job to be done. I have quite a collection of pocketknives and which one I carry depends on the activities of the day. Here are three that I use frequently. The Leatherman Micra is my daily carry pocketknife. It is like a belt or shoes—my wardrobe would feel incomplete without it. I carry the bone-handled Case on more “dressy” occasions or when I am feeling “retro” and the Kershaw clip knife has become my choice for hiking and camping. This trio sees regular time in my pocketknife rotation.

As far as the Chapstick is concerned, I first have to say that the manufacturers of said product must put some ingredient in there that is addictive. A day without it and my lips are as dry as the Sahara. I suspect the executives at the company know this and sit smiling in their boardroom somewhere as the sales numbers steadily climb. At one time in my life, I preferred grape flavored, but “Classic Original” seemed like more of an adult choice, so I made that transition.

My choice of pocketknife has also undergone a few changes over the years, but the fact that it is still the one piece of equipment that I carry with me daily has remained a constant. I could survive a day or two without the Chapstick, dry lips can be dealt with in the short term.

I currently carry a Leatherman Micra as my pocketknife of choice. It not only has the necessary knife blade, but also features, among other tools, a bottle opener and a small pair of scissors that has come in handy on more than one occasion for something else that I always carry with me, my beard. One never knows when a rogue facial hair may need trimming!

As a young lad, I remember watching the old men around the dominoes table at the Ellistown Community Center using their pocketknives to whittle aimlessly on a stick or to clean dirt from underneath their fingernails with ninja-like precision. “One day,” I thought, “and I, too, will do that.”

My dad would often use his trusty Buck three blade to harvest some bamboo during our regular walks to the creek. I would watch as he skillfully sectioned the cane and used each blade, at the appropriate time, to shape a flute out of the bamboo. Afterwards, he would find the perfect green sapling to cut and use it to fashion a reed for the inside of the flute. I played many a harmonious symphony on those cane flutes. I’m sure my mother remembers each loud note of those performances!

One of my favorite authors, Rick Bragg, said it best, I believe, in his story “The Point of a Good Knife.” In his words, “A Southern man, knifeless, was pitiful. Men without knives were like men who rode around without a jack, or a spare tire, just generally unprepared for life. A man without a knife could not fish, hunt or work at any respectable employment.”

He adds, “I am a writer, which is one step up from helpless, but I have always had a pocketknife. I believe, foolishly, it holds me close to my people.” I share Bragg’s sentiment in this notion.

I will say that being a pocketknife carrier in the current age is not without its limitations, especially when traveling. More than once, I have made donations to the TSA agent when I forgot the knife that I always carry was in my pocket along with my wallet and Chapstick as I made my way through the security checkpoint. However, I have gotten better at remembering to pack it in my dopp kit before heading to the airport.

Speaking of the current age, It saddens me that a young man can’t take along a pocketknife to school these days without facing expulsion, but I understand these are different times.

When I die, I am leaving specific instructions as to what I want done. One of those details will be to send a pocketknife along with me. Now, I don’t want my good one to make the trip, it should be passed along to Dan or Tate to one day be given to a grandchild.

Any battered old two or three blade in my collection will do. I have to believe that since my body will be perfected when I meet the Lord that He will also refurbish and put a keen edge on my knife. I plan to carve a lot of cane flutes for the angel choir, and it will need to be sharp.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors, and feel free to bring along your pocketknife. You never know when we might find some good cane to whittle down by the creek!

Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at

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