Friday, April 23, 2010

The Buck Knife

The setting is Yellowstone, June 2003. I had just graduated from my MFA in Spokane, and it was a Babine family reunion. The Buck knife had been a gift from my father some months before and it had belonged to my paternal grandfather. My sister K2 had had her own Buck knife for years, a brilliant neon orange one. Mine was brown. The onion was a sweet Walla Walla, purchased in that place some days before. The crux of the story is this: the knife slipped and I cut a very deep gash on the inside of my left thumb. Realized later I nicked a nerve, because the area around the scar is now that strange combination of numb and ungodly sensitive. (I would do more damage to that same thumb over the next few years, but that’s a story for another time, but it's the reason I asked for a Pampered Chef chopper for my birthday, something that's going in the camper this year.)

As the night went on and as the bleeding went on, my father and uncles did their best to help. Dad and my Uncle Dennis both offered, in turn, to suture and cauterize the cut for me. Uncle Robin just handed me another beer.


Lunches when we were camping as a family involved a choice between peanut butter and jelly or meat and cheese. (I don’t think we’d discovered the brilliance of peanut butter and cheese yet.) Two different kinds of Pringles, which we never got at home, but the Pringles were worth the extra expense, because the can kept them from getting crushed. Pringles on sandwiches, we learned, was a delicacy few could appreciate.

We never had the individually-wrapped cheese for our sandwiches. We always had the big block of Colby and Dad would wield the Buck knife for as many slices as we needed, using the top of our red cooler as a cutting board. Inevitably, though, he would make the offhand comment, half to himself, wondering if he’d cleaned his knife after he dressed his deer last fall. It got the predictable reaction from his three daughters, no matter how many times he said it.

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