Nothing is simple any more. Take knives for instance. Outdoor knives especially. I’ve often been tempted to treat myself to an all-purpose outdoor knife.
As a boy, I’d had a Scout’s sheath knife which we kids looked upon as a Very Serious sort of knife – the sort Tarzan used for stabbing alligators that chased Jane.
I carried it in a sheath attached to my belt and when wearing it I felt invincible and walked around as if I had a water melon under each arm.
Years later, knife manufacturers began to put a saw edge along the top of the blade – I suppose for lumberjacks. Others added hollow handles in which one could keep Smarties and other useful stuff.
I visited a knife dealer in Sandton and was startled to see how many knives are what I would call anti-personnel.
One I was shown was made by Smith & Wesson, the famous gunsmiths. There were “Rambo” knives and combat knives.
One can buy heavy “Ka-bar Impact” knives which are standard issue for US troops in the Middle East.
There are knives called “Brute” and “Cold Steel Bowies” and “Cold Steel Gurkha Kukris” for, I suppose, throat slitting.
The fellow in the knife shop asked if I was “into survival”. I said I thought everybody was, but I guessed he meant did I want the sort of knife that rugged outdoor types want – those people who venture deep into the bush without cake forks or even a clean handkerchief.
I said I just wanted an all-purpose knife that could hold a good edge. He showed me one and the price had me reeling around like Billy Elliot.
He asked why I needed a knife. I said I was going into the Lowveld. So he showed me one that was sturdy enough to cut gum poles and heavy enough to hammer them into the ground to build a survival shelter. I said that I wasn’t likely to need that sort of accommodation as I’d be staying at Skukuza.
He gripped my arm and said a good knife could become my best friend. That would worry me. Imagine chatting round a campfire to my knife.
He told me I’d be able to hammer my knife into a tree and use it as a step for climbing up into the branches to retrieve birds’ eggs for lunch (or even for high tea).
He said a knife was the most essential item for one’s survival kit.
I said I only needed it for cutting things.
“Like what?” he asked.
There he had me.
I couldn’t for the moment think of anything I wanted to cut. I nearly said bread.
He showed me a heavy, hollow-handled knife with a screw-off lid. The lid had a mirror finish so that if you were lost in the bush you could flash SOS messages to search parties.
Inside the handle was a fishing line and hooks, a small lighter and a needle and thread.
It reminded of when I was a kid and we would see who could get the most objects into a matchbox.
He said the problem was that if I lost the knife, I’d lose all that survival stuff inside the handle.
It had one advantage: in an emergency situation, such as being charged by something toothy, one could quickly cut a pole, unscrew the cap, empty its contents and then ram a pole into the handle to make a spear.
But I realised all I really needed was a sheath knife but nowadays their blades are of hi-tech carbon steel and the handle a hi-tech composite material and the price, well… hi.