I try to always do the right thing. But it hasn’t always been that way. I stole a candy bar once when I was five or six years old, but nothing since! Grandma and Grandpa McNew would go into town on Saturday morning and I would tag around after my grandmother when she went from store to store doing her weekly shopping. At the dime store I would always spend the nickel she gave me on a candy bar of some sort. It would take a good ten minutes to decide which one I wanted and then on the way back to the farm I always, ALWAYS, wished I had got one of the other ones, instead of what I got. So that one time I just put a candy bar in my pocket and paid for second one, just in case I decided later I had picked the wrong one.
Grandma found out what I had done, and she made me feel like I was awful by explaining the results of being a thief, how it might make God mad at me and lead to a life of depravity.
I did not however, steal that knife which is the subject of this column. It was a beauty once, with the head of a bugling elk carved in the bone handle and really good steel, about 10-inches long. When I was 19, Dad gave it to me; said he had found it in his old garage where we always cleaned fish and game.
It was in the early summer, so I figured it was perhaps left in my johnboat by some of the city folks I had taken on weekend float trips that spring. In my lifetime I have lost maybe 30 or 40 different knives. But that one I did not lose. I likely misplaced it a time or two but always refound it.
Back in April it was laying on my fish and game cleaning table in the basement when Dennis Whiteside, my old friend I have known since I was in college at M.U., saw it and said he had one like it when he was just a teenager. Later it came to me that before Dad had found it, Dennis and I had floated the Big Piney during the winter hunting ducks. The knife almost surely was his, so the next time I saw him I gave it back to him, a knife now old and tarnished, back in the hands of its original owner.
But I did it with regret. That knife had been with me a long, long time. It was one of very few I hadn’t lost somewhere along the line and it crossed my mind that I should just keep it. But then my grandmother’s words came back to me… a life of depravity and God frowning on my selfishness. So Dennis took the knife home with him, and there I was, sort of semi-knifeless, though in truth I have many others. They aren’t old antique treasures as that one was.
Then came the miracle, although a little one, I must admit… the proof to me that the great Creator approved of what I had done. I took my daughter Christy fishing down on the river only a few days later and there in the mud was a beautiful 10-inch knife with a blade of fine steel, one that someone surely regretted losing, and one that I will regret losing when I do, sooner or later. Then later in the day we stopped to fish from a gravel bar, and I found another knife made of stone, likely left there by some Ozark bluff-dweller who was using it to clean fish, or perhaps skin a muskrat or raccoon.
I thanked God again, because when I am in the woods, or on the river, I do that often. I owe Him thanks because of all the complaining and griping I do in his presence when I lose a big fish or trip over a submerged rock and go sprawling headlong into the stream, or when I get a fishing lure hung in my ear, or my line gets all twisted. If you are an outdoorsman, you know what I am talking about. I could go on and on because the bad things I endure makes up a long list. I always feel like God could help, but don’t. At times, He may even laugh a little at what is going on. When He does help, or when I just feel like I could explode with the happiness created by the wonderful outdoor life He has given me, I thank Him.
If I knew who lost that modern knife I would return it. And some might have a hard time understanding this but I would almost trade every knife I have ever owned if I could meet, on that same river gravel bar, the human being that made the latter one, hundreds or perhaps thousands of years ago. Since we are now sort of connected by that river-worn stone utensil, who knows, some day I might.
To see a picture of that pair of knives I found, go to larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com . Go to my website, larrydablemont.com to read old columns or order my magazines and books. You can see much of what I write, and lots of photos on my facebook page as well. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.