Thursday, July 23, 2009

A New Toy

One of the things I needed for my trip was a good, sturdy knife. I didn't want just any old fixed-blade cutting tool, but something with a little heft, a durable blade, and a lot of character. If I have to build a shelter in the woods, I wanted something capable of chopping through saplings without much trouble. I wanted a knife that could take the kind of abuse I'm going to dish out. I also wanted something I could defend myself with in case some lunatic decides to mug me.

Fortunately for me, I have a wicked-awesome girlfriend who also likes blades and thinks that custom birthday presents are the coolest things ever. Just before sitting down for breakfast this morning, she comes into the kitchen and places in my hand a gift, wrapped in what appeared to be butcher's paper with strange quotes printed on it, such as "Aayo Ghurkali" (the Ghurka's war cry 'The Ghurkas are upon you').

From this sinister bundle I pulled a custom made khukuri, a curved knife that's a cross between a skinning blade, a machete and a hatchet. It's designed to slice, chop, pry and the back of the blade even serves as a hammer. I've used a cheap one before, and though it was small and flimsy, it chopped like a machete. But this blade that I held at the breakfast table was no cheap, flimsy knife. This was a sturdy, menacing cutting tool.

The khukuri (at least the ones from khukuri house) are individually hand crafted, forged from the leaf springs from old trucks. The sheath, a green leather thing with a belt loop, is made from buffalo hide. Both the khukuri and the sheath are built to last, as is evident from their appearance and sturdiness.

The handle, a rosewood replacement for the unavailable buffalo horn, is thick and comfortable in my hand. It's been expertly shaped and feels like it belongs in my grasp. The tool looks primitive, and it is. It's a design that has been unchanged for hundreds of years. It's a farmer's tool and a hunter's tool. It's for expedition and defense. It has character and class, and in the hills of Nepal, some barefoot blacksmith is already at work on another one. It has a history already, and it has a future. Soon it will accompany me on an adventure.

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