The knife that I’ve carried for 30 falls helps me remember every hunt. My father gave me a Buck Pathfinder on my 19th birthday. At that point, I was on a hard and wild road. My father, who had some experience with such roads, assured me that a fork lay in the pale distance not far up ahead. He spoke with a heavy heart and blunt words: “If you keep on like this, you’ll wind up dead or in prison.” There was no threat or hyperbole in it. Putting a straight knife with a 5-inch blade into your son’s hand at such a time might not seem the wisest course. But what he was really trying to give me was the woods again.

Four years later, he lay dying of cancer in the old bed he and my mother had shared for 34 years. So I carry the memories. And the Buck. That knife—now a half inch shorter and a third thinner from so many honings—has ridden with me on far more days when it never left its sheath than on those glorious times when it freed ivories and quartered elk. But I still consider it the best possible companion.

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