A few months ago, a reader showed up at an event I was doing and handed me a newspaper clipping of a column I wrote eight or nine years ago.
He grinned happily after he asked me to sign it.
“That’s me to a T.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Case knife.
“Got more at home, too.”
He pointed out the window.
“That’s my truck, too. Got another one at home.”
Out of the hundreds of columns I have written, that one is, without question, a top-10 favorite. Especially for Southern men. In that essay, I wrote that the sexiest men drive pickup trucks and carry pocketknives.
Tink, the Yankee I married, did not understand the importance of carrying a pocketknife until he was asked repeatedly if he had a knife in his pocket. After a while and many jabs and pokes, he began to get the picture: To really initiate himself into the rural South, he needed a pocketknife.
I had no idea that he had finally come to his senses, that he had had a reckoning of sorts, which probably came when that reader who brought the clipping to me to sign then turned to Tink and said, “Where’s your pocketknife?”
Tink shifted from one foot to another and shrugged slightly. He tried to look nonchalant. Now, a really good wife would have jumped in and defended or, at the least, deflected the conversation. But I did not. In fact, I think I said, “Yeah, Tink, where’s your knife?”
Finally, he was forced to concede, like Gen. Lee at Appomattox, “I don’t have one.”
The man did not hide his astounded surprise.
“You don’t have one?”
He handed the newspaper clipping to Tink.
“Here, you better read this.”
So I think that was the turning point. Tink decided, unbeknownst to me, to get a proper pocketknife. He did his research, carefully and thoroughly, as always he does. One day, a package arrived in the mail. He grabbed it from me and hurried away like Ralphie in “The Christmas Story” when he received his secret decoder ring in the mail. A couple of days later — after he had gotten down perfectly how to whip it out and open it then close it with the flick of a finger — he showed me his new Case knife.
For the next few months, he proudly toted it wherever he went. He used it repeatedly — to cut the twine on bales of hay, open packages, cut twigs out of his path — whatever a farmer needs a pocketknife for. Then, one day, with a worried face, he came to me.
“Baby, my pocketknife is missing.”
“How does a farmer lose his knife?” I asked.
“By doing farmer-ly things with it.”
For three or four days, he searched high and low for it. About two days into the search, he decided he had not lost it, naturally, but that it had been stolen.
“What did you do with my knife?” he asked.
He followed me around, pestering me.
“You hid it, didn’t you?”
“Just retrace your steps. You’ll find it,” I assured him.
The pocketknife had been missing for four woeful days when Tink had to take a quick trip to Los Angeles. He went through airport security and put his laptop bag through the X-ray machine. A few minutes later, after he had cleared security, he put his hand down in the inside pocket of the laptop bag, and his fingers touched something familiar. His pocketknife.
“If I didn’t know you better, I’d swear you put it there,” he texted from the gate.
I was glad he found it because he had been so worried.
“For the record,” I responded, “real farmers carry their knives in their pockets. Not their laptop bags.”
Rich is the author of “There’s a Better Day a-Comin’.” Go to www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.