|Pat Avery evaluating the heft of a Bowie knife|
Travel can teach you some pretty interesting things -- and some funny ones too.
While preparing for a trip to Gettysburg last spring, I was looking into the Third Arkansas which fought with the Texans and Alabamians trying to take Little Round Top on the second day of the battle. The unit is mostly known for the slaughter around Devil's Den. Now, being from Arkansas, this was something that I knew about -- vaguely. However, in my refresh, I found a reference to a weapon called the Arkansas Toothpick. I'm not a student of instruments of war so my ignorance of this item surprised no one -- not even me. I was intrigued and horrified. The very sound of it brought images of something long and thin and evil.
Neither Pat nor I had ever seen a real life example of one and we took turns pretend slicing and jabbing and getting our photos taken with it. It was heavy and long -- longer than any knife I'd ever held before. Clearly it was meant for the tasks of a world we'd never experienced. Sure it would be deadly in a knife fight -- although frankly, I've never attacked anyone with a blade and that made it hard to judge just how helpful that shape and heft would be in such a situation. However, I could see its uses for living in the wilderness. It would be great for slicing and hacking and digging and ... um...deboning.
On a whim, I asked Paul if he had ever heard of the Arkansas Toothpick. "Oh yes," he said. "I have one."
Wow! Paul had an Arkansas Toothpick?
"Would you like to see it?"
Handle by Art Wiman, blade by Paul
Miniatures by Paul
Paul disappeared and a few minutes later came back with something wrapped in a cloth. There it was...shiny, treasured, and deadly. Wow! Double wow! If you put aside the issue that this was clearly designed to stab something -- probably a human being, it was really cool. A thing of beauty, it was obviously made by a talented person with an eye for art and history. I held it. Like the Bowie Knife it was heavy. I imagined the Third Arkansas marching to war with these things strapped onto their backs. I tried lifting it over my head as if to impale something on the floor. Whoa. Back pain. Clearly this toothpick wasn't meant for old ladies in stretch pants.
Hmmm. Do you think the ones used by the Third Arkansas at Devil's Den were as pretty as this one?