Driftless Junior: A blade of my past

It’s a long and slender knife. The handle is made from an old deer antler from a deer that was killed who knows when.

By Noah Breitenbach-Dirks
Decorah High School Senior

It’s a long and slender knife. The handle is made from an old deer antler from a deer that was killed who knows when. The blade is grey and clearly weathered down from its original polished state many years ago. The cover is leather and smells strongly of a petroleum-based polish used to touch it up after many years of neglect. But that’s the way that I like it. My knife suits me well. 
It was given to me by my grandfather in 2015 when I shot my first antlered buck on his farm. It was his knife when he was a child back in the ’50s and ’60s. We started our annual tradition of layering up and sitting out in the frigid cold and snow for hours at a time back in 2013, when I was ten. Hunting each weekend in November has led to countless quality hours of bonding between my grandfather and me. Even though we rarely speak during our outings, we’ve learned what the other person is saying just by reading their face or eyes. A long eye roll at the end of an uneventful morning is as clear as you can get without directly saying “Let’s go back inside.”
The knife will always remind me of my grandfather and bring me back to some of the best memories of my young life. Whenever I hold it and run the blade between my thumb and pointer finger, I think of waking up at 5 a.m. on opening day to guarantee we got set in our tree a full hour before sunrise. I think about the warm feeling of coming back inside on a 10° morning and drinking hot chocolate, or coffee in more recent years, to warm up before the Vikings game started at noon. I think about getting the tractor stuck in the not yet frozen creek bed after an overzealous attempt to cross through the creek, and consequently being forced to spend an afternoon dragging it out. I think about driving the four-wheeler through the same creek in the pitch dark of a November twilight, with a gun slung over my shoulder. I remember back to the feeling of relief and happiness that reverberated through my body when I hit the perfect shot on a deer, instantly dropping it.

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I use my knife only once a year. It’s not nearly as compact and portable as many of the newer knives one could easily buy at Cabela’s, Dick’s or Bass Pro. It dulls after only one use and has a hard time cutting through the tough skin of a whitetail. But I don’t need a fancy new hunting knife with all the perks and amenities. The sentimental value carried with my knife will forever be worth more than any other knife I could buy at a store. I hope one day to be able to pass down this knife to my own son, daughter or grandchild. And I hope that one day, they will cherish it as much as I do.

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