It’s not the blade, it’s the corkscrew

The mailman arrived yesterday morning with a little package for me. It was a new Swiss Army Knife, the Climber model. (Can anyone tell me what that little hook is for?)

I needed it because, after over 20 years and an increasing number of close calls, I finally lost my old faithful. Airport security got it when I forgot to pack it in my checked luggage coming out to Minneapolis. The last time I traveled, I left it in my hand luggage by mistake, but they missed it. (Gives you a lot of confidence in the system, doesn’t it?) And once before when I’d forgotten about it, I’d been able to get out of line and mail it ahead. This time, though, they got me.

The confiscated blade had replaced one I’d lost on the trail in the mid-80s, when H was a little girl and we’d stopped for a picnic walking out from Galehead Hut in the Whites, after the long traverse the previous day from Greenleaf (my least favorite walk in the Whites). Oddly, I feel little sentimental sorrow over this most recent loss. The knife did its job, and I relied on it, but that was it.

I actually lost another SAK on my way to Scotland last spring for the TGO Challenge. I’d mistakenly packed in my hand baggage (a pattern with me, obviously) a picnic-style version, with a longer blade that was good for slicing bread, summer sausage, etc. I still feel really bad about losing that one, because it had been given to me by a close friend.

I remember reading through a thread on one of the US outdoor sites about knives. The basic question was: “Which features do you require in a pocket knife?” The lightweight people, of course, said a tiny blade was all they needed. Others plumped for bottle or can openers, scissors, or a screwdriver. I was astonished that almost no one grasped the essential point, the primary requirement of every Swiss Army Knife I’ve ever owned: a way to get that wine bottle open.

[Tenuously related story. When I was at college, the whole campus would decamp once every fall to head for Boston to watch our football team play Harvard. (We runners were there for a cross-country meet with them, but no one ever bothered with that.) One year, I fixed a teammate up with a very attractive girl I’d gone to high school with. She, in turn, got me a date with a college friend. On Saturday, in the few hours between our race and the game, we took the girls along the Charles for a picnic. We spread out a blanket, pulled out whatever it was we had brought for lunch (I shudder to think), and then David reached into the bag for the wine I had bought earlier. As he did, I slapped my head and exclaimed, “Oh, no! We forgot the corkscrew!” My former classmate took a look at the bottle, noted the price jotted on it in grease pencil, and with the cool and withering disdain that reminded me why I’d never tried to date her myself, said, “Mark, for seventy-nine cents, you don’t get a cork.”]


It’s not the blade, it’s the corkscrew — 5 Comments

  1. The “little hook” is to carry string or twine or wire-wrapped bundles. The body of the knife is the handle and the hook takes the weight of the bundle.

  2. Thanks, Beep. I can see where that might be a help. (Oh, boy, would I like to get to the Boundary Waters someday. It’s been on my list forever.)

    That would be great, Baz, but it would have to be for itsy bitsy corks in itsy bitsy bottles. Not that that would be beneath me.

  3. I once spent an hour in Melgarve Bothy with Mick Coady and Lord Elpus on the Chally, watching Mick dig out a cork from a nice bottle of Gigondas with the blade of his pen-knife, which did not have a corkscrew.

    I have never forgotten my corkscrew ever since then and I am sure that neither has Mick.

  4. Being caught short without a corkscrew I used the trick of pushing the cork into the bottle, seconds later I was able to pour a mug of shiraz but only after wiping off half a glass of shiraz that I got showered in with the process!

    BTW dont bother with that old boot lace trick all you need to do is float the cork away from the neck (the amount of wine displaced when pushing the cork in helps).

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