It's a question that separates the country boys from the city boys. I can make that claim because this country boy spent nine years living in three cities, and never carried a knife then. Today, on the rare occasions when I forget to carry a knife I feel incomplete.
Why carry a knife? Because it's probably the simplest tool man ever invented. (Using a rock as a hammer pre-dates the knife, but a rock hardly qualifies as an invention.) It's also one of the most basic. (Yes, the rock-hammer is a little more basic.) And it's the most useful. If you play Rock-Paper-Knife instead of Rock-Paper-Scissors, my money will be on the knife.
A knife does a wide variety of jobs. You can open your mail with a knife. You can cut through virtually indestructible, modern clamshell packaging. You can sever a rope. Open cardboard boxes. Do a manicure. (And if you're really flexible, a pedicure.)
If you need to start a fire you can make fine shavings from a stick for kindling. If you're a gardener you can open seed packets, cut suckers from your tomato plants, and graft buds onto root stock. If you're a woodworker, you can trim splinters, wedge a crack apart so you can work in some glue, and trim dried glue. If you're a hunter you can trim shooting lanes, field dress an animal and cut twine to attach a harvest tag.
You can play electrician and use a knife to strip insulation from wire. You can play mechanic and cut wire to clamp a coolant hose, or clean corroded battery terminals. You can play florist and arrange flowers with a knife. You can dig the mud out of your shoes, then cut a sliver out of your finger, then use it as a fork for eating peaches out of a can. (To a country boy, washing the blade is optional.)
If you're a romantic country boy you can carve your initials into the trunk of a tree, along with your girlfriend's initials, and cut a heart around them.
In emergencies, doctors have used pocket knives to cut tracheotomies, and used the barrel of a pen for a breathing tube. In another kind of emergency you can cut a seat belt. In your leisure you can play mumbley-peg. (Google it.) If you're a farmer you can do just about anything.
A knife can do more jobs than you can imagine, and some it was never intended to do. Many jobs are hard on the blade, so some people carry two knives one quality knife with a good cutting blade, and another of lesser quality they don't mind abusing. Some people carry more than two. You can't have too many.
Where to keep a knife? In a pocket or on a belt. Or you can dangle a neck knife under your shirt. You could strap one to your ankle to keep the weight out of your pocket.
In the late 1880s, the Swiss Army wanted a folding pocket knife designed so soldiers could open canned food and disassemble the Swiss service rifle. Voil' a multi-tool was born. By loading a variety of other tools into a compact package, a Swiss Army Knife has been designed for nearly every profession, from doctor to soldier to tinker. Not even computer geeks are left out Victorinox has a model with a USB thumb drive on it.
Today, two companies make "official" Swiss Army knives. To distinguish themselves from a hundred imitators, Victorinox claims to be "the original" and Wenger calls theirs "the genuine" Swiss Army Knife.
When I was a kid on the school bus I remember carrying a very small fixed-blade knife. The blade couldn't have been more than an inch and a half long. I had lost the sheath, which led to a problem. The short version of the long story is that I did a bad thing with it, purely an accident, but I didn't get tossed from school. All kids carried knives back then country boys couldn't live without one.
A knife is simply a tool you can use for right or wrong, good or bad. Because you can do bad, some people would like to ban knives. But what can't you do bad things with?
So carry a knife. Then when someone asks, "Got a knife on ya'?" it may not be the perfect knife for the task, but it'll do the job.
When the "Everyday Hunter" isn't hunting, he's thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell him exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com. This column and others can be accessed online at www.EverydayHunter.com.