Red companion

About two decades ago everybody’s hero was a clever TV character named MacGyver who could get out of any kind of trouble or save his bacon with a red pocket knife. I owe my own life to such a knife.
Issue Date: 4 May 2007

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The Swiss Army knife is my constant companion on many fishing outings.

About two decades ago everybody’s hero was a clever TV character named MacGyver who could get out of any kind of trouble or save his bacon with a red pocket knife. I owe my own life to such a knife.
We were far out to sea on my ski boat, 20km north of Richards Bay. On board with me was a friend, the late Willa du Preez. had just caught a couple of bonitos, one of which I rigged to troll for game fish or marlin. I hoped not to attract a shark, but that’s exactly what happened. Although I was using a good rod and reel and 50-pound line, it took me a long time to subdue and bring it to the boat side so Willa could grab the leader. I didn’t know what shark it was, but we were amazed at its size, which was almost as long as the 14,5-foot boat. Just as exhausted as me, it lay motionless alongside the boat but we knew it wouldn’t remain so for long. Not wanting to kill it, we somehow had to get the hook out of its mouth. But with no experience with sharks we did not know what to do. O pening a hatch, I dug out a length of rope to tie its tail to the boat to enable us to remove the hook. In retrospect it was a bad idea because as soon as I got a noose over its huge tail, it suddenly sprang to life. With the line still wrapped around his hand, Willa almost went overboard before the line snapped like a pistol shot. The tail rope flew away over the gunwale but became tangled around my feet, which were violently jerked from under me. Skidding along the deck, I grabbed the base of the fighting chair and hung on for life. As the shark started to tow the boat and my grip started to slip, I shouted to Willa to do something. He got hold of the rope but was unable to untangle it, so he ripped a small red knife from his pocket and slashed the rope. It was a Swiss Army knife. Since that day I’ve never again been without a Swiss-type utility combination knife. I can write volumes about all the times I fixed problems, cars and appliances with it, or sawn through branches, wires and even keyless padlocks. Although I still have to use it to save someone from being towed to the bottom of the ocean, I can understand why not only MacGyver, but soldiers in every major army in the world are equipped with one. Even the first man to walk on the moon carried one. It’s a survival tool without equal. T hrough the years I owned and lost a variety of these knives, and although I always knew that there were two companies manufacturing genuine Army Knives, I somehow only used those made by Victorinox. Lately, however, I’ve become acquainted with the products of Wenger. Wenger Swiss Army knives W enger was established in 1893, but did not make the original Swiss Army knife, as its rival opened two years earlier and started to supply the Army in the year Wenger was born. But in years to follow, the government in Bern often bought knives, as both companies were as Swiss as secret bank accounts or Rolex watches. Almost a year ago Ramrod, local agents for Wenger, asked me to test three of their knives. They supplied me with surely the biggest in the range and possibly one of the smallest, as well as one in between. In this time not a day went by without at least one of them at my side and I cannot see how any outdoors person can function without one. The big model is 4cm wide with 11 main springs. I don’t think it’s really designed to be carried on the belt, as no pouch was supplied, but for the frequent traveller in a backpack, cubbyhole or tackle box it’s ideal. I’ve counted 23 tools, including the best scissors in the business, a compass and wrench. wiss knives are usually shaped like bars of soap but not the two smaller Wengers I received. Part of the new Evolution range, they’re ergonomically pleasing, subtly curved as if moulded to the hand. The bigger #17 is a regular pocket-knife size, while I found the smaller #88 with its delicate tools ideal for fly fishermen. I recently used #17 to slaughter a blesbok and caped it with #88. They’re still almost as razor-sharp as when I got them, although I really worked them hard without any sharpening. While I can recommend their quality, the only criticism I have is that the punch is not sharpened on one side enabling you to use it as a drill, but I’ve modified mine. I own over 50 knives but one day when our law-makers get crazier and limit me to only one knife, it will be a Swiss Army knife, possibly a Wenger. – Abré J Steyn Contact Ramrod on (011) 462 6986 or Abré J Steyn on 083 253 4822. |fw