Call me old-fashioned, but I honestly believe you cannot be a fully formed outdoorsman unless you have whittled at least one thing in your life – and lived to tell the tale, of course.
Most people who have whittled would give this statement two thumbs up, provided they had not lost them in a horrible whittling accident.
This is because those who have spent time whittling know two things for certain. First, we know that whittling teaches many practical outdoors skills that will serve us well throughout life. These include knife sharpening, unsafe knife practices, first aid, courage, how to apply a tourniquet (and the plural of the word), how to create dangerously sharp tent pegs, why not buying professionally manufactured tent pegs is actually false economy, how to dial 911 with less than the optimal number of fingers, how to discover that the knife you are whittling with is not a lock blade after all, and how not to faint at the sight of your own blood.
In addition to all that, the average whittler is able to show his friends a whittled carving of an old fat man that is almost always mistaken for Santa Claus because of the blood stains on the coat area.
When I was growing up, everyone who owned a pen knife whittled. This was because back then parents commonly believed that getting a few stitches was character-building.
Character, and carvings of old men who vaguely resembled Santa Claus, was something my friends and I were never in short supply of.
Later in life, whittling also served well on a résumé for any job that was deemed a little risky.
For instance, the interviewer might ask, “In this job, there will be times when you will be asked to tackle and then wrestle an adult grizzly bear in order to keep it distracted while the biologist determines why his tranquilizer gun isn’t working….How do I know you are brave enough to do this?”
Obviously, if you casually mentioned that you whittled, not one, but a whole set of tent pegs as a child, you’d be hired immediately – and maybe they’d even decide not to bother with the tranquilizer gun.
I think most people who have had any experience with whittling know this much.
Sadly, younger outdoorsmen and women today have not learned the important life lessons taught by whittling – and some are so far removed from the process they think when you are saying the word you are doing a passable imitation of Mike Tyson saying “whistling.”
That might seem like a reckless joke for me to make, since there is very high probability that Mike Tyson reads this column, as all he-man types do. Then again, I whittled when I was a kid, so he doesn’t scare me much.
Because they have lost touch with the magical pastime of whittling, this new generation of outdoors enthusiasts will also never know the correct way to sit on the hunt camp’s front porch rocking chair either – and that’s a shame.
This is why I am writing this article. I’m hoping that these words might inspire the younger generation to take up this highly important outdoors skill, especially when they are hogging the rocking chair on the front porch. This is a good start, but as Mike Tyson might say, I have a whittle bit more work to do.