Wielding Weapons

It started three weeks ago with a birthday present for our twelve year old. He'd been wanting a pocket knife for more than a year and his grandparents delivered on that dream with a multi-purpose Swiss Army knife. In addition to the knife, they included a book on whittling. The days since have precipitated a series of educational seminars from his parents focusing on which rooms of the house were suitable for such an activity. Breakout sessions from the seminar highlighted specific white couches in the living room that were deemed highly inappropriate places to whittle for obvious reasons not previously apparent to the aforementioned son.

With the wood shavings under control, the boy was carving out simple items like a cedar butter spreader. He went through a series of these before moving on to something that required less finesse and delivered more in the way of perilous excitement. Ancient weaponry affixed his passion and he began building bows and arrows. News of his latest endeavor spread quickly among his peers. It was mere hours after creating his bow and minutes after his brother broke that first bow that his friend Gabe appeared on our doorstep, eager to participate in the craft. I was sitting in the kitchen when they strolled through with crepe myrtle and mulberry sticks in hand. Gabe exclaimed, "I just had an idea. My parents will probably kill me but I think I can make a bow and arrow for my little brother for Christmas." His little brother is five.

They retreated to the basement and produced several bows with fine woven cotton wick for the string, secured by tennis racket tape. Why we have racket tape is another story but somewhere in the midst of their production cycle they determined whittling arrows took too long and they turned to my stash of dowels. In order to streamline the process further, they ingeniously turned to more complex machinery and used the wall mounted pencil sharpener to put a razor point on the arrow.

The pocket knife is a gateway tool that leads to bigger, badder mechanical things and they had embarked on what will likely be a life-long tool junkie trip. Before they know it, they'll be in their mid forties and have a basement full of industrial grade machinery manufactured by the likes of Powermatic, Newton and Pexto. It's a healthy lifestyle punctuated by an accommodating wife and an ability to rationalize acquisitions in the name of having the right tool for the right job. But I digress.

Having put together several bow and arrow sets, the boys set out in the neighborhood and began peddling their wares, unbeknownst to any parental figure. They returned a short while later enthused about their new enterprise. Astonishingly, they were able to sell a bow and arrow to one of their friends and even backed it up with a one week warranty. Proud parental figures we were and we complimented the creativity, dedication to customer service, belief in their product and promptly shut the operation down. It was an invitation to liability for which there is no room under our umbrella. All it takes is one errant cat coming between the bow and a presumably inanimate target to completely transform a holiday season into a litigious one.

They were soon joined by another friend, Lucy, and returned to the basement to continue creating more bows for personal use. There was a lot of chatter down there for a while and then things got suddenly silent. I had been sitting in the living room when the lull occurred and I didn't think too much of it until I saw Lucy walking towards me holding her hand and asking if I had a band aid. She was within staining distance of the white couch when I realized she was dripping blood from her finger. I calmly moved the scene to the kitchen and after not finding a band aid there, I went upstairs to get proper triage supplies. Wife met me at the top of the stairs with the first aid basket. Apparently she had heard a word not fit to print emanate from the basement and instinctively knew that a knife wound of some kind had taken place. Thankfully, Lucy had a relatively minor laceration and will continue her life unimpaired while maintaining a healthy dose of Swiss Army street cred.

I didn't ever get the full story on how the finger slash took place but group production on bows ceased immediately and pre-teen projects involving anything sharp will forever more be governed by constant adult supervision. Fortunately, time did heal wounds and a few days after the incident Lucy came over while the boys were snacking on cornbread in the kitchen. She picked up a very dull kitchen knife to enhance her cornbread and Gabe delivered with steady tone and impeccable timing, in the precise moment before she sliced the butter, "You might want to be careful with the knife, Lucy." Windows rattled as everyone laughed at Gabe wielding wit, the sharpest weapon of all.