Way­point: Cold call­ing

Outdoor Life - - NEWS -

Twenty-eight years ago this fall, I found one of the great trea­sures of my life. I was the dirt-poor ed­i­tor of a weekly newspaper in east­ern Mon­tana and an as­pir­ing mule deer hunter, walk­ing a dry creekbed below a ridge of adobe knobs, when some­thing in the sand caught my eye.

It was the aft 3 inches of a bone­han­dled knife, the bur­nished brass lan­yard hasp glint­ing in the sun. I dug out the rest of the knife and knocked the slag off the blade. It was ob­vi­ously well made, be­cause it had with­stood the el­e­ments in de­cent shape. It cleaned up nicely.

Ow­ing to my poverty—but also the qual­ity of the steel—that knife be­came my main deer-gut­ting, elk-skin­ning, and meat-cut­ting blade for the next sev­eral years. I made a crude sheath for it, kept the han­dle oiled and the edge keen. I even­tu­ally moved to Seat­tle. It was there, clean­ing blood off the pit­ted but ser­vice­able blade, that I no­ticed faint writ­ing. Etched in the steel, in a fine cur­sive, was a name I could make out only un­der a mag­ni­fy­ing glass: “Don Si­mensen.”

I re­called the sur­name from my time in Mon­tana, and I al­ways in­tended to find out if Don still lived in the area and if he’d re­call los­ing that special knife. But I ac­quired other knives, and life got in the way. And though I had since moved back to east­ern Mon­tana, Don’s bone-han­dled blade mi­grated far­ther back in my knife drawer every year.

But I thought of that old blade as I worked on our fea­ture that de­tails

the sur­pris­ing things that sports­men and women find in the field (“Lost & Found,” p. 54). I am con­vinced that, be­cause of the places we roam and our pe­cu­liar habit of notic­ing gran­u­lar de­tails, we hunters and an­glers are the world’s great­est find­ers of lost items.

The fea­ture prompted me to re­trieve Don Si­mensen’s knife from its drawer. I did some sleuthing and found that Don is still alive and lives about an hour from me, in a sim­ple ranch house just down the road from where I discovered his knife. I called him and made ar­range­ments to visit.

Don is up in years, and his me­mory has holes in it, but you could read in his eyes that he rec­og­nized his blade. “Lost that when I was just a pup,” he told me, turn­ing the knife over in his cal­loused hands. He wasn’t sure who had given him the knife, or who might have etched his name in the blade, but we both felt good that, af­ter so many years, that bone-han­dled knife was back in his hands.

As I pulled out of his drive­way, I could see the ridge of bad­lands where I had found that knife nearly three decades ear­lier, and mar­veled at how much had changed since my dis­cov­ery. And I won­dered at an­other re­al­iza­tion: We out­doors­men might be great find­ers, but we tend to be lousy keep­ers.

Don Si­mensen’s bone-han­dled sheath knife.

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