I own three knives that belonged to friends of mine who are no longer here. One is a Randall Model 5, which Randall calls the Camp and Trail Knife. Bo Randall gave it to my friend Norm Strung in the early 1970s, and Norm carried it until the end of his life. He abused it shamefully. The stag handle is loose, the blade was pitted when I got it, and he carried a drag rope over the handle that twisted the sheath out of shape. Nevertheless, it is still Norm’s Knife to me.

In 1972, Norm used a Ka-Bar that he lost one bitter cold evening while gutting an elk at the top of a divide in southwestern Montana. Sam Curtis, who was Norm’s friend, asked if he could keep the knife if he could find it, and Norm said sure. The next spring Sam hiked up to the top of the divide, rescued the Ka-Bar, and used it for 20 years more. A few weeks before he died, Sam asked me if I would like to have it, and so now it has a home among my knives.

Three years ago, I was hunting deer with a friend named Joe Caccamo, and admired the Russell Canadian Belt Knife he was carrying. I made him an offer for it, and Joe said, “Oh hell, take it.” So I did. That summer, I shot against him on a Saturday, and on Tuesday his heart failed and he was gone.

When I go, the Randall and the Ka-Bar and the Russell will lose their histories and their associations. They will go from being connections to absent friends to used knives and nothing more.

It is sad, is it not?