TK: What’s new?
I set a record the day before yesterday. I stood 11 hours at the podium without taking a bathroom break while signing autographs, taking pictures and talking to folks. It was fantastic—my personal-best record of standing and talking without a chair or a piss call. I was in Sevierville, Tennessee, near Knoxville, at Smoky Mountain Knife Works. This is the largest knife store in the world! I enjoy challenging myself at events like this, seeing how far I can hold up. I’ve done 10 hours about three times, but this was my first 11-hour run. The line was about five-hours long. I met people there who had come from places like Florida, driven hundreds of miles. One little 9-year-old kid was from Ohio. It was his birthday, and his daddy had driven him down from Ohio to see the Gunny. There were other kids as well, and looking at that line filled me with love and motivation without limits. They’re talking about making this event an annual affair. I hope they do.

TK: Have you bought any new knives?
I’m totally in love with a gift blade I received from my brother-in-law, who lives in Australia. It’s a Crocodile Dundee-type knife. You can call it a “survival” knife if you want, because you’re sure as hell going to survive with it. It’s a big Bowie knife that will chop down small trees if you need to. The knife is called “The Outback,” and it’s from Down Under Knives. The leather sheath has a crocodile image, and the knife has a leather handle. This one does not have one of those hollow handles, but a sharpener is in a pouch on the sheath. It weighs about a pound and a half, and the overall length is 16 inches, with an 11-inch blade. It’s big all right, but it’s the balance and workmanship that make it so appealing to me.

TK: You see a lot of new knives. What types are your favorites?
I’m really attracted to custom makers, the way they go at it in their spare time, working in their home shops, putting in all those hours to create the best. When you buy one, you’re buying a labor of love, a work of art. Each maker seems to have his own special wrinkle. I know one old boy who collects bicycle chains. He smelts them down and turns the steel into fantastic blades that hold an edge.

TK: When you have time to look around at a show with custom knives, what do you look for?
I go for knives that are aesthetically beautiful, what you might call snazzy-looking knives. Then, if the art is there, we need to talk about durability and usefulness. I’m a traditionalist. I personally prefer wood and leather.

TK: The Marine Corps Birthday Balls are a major event for you. How many did you attend this past year?
I did five this time. It’s a traditional thing that the unit hosting the ball will have a token gift for the guest speaker, or guest of honor. They’re always nice, but one I received this year was off the charts. It was a hand grenade box customized into a home bar. It has little doors that swing open to four bottles of wine and other stuff. It has a plaque. Another special Birthday Ball gift I treasure came to me some years ago at a Ball in Okinawa when a Marine Supply unit presented me with a framed copy of the original battle plan for the invasion of Iwo Jima. They found it while cleaning out some old desk drawers on Okinawa. These are two instances when my token gifts have turned into personal treasures.

TK: You hunt deer and big game when you can. Have you ever been lost while in wild country?
Never. And I don’t think I ever will be. I’m one of those guys who you can blindfold, take me out in the woods, turn me around 10 times and I can still point north. I’m a firm believer that once you know where north is, you can’t really be totally lost. You’ll know which direction a road is, a trail, a river, a camp, a hillside. As I go out on my hunt, I’m making mental notes of everything I’m passing. When I cross trails, streams, anything significant, the side I’m on locks into my mental guidance system. In really dense country, I look at my backtrail every now and then to see what things will look like on the return trip.

TK: What do you think of Damascus knives?
I own a few, and they’re beautiful. There is some good Damascus steel, and some not so good. It just depends on how it Rockwell’s out. I have some Damascus knives that hold an edge so well that you can butcher an entire deer before you have to sharpen that knife again. I have some Damascus knives that I’m proud of because they’re stylish and aesthetically beautiful. But their edges won’t hold. Mostly, I want my knives to be functional. But I do keep some just for their looks.

TK: Perhaps when you were younger, did you ever throw knives?
I still will sometimes, if I’m bored in camp. But back in the day, my brothers and I went head to head in throwing duels. I guess we had in mind all the movie scenes of the guy sneaking up and throwing a knife into the back of a sentry, dropping him immediately. A knife has to be strong to handle even a few throws into a maple tree. Today, of course, we have special throwing knives, used by the pros. But the knife I respect most isn’t one for a specific task. It’s just functional and durable, ready to take on any task.

TK: What about stainless?
I love them. And I think the majority of blades made today are stainless, for the simple fact that you can use them anywhere—including salt water—without rusting.

TK: Thanks, Gunny
Semper Fi.

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