This came from John Odom .. via Facebook. John.. thanks for sharing this story --Jim
This is the story of a knife. Why tell this story? Because this
particular knife had a very interesting history. My family moved to the
Philippines in 1947. My folks were to be missionaries there. We arrived
on October 8, at pier 7 Manila. (Before the war, that was one of the
longest and most magnificent passenger ship piers in the world.)
Within a few days we were taken into Manila and shown the Quiapo market,
and Philippine Cold Stores, where the missionary wives did their
grocery shopping. On one of the first trips, but not the first, I asked
Mother if I could do some shopping. I found a stall where military
surplus equipment was sold, and 1 bought a USMC Ka-Bar fighting knife
and a canteen and pistol belt. Mother was not happy about the knife. 1
explained that a knife is good or bad depending on what it is used for.
The USMC Ka-Bar was an ugly knife with a gray-green dull finish, called
Parkerizing that was intended to not reflect light in the jungle. It is a
big knife with a 6 7/8" blade and an overall length of eleven and
three-quarter inches. The handle is 5". The photo below is from their
2009 catalog, and is of a better looking knife, without the rough
I wore the knife on the pistol belt when traveling in the backcountry,
but that was not suitable in civilization. The knife came with a
reinforced plastic sheath with clips for the pistol belt. It was not
suitable for carrying the knife any other way. When we went to a shoe
factory to get shoes, I asked the manager for some leather, and made a
sheath with a metal clip for my pants and belt. Then most of the time I
kept it in the small of my back, inside my pants, and covered by my
shirttail. I kept my promise to Mother, and never used it as a weapon.
We soon went to Baguio for vacation. I had great fun with the knife
digging into caves the Japanese had used during the war. I dug up a lot
of burned Japanese knives with my Ka-Bar.
Another time we went to a small regional meeting at a church located
inside the crater of Taal volcano. This volcano has a large crater with a
lake in it. In the lake is an island with a crater with a lake, and in
it is the active vent. There are many hot springs in the area. The soil
in the crater is very rich, and there are several villages surrounding
Lake Taal. Daddy was to preach Friday night and Sabbath morning and
afternoon. The "hotel" was very primitive with no bathing facilities. We
went swimming in the lake to bathe for Sabbath. There was a raft
anchored a little way out from the beach, which was very black volcanic
sand. Even though the water was clear one could not see the black
bottom. At the raft location the water was about 10 feet deep. Daddy was
sitting on the raft, talking with one of the other ministers, and the
sun was getting lower and lower.
The local brethren became concerned that the visiting ministers would
soon be swimming on Sabbath, and not ready for the evening meeting. They
asked a little boy who was swimming there to swim out, pull the anchor
of the raft and tow the raft in, hoping that would get the attention of
the ministers. He did. Mother and I were dressed for Sabbath, and
standing on the beach. When the raft bumped the beach Daddy looked up
and saw the sun almost down. He said "Look, Banaag, the sun is almost
down! I'll take one more dive. And he dove into the shallow water about 3
feet deep. When he came up he cried "Help, I'm paralyzed!" Elder Banaag
held him floating there. Some wanted to carry him out but mother said
NO! Don't bend his back! I saw a barbershop facing the beach with the
door standing open I ran there, pulling out the Ka-Bar which I used to
remove the barbershop door. I will never forget the barber’s totally
astonished look, standing there over a man's half-shaved soapy face with
his razor and towel in hand! 1 carried the door out to Daddy and the
men floated him onto it and we then transported Daddy to the hotel, and
the next day to the Sanitarium in Manila. There were many miracles
involved, but although Daddy made a pretty good recovery, he was unable
to carry a full pack after he broke his back. 1 carried double whenever
The next year when we went to Baguio, Daddy volunteered to go to a
remote village in the mountains and baptize some people who had been
listening to the Voice of Prophecy and studying the correspondence
lessons. The trip was supposed to last three days, maybe four. It was
December and the typhoon season was past. In those days the roads in the
mountain Province were mostly one-lane tracks along the steep
mountainsides, with control gates every few kilometers where one vehicle
would wait for those coming the other way. We stayed the first at
Bontoc. While at Bontoc, a typhoon came in and it began to rain, and
rain and rain! We left the next day and soon came to a place where the
road was washed out, and when the bus backed up, we found the road was
washed out behind us as well. It was about a thousand feet down the
mountainside to the bottom. Daddy decided that we had come this far; he
would not disappoint the people who wanted to be baptized. We would walk
on out on the downhill side, rather than walking back up to Bontoc. We
were gone three weeks, not three days. What an adventure! The Ka-Bar was
with me all the way! I used it to open cans, cut food, cut walking
sticks and for every other imaginable thing. There was a large group of
about thirty travelers walking our way.
I won't ell of all the adventures, of the lovely Igorot maiden, or the
Ifugao headhunters just arrested by the constabulary for killing an
American, I'll stick to the knife.
After days of walking, fording 26 small streams knee deep or deeper, and
exhausting most of our food, we finally reached the river, and the rain
stopped. The ferry had washed away. The rain-swollen river was like a
great torrent of debris filled brown water with boiling waves. We found
that sanitation in the "hotel" there was very poor. (That is another
story.) We stayed one night and decided to eat breakfast and pray on the
riverbank. While we watched the sun rise we ate our last food, a can of
sardines, and were wondering what we could do.
While eating, a Kalinga warrior approached us, and in quite good
English, he asked if we wanted to cross the river. Daddy said, Yes, of
course, that is why we are here, but there is no way, with the ferry
washed away. The Kalinga said he knew how to cross the river, but
couldn't do it alone. The other travelers were not willing to help him.
Daddy said: "What do we need to do?"
He proposed building a bamboo raft and braiding a rope of vines, which
secured to a tree and the raft would take it across the river and keep
it from being swept away. He assured us he knew how. We started to cut
bamboo and vines. He used his Hinalung and I used my Ka-Bar. The
Hinalung is a very interesting tool/weapon. It is a leaf-shaped
double-edged blade with a forged socket handle covered with braided
rattan. It can be used as a knife, or put on a shaft and used as a
spear. He carried his as a spear, and pulled it off to use it as a
knife. The Kalinga men wore only a G-string and a little hat. They
carried their spear and a little over the shoulder pouch.
We peeled strips from the outside of the bamboo, and he showed Daddy how
to lash the bamboo together with the strips. I cut and split vines with
the Ka-Bar and he braided them together. We worked all day, with only a
few wild guavas for food. We visited and we found he had been a scout
for the American forces during the war and had learned English while so
We stayed on the riverbank overnight and at first light. Just before we
executed the river-crossing plan, Daddy had prayer, and the Kalinga
warrior pulled a bottle of gin from his little pouch and took a big
drink. He said The GIs also taught me to drink gin straight! We stripped
and put our clothes in the waterproof duffel bag, which we lashed to
the middle of the raft. They tied the braided rope around me, and held
me against the current by wrapping their end around a tree while 1 swam
across. When I got to the opposite landing 1 walked upstream and secured
the rope to a tree. They secured their end to the raft, climbed on, and
pushed off. The current swung the raft exactly to the landing. We bid
the Kalinga farewell, and hiked on. For the next three days we had only
a few wild guavas for food, and no clean water. Daddy and I would kneel
beside a puddle in the road, covered with green scum and wiggling
larvae. Daddy would pray, 'Thank you Lord for this water, please kill
what is in it." We would then dip our cups into the puddle and drink. We
got no waterborne diseases.
We met a man with an old Dodge army ambulance, and he gave us a ride.
The road was very bad, and he snagged the fuel line on a staub when he
went off the road to avoid a washed-out place. I used the Ka-Bar to make
little tubes of bamboo, which we connected together with vacuum hose
from the windshield wipers and we were able to continue. There were many
more adventures including an encounter with the Huks, the
American-killing Communist rebels, before we finally reached an airport,
and flew home to Mother, several weeks late.
I used the Ka-Bar for everything. Opening cans, cutting papaya, and
pineapple, opening cocoanuts, you name it. Even Mother got used to using
it in her cooking classes. She always gave it an extra washing, though.
In 1952 I went to Mindanao where a new college was being established. 1
was to work with a government surveyor and survey the boundaries and
also lay out the roads and the airstrip. The survey crew consisted of
the government surveyor, me as transit man and record keeper, two men to
clear sightlines and two to help with the measuring tape. We also had a
cook. We spent a week in the jungle. 1 used the Ka-Bar to help clear
the sightlines and for every purpose. The non-forested sections of land
were covered with cogon grass well above head height. We had to build
Bamboo towers for the survey instruments to see above it.
After the survey, we cut bamboo for construction. Some of the bamboo,
growing along the river was so big the Ka-Bar would fit crosswise in the
inside diameter of the stalks. Some of these stalks were 200 ft long.
We built "Pioneer Hall" a 24-foot square; two story building, entirely
of bamboo, except for the roof, which was of Cogon grass thatch. The
main bamboo cutting was done with a 24" machete, but I used the Ka-Bar
to cut the branches off the bamboo shafts and to split them when
required. I was amazed at what the fellows could do with bamboo. 1
didn't understand the process, but I followed directions.
We then learned that Mr. Bartlett, the manager, was bringing his wife
and two little girls, a newborn and a three-year old, we then built a
12-foot square hut for them. I used the Ka-Bar to split the bamboo for
the floor and walls of that hut, and for the split bamboo that held the
cogon grass for the roof thatch.
I came back to the US for college in 1952. 1 no longer carried the
Ka-Bar, but used it regularly. Many years later, in 1976, the Ka-Bar was
on my desk where it was normally used as a letter opener. The building
burned, and when I went through the debris, I found the remains of the
Ka-Bar. I couldn't bear to throw it away. It had served me well, and
seeing it there all rusty with the handle burned off brought a flood of
memories. I could not throw it away. I took it home; wire brushed it,
wrapped it in an oily shop towel and put it in my dresser.
One day, 1n early 2007, I told the story of the knife and the barber’s
door on the forgemagic.com Blacksmiths Forum. I got a message from
Bladesmith Glenn Moulton of Bainbridge Georgia offering to rebuild the
knife. The offer was accompanied pictures of knives he had built. He
obviously had more skill in knives than I had so I took him up on the
most generous offer.
While it was on the way to Glenn, I researched the original construction
with the help of the original maker, KaBar in Olean, New York. I found
that the blade metal was 1095 plain high carbon steel, and that the
pommel was secured with a steel pin.
Glenn started work, keeping me up to date with emailed pictures, which are shown with comments below.
Right now, I feel kind of beat up and burned out. I'm looking forward to being made new by my original maker.