My first favourite tool was a Swiss Army knife.
I used it for things like hollowing out Sumac tree branches to make slide whistles, sculpting mini totem poles, notching out slingshot handles, carving up imaginary pirates and cutting the perfect paper airplane flaps.
See, when I was a kid if I wanted a toy my parents didn’t take me to Toys R Us, they helped me make it.
Toy rifle? Hand-carved 2×4 stock, old aluminium tent pole barrel and a bent nail for the trigger. Sailboat? Cut up plastic milk jug hull, curtain rod mast and an old t-shirt sail. While most kids we’re playing Atari, I was… Actually, I was wishing I had an Atari.
The point is, I can look back now and see that those early days helped develop a unique imagination and an innate understanding of how things work, not to mention my inner MacGyver.
But in First Grade, it wasn’t that cool. Imagine showing up to a gunfight with a tent pole rifle when all the other kids had real BB guns. Bizarrely, it wasn’t bringing a toy gun to school that first got me into trouble. It was a pencil.
It all started with our Teacher, Ms. M-Bomb, so-called because she blew up at kids for what seemed like no reason. And because she had a huge butt. One day she saw me writing at my desk, but instead of appreciating my mastery of spelling, her beady eyes zeroed in on the tip of my pencil.
It was jagged, chipped like a rough-hewn log. Because I’d sharpened it at home the way I always did, with the right tool for the job. And now Ms. M-Bomb’s fuse was lit.
Ms. M-Bomb: How did you sharpen this pencil?
Me: With my knife.
That’s the day I learned how to spell “detention.”