Chapter #1 - Becoming an Outdoorsman

Published
03/29/2019
Author

 

While I didn't invent the wheel like my great, great, grandpa 197 generations before me, there is a backstory that must be told.

I grew up in a family with an awesome mom and dad, and a pain in the ass little brother who is my best friend.  My parents loved the beach and spending time in the outdoors.  My dad was an avid surfer, so as kids me and my younger brother Aaron would go with the family to the beach every weekend to go surfing.  I have been surfing longer than I can remember.  As me and my brother's love for the water grew, so did our hobbies.  We lived in a neighborhood that was next to the most ecologically diverse saltwater fishing estuaries in North America.   The river system has more than 4,000 plant and animal species including sharks, manatees, oysters, dolphins, sea turtles, and sea horses.  It is also ground zero for where Lake Okeechobee dumps all of its might into the St. Lucie River.  The area has been on National News lately for all the pollution the lake dumps into the salt water estuary killing the fish, the grass flats, creating toxic algae blooms, and destroying the water quality.   But as kids this was not a "problem".   We actually loved it.  Because after a big rain, the Army Corp of Engineers would open the locks and spillway, where the fresh water bait (shiners, shad, blue gill, minnows, fresh water shrimp, etc), would be met by hungry saltwater gamefish.  This created a fish-eating frenzy.  We would fish for monster snook, tarpon, redfish, jack, and sea trout.  We would ride our bikes the one mile to the locks/spillway and often we would fish as much as most people would work.  

When I was 8, I had the good fortune of going to a primitive summer camp with no electricity or running water for a month in North East Georgia.  The camp was called Camp Cherokee For Boys.  I went there my first year with my older cousin Jonathan who is 2 years older than me.  The camp only had 50 boys in total.   As a young kid my dad would always tell me and my brother how there was a summer camp that he wanted to go to when he was a kid with his friends, but his parents didn't have the money to send him.  His school teacher would take a school bus, a helper and 10 boys to North Carolina where they would live in the woods in tents along a stream and they would canoe, hike, and fish for a month each summer.   So, sending me to a summer camp was something my dad always wanted me and my brother to experience.  This exposed me for the first time to canoeing, camping, hiking, backpacking, archery, shoot guns, and "Indian lore" where I learned to make cordage from plant fibers, tree bark and animal sinew.   

Two years later when I was 10.  I was given the option to do either a science fair project or create an invention.  I had noticed that when I needed to cut things or whittle at night, I had trouble holding my flashlight, my knife, and whatever I was cutting or whittling.  So, I invented a "KnifeLight".  It was a small light that was integrated into the handle of the knife.  The light would illuminate the blade which made seeing what I was cutting or whittling easier.  My dad helped me to make the prototype.  This was in 1992, way before LED's or small bright lights became common.   As such, I won my school districts science and invention fair where I was awarded a first-place ribbon.  I showed all my friends, family, and whoever would listen about my "KnifeLight".   They ALL thought it was a great idea and wanted one for themselves.  Since I was unable to pay for a patent, and my parents didn't know anything about mass producing a pocket knife with a mini light on it.  I did what any entrepreneurial 10-year-old would do.  I sent Buck Knives a letter that was written by my mom that said something like "Hey I invented this cool knife.  I won some first-place awards for it.  A lot of people want them.  You guys should produce them and give me some of the proceeds".  It seemed like months went by, then one day I received an envelope.  The envelope contained a letter and poster.  The poster had a picture of all the knifes Buck was producing at the time.   And a nice letter written by Charles T. Buck.   I remember my mom and dad sitting me down, reading me the letter, and breaking me the bad news.  I should of taken that letter, and cut it up with my Swiss Army knife and sent a new letter to Switzerland.  The land of cool shit, chocolate, mountains, and machined precision.   But I was discouraged to say the least.  So I became busy again being a kid.  Fishing, surfing, and playing hide and go seek.  I spent the next three years going to the same summer camp.  I loved it.  The first year I went with my cousin, the next year I went alone, and then the following two years I went with my brother as he was now old enough to go.   The camp gave me a deep appreciation for mother nature and shaped me into becoming the outdoorsman I am today. 

A few years later while in a shopping mall with my parents, I saw my "KnifeLight" in the Sharper Image being sold as "cutting edge technology".  It was not made by Buck.  So, someone, somewhere felt like it was a pretty good idea too.    And the best part was that I didn't need to buy one because I still had the original. 

The next chapter will be about trying to start my own surfboard company. At 13....

 

 

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6 Comments

Patrick

03/30/2019 at 05:44:25 AM

Awesome story !

Mark

03/30/2019 at 11:10:50 AM

Lawson,

Great story. Thank you for sharing. I was fortunate to grow up in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains and consider my childhood to be a blessed one. It was similar in many ways to yours.

I hate to say it but, Buck did produce a illuminated knife. It was the Buck Whittaker. It was an endorsement by Peter Whittaker, co-owner of Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. It had a small broad oval translucent handle, short blade and LED light. I bought one about ten years ago. It is currently available as the Buck Metro LED. Maybe Charles T. Buck owes you an explanation.

Thanks for making great products. All of my cordage is from you and performs like no other. Best to you and your family.

Steven M.

03/30/2019 at 02:53:14 PM

Lawson,
It really is a nice letter from C.T.Buck and I feel safe in saying that your 'flame of creativity' was not doused but fanned into what your business has become today.
Thanks for the great products, and for the new & faster website!

I wish you only the best!
Steven M.

Curt P

03/31/2019 at 08:16:18 AM

Hello Lawson,

What a great intro story for the Lawson's Ramblings blog! Reading your childhood background got me reminiscing about all the backpacking trips I took with my dad so many years ago... what wonderful memories.

Thanks too for including your letter from Mr. Buck. I think it was a very nice gesture for him to send a personal thank you note & along with his encouragement to keep up with your creative spirit. All that bears out in all the fabulous products in your product lineup. I'm a big fan of your cordage, not to mention your original bar tensioners & Toughlaces. The quality is the absolute best & can always be counted on to perform in the field... I look forward to being a customer for years to come.

Thanks for the great products!

Lawson K

03/31/2019 at 12:06:45 PM

Thanks for reading.

>Patrick. I am happy to hear you liked it.

>Mark. That's interesting to hear about the Buck Whittaker. I wish I remembered the brand of the knife that was for sale in The Sharper Image. I think it was maybe around 1995-96. I am not sure if it was a private label brand or mainstream brand. I will have to do some research and see if I could find an old catalog of theirs or something. My mom saved the letter and poster and gave them to me a few years ago with a bunch of other stuff from my childhood. I am glad she did.

>Steven. No I don't think so either. I have been a tinkerer my whole life. Once I can get away from trying to make everything myself, and start hiring more people to do the actual manufacturing rather then me do everything, then the world will get to see all the interesting ideas I have. Good or bad. Haha. Not only in my head but prototypes I have made through the years. Most are not even closely related to cordage. The last 5 years my only priority has been supporting my wife and two little kids. Which is why most of my work week is dedicated to making custom cordage and custom metal hardware for other companies. It's why most of my own products are always out of stock. It's a vicious cycle really. It's left little time to persue my own passions. As most dad's and mom's know. The needs of our kids and spouse come before our own dreams. Though I am living mine by having this business. I love it and hope to be able to do it forever..

>Curt. I am glad to hear my story brought back so many happy memories for you backpacking with your dad. While I know alot of people enjoy the outdoors alone, I much prefer to spend my time in the outdoors with others. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes by yourself allows for self reflection. But my best and most memorable experiences have always been with others.

Chris D

04/01/2019 at 06:12:45 AM

Cool story! Can't wait for the next installment!

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