Let’s Talk About Winning and the Bowie Knife

Let’s Talk About Winning and the Bowie Knife
By Parker D.

With most inventions, a need is the predecessor of an innovation. In the case of the Bowie Knife, Colonel Jim Bowie was given an innovation before the need. Legend goes that Jim had a brother named Rezin who designed a knife with a broad blade, no cross-guard, and no false edge on the back. So basically this was a kitchen knife that was modified to wear on the hip. As to when this first model was designed and fabricated is hazy on the facts, however the day that this knife shot into fame was in September 1827. Jim Bowie was near the town of Natchez, Mississippi attending a duel. This duel was located on a Sandbar, in the middle of the Mississippi. As to who was dueling seems to be unimportant because no one seems to know however what we do know is Jim Bowie was rooting for one side and Norris Wright, an enemy, was rooting for the other with some of his friends. The duel was uneventful; both men fired pistols at each other, twice, and missed. Seeing as honor was restored and no real harm done, adhering to the strict laws of men, left as friends. The crowd however demanded blood in order to appease their need for a good time and a brawl quickly commenced. Norris Wright, seeing as he had the advantage in numbers over Jim Bowie, pulled out a pistol and his men brandished sword canes. Jim, despite shot in the lung and stabbed numerous times by SWORD canes mind you, sprang into action. There are different accounts as to the outcome however what has been confirmed is that Jim disemboweled Wright and chased off the men brandishing the sword canes. Hole in the lung or not, I don’t care who you are that goes down as a “Win” in my book.

News of this amazing fight quickly spread across the south and the new fashion was wearing a “Bowie Knife” the only problem was once again it was basically carrying around a kitchen knife. Jim Bowie decided that there was a need to modify the kitchen knife further so he could have something more durable and reliable. So he set to work carving a block of wood into a model of a knife that he wanted. What resulted was a large knife made by blacksmith James Black with the blade at a minimum of 10” and the width being 2.5”, a false back edge (meaning that from a distance it appears to be double edged, but in fact it is only single), and a very pronounced clip. The clip is a very important feature due to it narrows the blade down at the top in order to get the dagger-like stabbing ability. The clip can also be sharpened as well to increase its versatility in a fight; the wielder is able to incorporate back slashes. Some speculate that the false edge was also designed to “catch” opponent’s blades to deflect their attacks. Later the design evolved to include an “S” shaped cross guard to better handle catching opponent knives as well and this seemed to work out great since that is the general design that we see today.

Whenever Jim Bowie acquired a new knife trouble seemed to follow. After he had taken the Black Bowie, Jim traveled to Texas where he was once again accosted by multiple assailants, in this case 3 men. So what happened? I’ll tell you what happened; Jim disemboweled one man, split another man’s skull, and nearly decapitated the third. All with his new Black Bowie knife and that means another Win for Jim Bowie. Bowie later died in the Alamo in 1836, along with Davey Crockett, which I would consider this being a win, seriously I would much rather be remembered for my knife than wearing a dead coon on my head but I digress. Even before Jim Bowie’s death, the Bowie Knife was infamous for its ability of being able to win at impossible odds, but that’s silly it’s not the knife that wins or is it? Just remember for a knife to be considered as a fabled Bowie there are a few requirements: It must be long enough to use as a sword, sharp enough to use as a razor, wide enough to use as a paddle, and heavy enough to use as a hatchet. If you have that, you have yourself a Bowie.