‘Arkansas Toothpick’ made for fighting
An expert in knifemaking in historic Washington, and the ‘Arkansas Toothpick’ in particular, spoke to the Nashville Rotary Club, last Wednesday, saying that the famous blade’s maker — blacksmith James Black — was still a mysterious figure.
Billy Nations, superintendent of interpretation at Historic Washington State Park, brought a replica Bowie Knife to show club members. The knife was made for no other purpose than fighting, and it was made to supplement a pistol which was held in the fighter’s other hand.
Nations has been at the state park 18 years and his duties include overseeing the bladesmith school where such reknowned blademakers as Jerry Fisk and James Cook, both of Nashville, show students how to make blades.
He said that blade forging was just one of the educational sessions conducted at the park. For $800 participants may attend the school which is conducted with Texarkana College.
Washington was not even the original name for the settlement which was the Arkansas state capital during the Civil War. It was once called “Hill of the five trails.”
The Bowie Knife, made for Alamo hero James Bowie, did not include material from a meteorite, Nations said, debunking one myth that was promoted in a movie.
The park’s blacksmith shop is not even a replica of Black’s shop, it is just what the shop ‘might’ have looked like, Nations said.
He said that about a dozen of knives known to have been made by Black still survived.
The original knife’s owner is also a mysterious figure. “It’s hard to separate fact from fiction about Bowie.” Nations said that some of Bowie’s myths ‘rubbed off’ on Black.
Black was known to have apprenticed as a silver-plater in Maryland at the age of 10. After completing his apprenticeship he moved west and arrived in Washington at the ripe age of 18 or 19. Some of his stops before then are also known.
One mark used to determine if a blade was actually made by Black is the handle made of Walnut. There are other distinctive traits, also.
The Bowie Knife is a part of American culture. It’s “America’s knife,” and it is also forever linked to Arkansas and Old Washington.
Rotarian Lynn Hendry read a thank you note from her son, Joel, who was the recipient of the Rotary MVP Award at the recent Scrapper football banquet.
The club sang “Happy Birthday” to Rotarian Russell McAlister who was one day away from celebrating his 85th birthday.
Club president Jonathan Canaday passed out posters promoting the blood drive sponsored by the club on Thursday, Feb. 21. The drive will be 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. at a ‘bloodmobile’ parked at 201 South Main in Nashville.