Sherman Oxendine of Kentucky

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Sherman Oxendine  of Kentucky - Wednesday, llwembrr H. 19?; \u».,i-,llo...
Wednesday, llwembrr H. 19?; \u».,i-,llo «,l..ln- Trading of Knives Vesfige of App/ach/an Barter System BARBOtmyiLLE, Ky. (AP) - At Knife Wdtac is * part of the folk- but I've Mid for it .,,_!.,.: * . . . , . . . .,,..,._,.. ... / 45 BARBOURVILLE, Ky. (AP) - At $7. Jasper walks with a cane, but that doesn't keep him from the courthouse and the pastime that has occupied much of his time for the past half dozen years -- knife trading. Jasper, who won't tell his last name for fear the Internal Revenue Service reight try to tax his trading profits, visits the Knox County Courthouse almost daily. He'll greet old friends, exchange pleasantries and then pull out one of the Canoes or Copperheads he's carrying. Knife trading is a part of the folk lor-2 of the Appalachians. In this count- seat in southeastern Kentucky, it's not unusual -- at any given moment -- to find five or 10 men trading in the courthouse lobby. It's a somewhat esoteric art in which a man can test his skills as craftsman, businewman and poker player. To be successful, a trader's mind must be as sharp aa his blade. "This is a learning racket," says Virgil Sizemore, who visits the courthouse about once a month to trade. "I've learned how to grade (knives), but I've paid for it "Sometimes I just wouldn't believe the things I paid for," Sizemore said. "But the next day I'd get rid of it to the next guy for a little more" Jasper deals in knivis worth $8415 and he says sales an? good enough to "make my dinner." But that's not the only re«on for trading It's "just fast time," he savs "It'll kill the day up." The origins of knife trading seen as mysterious as the negotiating ritual. Marguerite Canon, a specialist on Appalachian folklore from I^ondon, Ky.. speculates that knife trading is a vestige of the barter system that, prevailed in the mountains until the start of this century. Another student of Appalachian customs. Sherman Oxendine. says he thinks the tradition may have b«$un "in the old days on court day when there were ix automobiles. The opening day of court was always a big time. People took off from wotk and the)- swapped horses and mules and I suppose wme of them swapped knivet. "The gathering around the courthouse is still very prominent, and, as '.hey no longer ID horses and mules, they trade in knives," says Oxendine, a history pwfwsor at Union College her*. Sometimes, one knife will be traded even-up for another, at other times, cash will be involved. Occasionally, a transaction will involve cash only. Oxendine, who admits he "didn't do so well" the few times he has swapped, says some traders are so adept and know so much about ·\w iiukc a living at kimos that they it "They can look at one and tell the value within a few cents and they know the value of their own, so they know what the money difference might be," Oxenduic says. "It's a whole lot like a poker game. You're challenging somebody else and trying to get the best of him. lt'» always a star In your crown if you can outsmart the other guy," he says. "You can get skinned alive if you don't know whit you're

Clipped from
  1. The Amarillo Globe-Times,
  2. 14 Dec 1977, Wed,
  3. Page 47

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