Elizabeth Westmark


I learned a secret yesterday. I learned how to throw a KA-BAR knife straight down and get it to stick in the ground.

The secret? You don’t throw it; you release it. The dark steel impels itself smoothly downward. Some ancient heavy metal genetic navigation system guides the two-edged blade into the belly of the deer hoof and turkey foot softened earth.

I stare at it, mesmerized, unaccountably pleased that I have learned this boy trick. I pick it up again and smoothly slit the seam of a fiftypound bag of dry corn. Hard, golden kernels spill noisily into the barrel feeder.

My husband, Buck, hoists another bag from the tailgate of the black pickup truck. He perches it on the edge of the rusting green barrel. The barrel wants to twist on the braided metal cable that holds it suspended just low enough for us to fill. It holds four
bags; 200 pounds of corn.

One time, after cutting a bag open and steadying it on the metal rim of the barrel, I forget the secret I have learned, and throw the KA-BAR toward the ground, putting a little force and spin on it. It bounces off the ground and lies there; flat, exposed. I am disgusted with myself. It takes a certain abdication of ego to just let the knife fall.

When the barrel is full, Buck secures the square sheet metal lid with a frayed bungee cord. He sets the timer and tests it. I take several steps back to stand on the perimeter. The battery fires up and a shower of corn slings from a small propeller attached to a hole in the bottom of the barrel. A penumbra of ochre dust hangs in the air.

I move in close again to take hold of the barrel to keep it from twisting while Buck winches it back to the top of the feeder tripod. Soon, it is too high for me to touch and I move backward quickly to get myself into a zone of safety in case the rusty barrelbreaks open, the winch fails, or the tripod collapses.

I get into the cab of the truck, hang my legs over the side and smack the lug soles of my boots together to shake off any residual dirt, then power down my window and hang my head out like a dog for the short ride back to the house. I turn at the feel of my husband’s hand giving my thigh an “atta-boy” pat.

He gives me a proud thumbs-up. “I’ve never seen a city woman who could throw a knife like that.”


Elizabeth Westmark‘s essays have appeared in Brevity, Prick of the Spindle, Girls with Insurance, The Binnacle Ultra-Short 2009, Camroc Press Review, and Dead Mule, among others. She writes from her home in a Longleaf pine preserve near Pensacola, Florida, where she is working on her first novel. It’s a coming of age story, wrapped in a romance, inside a secret, dipped in danger & deep-fried by a Cat 5 Hurricane.