AMY KIRK: One key that doesn’t cut itYou already know I’m kinda weird so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you that there’s something I find gratifying about making a clean cut through twine.
By: Amy Kirk, The Daily Republic
In the wintertime the most important tool on our ranch is “the twine cutter.” Other people may recognize this special implement by a more elaborate name like “pocket knife” or “utility knife.”
Regardless of what people call it, it’s a vital component in achieving the daily task of feeding cows. The twine cutter performs the simple function of cutting the nylon string that tightly binds a round bale together. Once the twine is cut, cows can be fed the hay — with no strings attached.
By now you already know I’m kinda weird so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you that there’s something I find gratifying about making a clean cut through twine. It’s the sound of tight-wrapped nylon string popping as it gives way to being severed.
This can only be achieved with a sharp twine cutter. It’s a very therapeutic process, especially when each string can be sliced through easily with a little pressure and the twine “pops” as it's cut. It means the string ends won’t look like my typical frayed mess.
My husband favors top-of-the-line twine cutters: the kind with a serrated edge. As much as I like using a good sharp utility knife, carbide blade pocket knife, or a serrated pocket knife, I don’t trust myself with any of these kinds of twine cutters. They are not safe in my hands. I tend to lose them, especially if they’re brand new. Many a designated twine cutting knife has been lost on account of my negligence.
When we first got a pickup equipped with a bale bed to feed cows round bales easier, my husband put a pocket knife in a special spot in the cab. It was left there so whoever fed cows had something to cut the twine with.
The value of this tool was most evident the first time I had the feed pickup surrounded by a mob of cows impatiently trying to eat hay from the bale still loaded and the twine cutter was missing. I can tell you from personal experience that it is virtually impossible to cut tight twine strings with a jagged-edged pickup key. Cutting nylon string with a key is like attempting to castrate with a butter knife.
At times I’ve forgotten the twine cutter in the pocket of a pair of coveralls or a coat back at the house but I’ve also left a few good twine cutters on the back of the feed pickup. This is why I have my own twine-cutting tool now. Our feed pickup is equipped with two twine cutters: one good one and mine.
Mine is a ranchy custom-made job my husband created just for me. It’s an old flat-head tip screwdriver (no longer flat-tipped) with a section tooth welded onto the end of it. Mine is the only one that has a handle and I don’t have to take off my gloves and fold it up like a pocket knife. Mine doesn’t have any investment value whatsoever since it’s comprised of discarded metal he found under the welding table.
My twine cutting tool is inexpensive and easy to replace so I never seem to lose it the way I have with store-bought pocket knives.
My twine cutter isn’t as fancy as a folding knife but it’s better than the alternative. Using a key just doesn’t cut it — the twine that is.
Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.area voices.com.