Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cat Scratch Fever

In 1980, my brother and our friends (a couple of toe-headed twins named Keith and Kevin) decided to start a club. We figured since we liked riding our BMX bikes along the side of the tracks of the Burlington Northern route than ran west out of Lima, through our village of Elida, and off toward Delphos we naturally needed a club to encompass the excitement of peddling 20” bikes in the blazing sunlight. We discussed some names, and somewhere between Danny Zucko’s T-Birds and the Doug Henning Magic Men we came up with a name…The Black Panthers.

Don’t ask me how four middle class white boys in Northwest Ohio came up with the same name as Huey Newton’s black Mao-ist/socialist movement. There are some who believe the human brain stores every piece of information a person encounters in life, and the limitation of human existence is not the possession of knowledge but the ability to recall. (This leads to the possibility that hypnosis can cause one to recall seemingly tiny, unperceived details from previous life experiences.) So perhaps one of us had heard Walter Cronkite mention the Black Panthers in our pre-teen lives, or perhaps Keith and Kevin were actually black radicals just passing as Arayan twins…who knows. The point is the four of us decided to call ourselves The Black Panthers. We even went to the T-shirt shop at the mall to see if they had any panthers iron on thingies that we could have put on black shirts. They didn’t. We could have had fuzzy block letters spelling out Black Panthers put on shirts, but that seemed lame. We thought about getting custom air-brushed t-shirts, but that was too expensive. So we just waited 3 or 4 days and forgot about it as focused on our 2 on 2 football games where each person running the ball claimed to be Earl Campbell. Edward and I moved back to Indianapolis a few months later, our family having only spent 6 months in Elida.

I spoke to my brother a few days ago. I haven’t heard from Keith or Kevin in over 27 years. 26 years after the disbanding of The Black Panthers of Elida, Ohio, Panther Fever hit me again. In 2006 when I bought my first hand plane and fell into the Galoot Crevasse, I purchased the two volume boxed set of Garrett Hack’s books. I really wanted The Handplane Book. I bought the boxed set because I love books, and I love to think I am getting a bargain. I had no real interest in the second volume of that set, The Handtool Book. But when those books arrived at my house, I got Panther Fever. One look at the Woodrough and McParlin Panther Saw on the cover of The Handtool Book and an abscess formed in my soul. I instantly had an infected cavity that could only be filled and healed with a Panther Saw.

I went looking for them on Ebay. There were none. What’s the deal????? None on EBAY???? Are they rare, or something? Some Googling told me they were rare. One website went as far as to estimate there were only 30 in existence. Obviously, there are probably more than 30 of them around, but I like how some people vehemently disagree with that total. I’ve seen bulletin board posts that say things like, “Oh, he’s full of crap if he says there are only 30 in existence. The total is probably closer to 50!!!! There could even be 100 of them if they were all dragged out of the barns and basements.”

I couldn’t find one. Gail and I went down to John Sindelar’s last year and there were four of them mocking me. I asked John about them, and he said, “I’ve had a few of them through the years, but I kept these because they were unique. These are weird ones…” (Friends that is a man after my own heart. His collection is so extensive he only collects “weird” Panther Saws.)

A year or so ago a Panther Saw finally showed up on Ebay. It was beat to death, and it went for about $600. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t even bid. A few weeks ago another one showed up. It wasn’t in Sindelar Condition. It had a couple of issues. It had a blade that had seen so many sharpenings it was only about an inch and a half tall at the toe. Also, it had a big nasty drip of latex paint on the handle. Even though I felt my background as a black panther (Elida, Ohio white guy pre-teen chapter from 1980) entitled me to own this saw, it was actually my Ebay bid that made it happen.

So, even though I spoiled this story a week and a half ago by showing Gail pruning trees in the backyard with my Panther Saw, I am officially on record as being a panther owner. I have described my Panther Saw as being like a Gutenberg Bible that is missing Psalms. Sure, given its condition, it is not the most desirable sample in the world, but why don’t you show me yours before you say anything bad about mine.

A couple of weeks ago a Panther Saw in really good shape turned up on Ebay, but the final $1800+ bid did not meet the reserve.

How many are out there? There have to be at least 30 Panthers. I think there are still more than 50 Panther Saws in the world. There could be as many as 100. Mine isn’t perfect, but owning it does make me feel like I am special. And I haven’t felt this special since the Nigerian Government sent me that email asking me to help them move some money around through the use of Money Orders...


Chris Schwarz said...

You know there's a guy who is planning on making a few Panther saws. Custom.


Jeff Skiver said...

See...Woodrough & McParlin didn't protect their trademark. Kids, I cannot stress enough the importance of guarding intellectual property.

Also, now that I have looked at my saw a little closer, I believe it is not actually a panther but rather a genetically altered tabby cat. This may be even more rare than that eagle version John Sindelar had....Cha Ching!!!!!!

jasonb said...

Now I want a panther saw. There is one on ebay with a required opening bid of $2495. I think I'll wait until I win the lottery.

Jim Marsh said...

Great saw. However, Gail's form cutting the branch is much more impressive. Could almost led to someone thinking who the real woodworker is in the family.

As usual great post.


Jeff Skiver said...

Gail knows how to wield a doubt about it.

We were watching a movie recently (I think it was "Walk Hard, the Dewey Cox Story") when Gail pointed out that someone using a hand saw did not have their index finger pointed toward the nib...

Lane said...

There's one on eBay today (May 27), bidding ends tomorrow. Minimum opening bid is $3500. Buy-it-Now is $4995.95. Not surprisingly, there are no bids. Seller claims they are "a low number thought to exist." Wonder where he got that idea.

Anonymous said...

My brother picked up a panther this summer at a yard sale, 10 bucks.