Legendary duel spurs show

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 19, 2007

NATCHEZ — Just a short distance from the sandbar where Jim Bowie joined in a legendary knife fight, collectors gathered for the Fourth Annual Natchez Bowie Knife Show this weekend.

The show, open to the public Saturday, featured roughly 800 knives.

Antique knives dominated displays, but swords, daggers and rifles made appearances, too.

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The show was the brainchild of Mike Worley and Logan Sewell.

“We said this is where it began, where they had the fight in 1927, so why don’t we start a show?” Worley said. “We started out with 35 people, and now we have 70. So, it’s grown quite a bit.”

If you ask the definition of a Bowie knife, you’ll get a laugh and all sorts of answers.

“It’s a loose-ended question,” said collector Jack Shaffer of Baton Rouge. “Most would say it’s just a big knife.”

The Bowie knife, it turns out, is a whole genre of knives. While Bowie didn’t invent the knife, his use of it made it famous but left its definition vague.

Shaffer’s collection spanned the years and the globe, including knives crafted in Mexico and France, along with tiny, rare “push daggers” used on gaming boats.

While some collectors came to sell and trade, most came to educate and converse.

“A lot of this has to do with camaraderie,” said collector Norm Flayderman, who has written a book on the knives. “I’m here for the friendships. Some of us go back to the late 1950s.”

Most of those who collect the knives do so for the historic and sentimental value, he said.

“Today, the word weapon has an odious ring to it,” Flayderman said. “But the knife was an essential part of defense, hunting and survival. It is an integral part of our history.”

Next year, the show should be even bigger when Natchez hosts the annual International Antique Bowie Knife Association convention, Worley said.