By: Terry Simpson
Driving out in the middle of nowhere (also known as Sulphur Lick), you may not expect to find much of anything.
Yet, recently, cutting across country roads, you may have come across a site that could be seen for miles — a big white house and two multicolored houses sitting atop a hill surrounded by tents, BBQ grills, cars lining the yard and knives.
Rows and rows of tables, covered in knives were lined up in the backyard of Mark Coulter.
Those red, blue and yellow houses seen on the hill were actually “bouncy houses” for the kids and the BBQ — well, what would any Monroe County event be without a little bar-b-que?
So, what exactly is this event?
It is the first annual “Monroe County Big Boy’s Blades Knife Show and Sale,” which was held on Saturday, May 11, north of Tompkinsville.
Coulter stands among the crowd, dressed simply in a red t-shirt and overalls, greeting each guest as family, talking a little shop and admiring the knives on display.
His girlfriend, Cathey Owen rushes around tending to her grandbabies and the side dishes of food to go along with the massive amounts of barbecued shoulder and other meats coming off the grill. A familiar aroma fills the air as it is almost time to eat.
The knife show, which Coulter plans to be the first of many, is free of charge this year, with around 20 vendors.
The knife enthusiasts have come from as far as West Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee and right here in Kentucky. It is a family event that Coulter hopes will encourage more young children to take an interest in knives, rather than video games.
He was just a child himself when the love of knives hit him.
“My Uncle ‘Tooty’ Johnson gave me a knife in exchange for posting a picture of a truck on Wheels and Deals. I was 12, and I fell in love,” Coulter said.
The love of the blades continued until now — over 30 years invested in the hobby.
For the last ten years, Coulter has traded and dealt in knives with many locals and within the Mennonite community and recently branched out to selling knives to fans in 17 states across the country.
In trying to bring back an interest in the knife trading and selling industry, he jumped on the recent Facebook sales “craze” and quickly grew to an overnight sensation.
The countryside event on May 11 was held to show appreciation to those customers and friends who have become family along the way, Coulter noted.
“I have the best bunch of friends ever. They are the most honest people — it’s a brotherhood, a mutual respect,” he noted as a friend came up to him, asking questions on the different knives on display.
Coulter has been selling knives on Facebook for seven or eight months, averaging around 200 to 300 items sold a week, with over 5,000 friends—recently having to add different groups to accommodate them all.
Owen says he is sometimes online for two hours and sometimes six.
“I just never know how long he will be on there, sometimes it is after midnight, but I can tell you in the last six months I have learned more than I ever thought there was to know about knives. They are not ‘just a knife.’ It’s been a little crazy, but I love it,” she said.
Coulter names some of the more popular knives he sells as ‘Red Bone Case’ and ‘Fighting Rooster’, noting that he once sold a ‘Green Bone’ Case knife made between 1920-1940 for $1,200.
He definitely has the knack for sales. A friend, Robert Blythe, tells another customer, “He’s cut out for this. He’s got the heart and is a ‘people’ person. He says, ‘Yes ma’am’ and ‘No sir’, and he just makes people comfortable.”
Coulter glances around the yard as several people buy, sell and trade the knives, some whittling to pass the time and others just talking.
“I’m hoping this event grows every year and puts Tompkinsville back on the map.”
On that note, he steps before the crowd, asking a friend to say the blessing over the meal, and tells everyone to line up, “Don’t be bashful. There is plenty of food and you only have yourself to blame if you leave here hungry.”
As everyone gathers to eat, several stop to thank he and Owen for their hospitality. Children dash from the bouncy houses to the food table and back while men wipe BBQ sauce from their hands before touching a treasured knife.
Owen scoops heaping helpings onto plates piled high with shoulder, and Coulter watches it all with pride at what his love of blades has grown into — his brotherhood, his family.
Coulter’s live shows are held on Facebook on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at approximately 7 p.m.
For more information on the Big Boy’s Blades Knife Show and Sale, visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mark.coulter.376.