My first multi-tool was an 8$ bastard that stole my heart and left me in the pouring rain.
It was called the Meyerco Paradox and at best was completely forgettable before it ever rolled off the assembly line in Seki-City, Japan. The knife featured a 3 inch blade of AUS8 steel with a skinny but solid liner lock and a chunky fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle that had a fold-out pliers/bit holder/screwdriver tool that actually worked pretty well. I purchased the knife quite simply because it was the best quality I could afford. Prior to my encounter with the Paradox I had never really been a knife owner, I had had my share of Swiss Army knives and the ubiquitous knock-off models and I had even had a real, honest-to-God Leatherman Tool (the Holy Grail of mischief makers to a child of 11) once before my Junior High teacher confiscated it and sent it away to the June box. But those items were lost or traded away with little emotional attachment. The Paradox changed my view of knives, they were no longer mere tools that were never to be maintained and discarded when too dull or broken from abuse. Knives were now to be researched and maintained and oiled and cared for. Knives would eventually allow me to make a fair living for myself all the way through College, but of course, that is another story.
I found the Meyerco Paradox whilst slowly orbiting a poorly-lit, poorly-cleaned hunting store, doing my best to look like a discerning customer and not like a student trying to soak up free air-conditioning before class started. In the back of the store, right under the blessed air-conditioning vent there was a large wooden crate with a hand-written sign that stated "USED/CLEARENCE/PAWN" and featured several dozen boxes as well as a few dozen more items in ziploc bags with little orange stickers displaying the price. I must have walked past the crate some half-dozen times before I decided to stop and see if there were something interesting that I could purchase and hopefully improve my relationship with the shop clerk, a crusty old woman who seemed to be trying very hard to remember exactly how to kick some deadbeat out of her store. I was to begin my first actual job since entering college the following weekend and for some reason I had decided that a knife must accompany me to said job. So I started moving boxes around trying to find the cheapest knife in the crate, something I could use for a while and then discard or trade away when needed. I had amassed quite a little army of low-cost low-quality Chinese folding knives when I happened upon a hefty box bearing the name"MEYERCO." As I had done previously with my Chinsese folders I opened the box and inspected the knife. I remember thinking then that I had hit gold, I had found my excalibur. Upon inspection I was sure of it; the Paradox snapped open with a solid Ka-CHUNK and featured a fine looking polish and an edge that, to my untrained finger, seemed like it could slice open a cannonball. With one sweep of my hand I scattered the Chinese folders back into the crate and bounded up to the register to make my purchase, divorcing myself from the rest of my lunch money for the week in the process but having no regrets. I remember feeling elated that I had gotten such a good deal on such a quality tool that would be so useful to me.
The knife never left my side for an entire year. I learned to sharpen using the Paradox, a skill I value highly to this day. I became a Mr-Fixit of sorts thanks to the knife. Co-workers and family came asking what I could do for their broken or malfunctioning equipment. I started carry a small pouch filled with bits that would fit in the Paradox bit holder; a Torx T15 for my manager's cash drawer, a Robertson bit for my father's doorknobs, several Allen heads for my bicycle, and the regular old Philips/Yankee combination for recreational use. I carried it while washing dishes til 3am at the local diner, loaning it out dozens of times a night to co-workers and even a few customers. I carried it on the dark, cold December walks from the library, moving as quickly as I could towards the warm, comforting palace of my girlfriend's cramped studio apartment. I carried it when I drove 900 miles in one day to see my father in the hospital.
I cut everything with it and the pliers/screwdriver combo still influences my EDC to this day.
I lost the knife on a flooded Alabama dirt road during a hurricane while I was attempting to wince my best friend's car out of a ditch before it was washed away. The rain was coming down in angry torrets of water, each drop striking like the fists of Zeus himself. After the car was all tied up the driver attempted a preliminary pull but fed the engine too much gas. My ears filled with the roar of the powerful V8 as rich red mud splattered my face and chest. Stunned and in pain, but trying to stay on my feet, I slipped in the mud and while scrambling to regain my balance the knife seemed to jump from my grip and land in the flowing river of mud and rock that had filled the ditch, making a sickening bloik as it disappeared forever in the raging current. My heart screaming after it, never to save it.
Sometimes on the way home from work I take the long way and drive down that same cursed road. Sometimes I imagine I see a sparkle of AUS8, or the beautiful void of black fiberglass-reinforced nylon sitting there in the mud waiting for me. But I never stop, I never really look, I just imagine that someone will see the same perfect sparkle. That someone will stop and look around, asking their buddy "Hey! What's that?" before bending on one knee and becoming the rightful owner of an 8$ knife. An 8$ knife that I could never pay enough money for again.
I earned more than 100 dollars for that winch job and before the mud had dried on my boots I had ordered three new knives. They were more expensive, more practical and all-around better products than the Paradox but they never really felt right to me. To this day I search for a replacement, afraid to re-purchase the Paradox for fear that it will be different than I remember. Or even worse, better than I remember, prompting me to throw the rest of my knives to the four corners of the globe in an orgy of reunification with the only knife I ever really loved. If you ever head into East Alabama look around for some of the dirt roads that parallel highway 280, specifically for County Road number 88. That knife may yet cut another line in the rain and the mud.