When I regained consciousness, I was unable to walk as I had broken my leg and shattered my pelvis. The avalanche had torn my pack off my back and I had lost all my supplies. Stranded, frostbitten and seriously injured, all I had were a few items tied into my pockets: two energy bars, a headlamp, a compass, a map, a broken lighter and a Leatherman Wave.
The next four days were spent crawling through a frozen and inhospitable landscape in an attempt to reach refuge. The fine line between life and death and the narrow margin by which I survived was my Leatherman tool. The breaks to my leg had caused one foot to swell dangerously, causing a very real danger of gangrene unless I could relieve the pressure caused by my frozen boots. With my hip broken, I couldn't fold forward enough to remove my boots and even then, my fingers were frozen to a point where I couldn't unpick the laces. In the end, I used my Leatherman to cut a slit in the back of the boot heel and I was able to remove them, relieving the pressure of blood flow and encouraging some heat back into my feet.
By the fourth day of crawling, my shattered hip had frozen sufficiently to bear some weight. I used my Leatherman to saw off a tree branch and cut off shoots to make a suitable walking aid. By the time I reached refuge, I had lost several toes to frostbite, my stomach had perforated ulcers which were causing me to bleed to death and I needed lifesaving emergency surgery to survive.
When I pulled through, I was told I would never walk again. I was disabled for two years and unable to walk, but I have since made a strong recovery and am climbing, running and cycling to a high level once more. The original faith I had as a solider in my Leatherman paid off and without it I would have been dead. I love my Leatherman Wave and see it as an extension of my person. Thank you Leatherman!
But here’s my story. One day, whilst inspecting some heavy equipment with a colleague, we saw a young bush elephant doing some inspecting of his own – he was sniffing around a stack of oil pipes and putting his trunk down the ends of them looking for food. One of the pipes still had the hollow protective plastic cap in place on the end of it, and as the young bull removed his trunk from the pipe, the plastic cap became lodged onto the base of his trunk. Agreeing that the young elephant would manage to dislodge the cap from his trunk on some tree in the bush, we shared the incident with the other guys over a beer in the bar.
Some two weeks later, the same elephant started to appear on a regular basis around our camp with the plastic cap still lodged firmly on the base of his trunk. Viewing the animal through binoculars, we noted the plastic cap was partially blocking his trunk and it had become bruised and swollen where the cap was lodged. He was clearly distressed. Since we were working in a state declared wildlife and environmentally preserved area, we had frequent visits from government hired consultants who we alerted to our young pachyderm’s situation. Within a few days, a wildlife expert was flown up from South Africa and she set out looking for the elephant accompanied by myself and three other oilfield colleagues.
We located our elephant by a nearby river. Our expert anesthetized the young elephant with a dart rifle and proceeded to use a pad saw to cut off the offending plastic cap. Within a few strokes, the blade of the pad saw broke and our expert was starting to panic as she had nothing else to cut the plastic cap with! Yes, you guessed it. As had become my natural instinct when in need of a readily available tool, I opened up the Leatherman, locked in the saw blade and cut through the plastic cap like a hot knife through butter.
After removal of the cap, our expert gave the elephant a full physical examination and administered an injection. Our expert declared the animal ok and we retired to a safe distance from the beast. Within minutes, our young elephant came to and headed straight for the river, drinking copious amounts of water, before proceeding to take a long overdue bath with his now unrestricted trunk and then, he happily set off into the bush to rejoin his family. I saw our expert off on her flight back to South Africa and upon parting she said, “You know, the first thing I'm going to do when I get back home is buy myself one of those Leatherman multi-tools!”
After that incident, I worked in Gabon for another two years and my Leatherman became a real part of me in work and play. At the bar, my work colleagues would ask me to look at the Leatherman and we would discuss its many uses and robustness in the African bush as a group.
Believe me, we are not boring people, it’s just a “men and their toys” type of thing! I got to the stage where if I didn't wear it, I would continuously find my hand checking for it like you look at your wrist when you forget to wear your watch. I remember looking around the bar near the end of my contract, leaving the party and mentally smiling about the fact that 90% of my work colleagues now sported a Leatherman as an essential African bush accessory. Even they were now boasting about many new-found and deft uses for their multi-tools.
My next contract took me and the same Leatherman to the diamond mines of Angola in West Africa. By now, I was a well-seasoned user of Leatherman and throughout the course of the day, it would appear in my hand at lightning speed, complete the task at hand and disappear just as fast. My African staff is always awed by my Leatherman and I would like to give them each of them one, but sadly I'm not a person of such wealth. The lucky few who can save enough to buy one look after them like family.
One of my Angolan senior management colleagues was so fascinated by my Leatherman, that he would often try and beg me to give him it. This happened over a four-year period where I worked with him! He had enough money to buy his own, but for him it had to be my well-worn and used version. So, a week before I left Angola, I presented him with the Leatherman and every time I saw him the Leatherman was in his hand. The day before I left, we were into the heavy rain season and I learned my Angolan friend had rolled his pickup several times and crashed off the road into a river. He called through the mines radio system to tell us he was ok and he arrived to camp a couple of hours later, soaking wet but not a scratch on him.
He explained the vehicle cab was badly damaged when it fell into the river and, as a result, the seat belt catch in the passenger seat locked as he tried to get out. The vehicle was under water in the river and when we asked him how he managed to get out of the vehicle without opening his seat belt, he just opened the Leatherman serrated knife blade, held it up and said, “Quick thinking!”
The moral of this story: If any of you out there are planning to go to the African bush, take it from me: you’re not properly prepared if you don't have a Leatherman multi-tool on your belt.
Why am I writing this today? I’m on Leatherman’s site to register my newly acquired Wave - a present for my daughter since she’s leaving with me for the African Congo. Can't go without her being properly dressed, now can I?
From life-saving moments to saving-the-day in their own special way, people have found multi-uses for their favorite multi-tool. Over the years, we’ve received thousands of real people's stories from across the globe and have come to call them "Tool Tales."
We’re incredibly proud to share these stories and we encourage you to share your story.