Brad Vice hesitates and then begins with: “My story almost sounds like a lie.” This would be the point in his narrative where those who don’t believe in the idea of divine intervention may wish to stop reading. Vice’s circuitous path into the ages-old craft of Damascus metallurgy, and thereby into the knife trade, does read something like a Dickensian tale in which talent and calling seem to dovetail in an almost, well, planned fashion.
The journey began innocently enough with an event that, as is the case with most life-altering moments, wasn’t recognized for its importance until long after the fact. “I was helping my wife’s cousin, who was getting a divorce, move [her furniture and belongings] and [in the process] ruptured two discs in my back.” An industrial millwright worker in Alabama, Vice found himself in the grip of a dilemma. “They said that my disc was bulged to the inside of my spine, and that I would only stand a 65 percent chance of being as good or better after surgery—and I was walking on a cane,” he says. He was advised to stay off of the job for as long as possible in order to give his body time to heal. Turned off by such prospects, Vice sought an alternative under the care of a chiropractor who suggested a form of physical therapy that strengthened Vice’s ailing body.
After a year of therapy and rest from his job as a millwright worker, Vice sought to regain employment. However, because Vice had chosen physical therapy over surgery, the company doctor would not clear him to return to his old job. With a wife, a mortgage and a child to provide for, Vice called a meeting with someone he knew could help. Vice recalls, “I was pretty much broke. I didn’t have a penny to my name. I was down here in the basement. I prayed to the good Lord, ‘I don’t want to be a rich man; I just want to make a living. I’ve got all this talent, just show me what to do.’” As if on cue, Vice’s first cousin, Brian Vice, suggested that he make Damascus. “The next day we made Damascus right here on the patio at my house,” he reflects.
Vice knew that there was an old metalworking shop in the immediate area that had been abandoned five years prior, but was still full of workable equipment. It piqued his curiosity since he was starting from scratch and could use the boost access to a full-scale shop would provide. After peeking into windows at the facility, Vice gave his card to the maintenance man clearing the yard and asked him to pass it on to the owner of the shop and surrounding property, a city councilman who was not using the shop or its grounds or renting any part of it out at that time. Before he was far from the shop, his cell phone began to jangle. The owner of the property was intensely curious. Could Vice make all of that equipment that had been gathering dust for five years get up and run? Not only could he, but he would.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
By Laurie C. Battles