“Real Cowboys” Use Crappy Bullwhips!

“Real Cowboys” Use Crappy Bullwhips!

Yesterday my wife, daughter and I left the house to run a quick errand and it ended being gone all day. Our first detour ended at the Cougar Mountain Zoo, which is a small zoo, but a great zoo! Then we ended up having lunch and driving about 2 hours to Ellensburg, WA.  It’s a small town in the middle of Washington State. 

We were just driving with no real plan and when we got into Ellensburg they were having thier “Spirit of the West” festival.  Once we got out of the car were heard loud pops and my wife looks at me and says, “lucky you, I hear whips”.

The “cowboys” cracking whips were 3 older guys and one 13 or 14 year old.  Pretty much all they were doing was a wierd version of the flick.  At the end of the flick, they cut the whip in a “U” shape then followed through over thier heads. They also did some overhead cracks.  One guy was showing off with two whips alternating overhead cracks. 

The bullwhips they had were cowhide and very limp and loose.  They looked like the swivel handle whips from Western Stage Props and there was one of the nylon Floirda whips as well. 

I asked if I could crack one and they offered me his hat as well so that I wouldn’t hit my ears.  I declined the hat and took his whip and started cracking.  These whips were soo limp there wasn’t much that I could easily do with them.  My limited cracking got the “cowboys” attention, I could do some figure 8’s and things like that. 

Supposedly these people were real cowboys, I don’t know for sure. 

Cracking thier bullwhips taught me a lot, like how good the bullwhip I make are compared to the Latigo bullwhips they were using.  Also how important it is to move the weight out in the thong.  The “cowboys” really needed to muscle thier whips to get the energy to make it crack.  Where the kangaroo whip that I make have the weight going way out into the thong and it carries energy to the cracker very much better.  With the whips that I make it doesn’t take much effort at all to get a good crack.

Another thing I noticed was that several of the guys had a very stiff cracker on thier bullwhips.  I’ve never really used a cracker that was rigid before, and I imagine that also contributed to having to put soo much power into it to get it to crack. Going from a very limp thong to a rigid cracker doesn’t seem like the ideal way to tranfers energy and the motion of the thong needed to propel the whip to break the sound barried.

All that said, cracking those sh*tty bullwhips gave me a chance to see why the bullwhips I make are made the way they are.  It was clear why a braided belly is important…and how everything should continue the taper.  Like these whips had the “texas” style fall.  So the whip tapers to the fall hitch, but then gets wider at the fall, which is flexible the rigid cracker and how at each transition it loses the energy traveling down the fall. 

Louie

http://bullwhips.org

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