A few days ago, I was digging through some old issues of the APWA journal and I found an advertisement I once ran in a failed attempt to break into the Australian market with my cow whips.
The ad contained one of my old sales lines: “Changing the way the world looks at nylon whips.” As I sat there thinking about line, I remembered how at the time, it was a pretty bold claim to make -especially in the world’s premier whip making journal. I didn’t use that line to be boastful, but I had decided to make it my goal to help change people’s minds about nylon whips.
Back when I started selling online in 2001, people didn’t seem to think much of nylon whips. I recall many debates as to nylon’s place in whipmaking and whipcracking. I encountered some real snobbish attitudes as well. I was even given some unsolicited advice -by a very rude no-name whipmaker – about why I needed to stop working with nylon and learn to make leather whips.
Florida cattlemen were the one gigantic exception to this rule. They figured out decades ago that when it comes to herding cattle in humid, swampy places, nothing beats a whip that won’t rot. By the time I started plaiting in the early 90’s, nylon whips dominated the Florida ranching scene. Most cracker cowboys would swear by nylon; it was unthinkable to use anything else. The rest of the planet wasn’t so convinced.
When I established my web presence, it was a lonely place to be as a nylon whipmaker. There were dozens of leather plaiters online, but as far as I know, I was probably the only nylon-only plaiter making a serious attempt to sell whips online. I got some good press and my whips became popular rather quickly. I recall going from no waiting list to a 7 month waiting list in a matter of months!
It didn’t take long for a few more nylon whip sites to pop up. I think Greg DeSaye was next and then Steve Koliski started up his site after that. Over the years I’ve seen more and more nylon whip sites pop up. I’ve seen plaiters come and go too. A few guys have made a name for themselves and are making great whips. It’s not so lonely anymore and I don’t get nearly as much flak from people about making nylon whips.
An interesting phenomenon I have noticed recently is how there are a number of leather plaiters who are now coming out with nylon whips. V. Tella, Tony Layzell, Lauren Wickline, and the gentleman at Floridacrackerbullwhips.com are some who’ve done so. I expect to see more before it’s over. Nine years ago, this would have been unthinkable. This is a great testimony to how nylon has become more and more acceptable among plaiters and buyers.
In an article I read recently, Steve Huntress was wise to point out that there will be more and more nylon whipmakers; that nylon is the future of whipmaking. I totally agree. I get emails on a regular basis from people wanting to learn how to make whips and wanting to know where to buy materials. Every year I assist a number of people who end up making and selling nylon whips; many who never even set up a website.
I’m not trying to be snobbish, but the biggest issue I see right now is that many people are jumping in and trying to make a buck off of rubbish. While there’s some good whips to be found on eBay, it is now littered with nylon whips that I would be ashamed to sell. We all get better with time and practice, so I’m hoping some of these people improve too -before too much damage is done.
As I stated in the beginning of this article, my old tag line used to be “changing the way the world looks at nylon whips.” I think there’s clear evidence that the whip cracking/making world does have a more favorable opinion of nylon than it did 10 years ago. Steve Huntress was gracious to write an article naming me along with Krist King as being two of the major proponents of nylon whipmaking. It makes me happy that that my goal ended up being more that mere words. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. The other web based nylon plaiters who’ve produced quality whips over the years deserve some credit too. Today, guys like Steve Huntress and Ron Allen have picked up that torch and are now running with it. I’m just honored to have played a role in it.
Thanks for reading,