Category Archives: family

Cordell Kelley: 10 Year Old Whipmaker

Earlier this year, my son Cordell took an interest in learning how to make whips. After lots of plaiting practice, he made a whip for himself . At that time, he was still 9 year old, beating the age I started plaiting by about 4 years.

In September, he was given an awesome opportunity. A long-time customer of mine needed a sizable order of Florida cow whips and he needed them much sooner than my back-log would allow. I asked him if, for the sake of time, he would be interested in having Cordell make the whips. After sending him a sample whip, the fellow ordered 4 more!

Ather reason we are very excited about this order is because  all the whips are destined for a cattle ranch in Cameroon, Africa! According to our customer, this will be the first time whips have been used herding cattle on this ranch. I am hoping we will get some photos of the whips in action in Cameroon. Cordell plaited the whips and we got them mailed out in the nick of time.

As you might imagine, words can hardly express the feeling of being a father and having a son that genuinely wants to learn your craft. Making whips has been very rewarding for me on a number of levels and what my son is doing now is just icing on the cake.

Because of his age, Cordell has many other priorities at this time and only takes order for his whips on a limited basis; I handle the order details and business transactions on his behalf.

Merry Christmas!



Odds and Ends

The last two months have been very busy. Work picked up at my job, so now I have returned to being a “part-time whipmaker.” With that, I have gotten behind schedule on my orders. I am currently working on orders from early July. I hope to be done with the July orders by the first of December. I currently have between 25 and 30 whips on the slate to be made. If you’re still waiting, please hang in there as I am working feverishly to get to everyone.

In other news, at just 10 year of age, my son Cordell will be finishing his second whip order very soon. He is currently working a large order of 6ft cow whips that are destined for a cattle ranch in Cameroon, Africa. As you can imagine, I am very excited for Cordell and quite proud of him.  Cordell’s whips are currently $11.00 per foot.  Cordell only takes on a limited number of orders each month due to school and other activities.

The latest exotic wood that I have turned for cow whip handles is Mopani. This African wood is very hard and makes a very nice looking handle. I have a picture of the new handle in my exotic handle gallery.

That’s all for now!


Kelley Whips: The Next Generation, Part II

Here’s the follow up post to the announcement about my son making his first cow whip. You’ll have to pardon me in this post as this is simply one really proud dad boasting to the world about his offspring’s accomplishments.

As you will see from the photos, Cordell did a good job on his whip. I know I’m a bit biased, but I really think his first whip looks better than some of the stuff I’ve seen on eBay lately.  I made the bocote handle for him; however, you can’t deduct too many points for that because there’s lots of people who make cow whips and get their handles from other people. He would’ve tried to make the handle too, but I didn’t think he was old enough to run the lathe.

I hope what I’m seeing this week is the start of a family tradition. I’ve never pressured them to make whips, but now that my children are taking interest in it, I’m going to do all I can to encourage it.  If each of my children could plait their way to a nice college fund, that would suit me just fine!

Here’s the pics:

Cordell and his finished cow whip

Cordells Cow Whip

Cordell's Cow Whip

Cordell cracking his whip!

Cordell cracking his whip!

And not to be outdone, Cordell’s 7 year old sister is right on his heels. She too has taken an interest in plaiting. Lately, she’s been grabbing up scrap pieces of nylon and working on small plaiting projects trying to learn the various plaits. Here’s a couple of pictures of Summer and her projects:

Summers plaiting project

Summer's plaiting project

(Something I just noticed about this photo… For some odd reason Summer is wearing all camoflauge. This is rather unusual because her favorite color is pink and everything she owns and wears normally has pink in it. I better save this picture!)


Kelley Whips: The Next Generation

Cordell and his cow whip!This week was awesome for me as a whipmaker and a father because my firstborn son finished plaiting his first whip!

He made a 12 plait,  6ft tan and chocolate Florida cow whip. People are often impressed with the fact that I learned to make whips as a teenager, but Cordell is only 9 years old; beating my starting age by about 5 years.

While Cordell had the benefit of my experience to lean upon, I only intervened when he asked me for help. Cordell has requested that I make him a special handle from bocote; I’ll post another picture of Cordell and his whip after I get it made…

Congratulations Cordell. You’ve made your father very proud!

A Personal Note

Carl Edward Kelley

Today is the 21st anniversary of the passing of my father, Carl Edward Kelley.

I’ve known many intelligent people, but my dad still ranks at the top of the list. He went to college at the University of Florida and he was very well-read. In spite of that, he was a blue collar man who fabricated metal for a living.

He built everything from machine guns to utility trailers during his lifetime. Before I was born he even built race car engnes. He passed at the age of 39 from heart disease; something that runs heavily in my family.  I was 11 years  old when he died. Back then, 39 seemed old. But now that I’m 32, I realize just how young my father was at his death.

He named me Rhett after the fictional character, Rhett Butler, from Gone With The Wind. He said he expected me to grow up to be a Southern Gentleman. He taught me manners and respect for those to whom respect was due. I like to think that perhaps my work ethic and the ability to turn raw materials into something useful are maybe some things in which I took after him.

We never know when our time here will be over; my father’s passing proved that to me. We just need to do all the good we can while we are here and be sure things are right between ourselves and God when we leave.

Photo:  Dad sporting shaggy hair and a beard; building a utility trailer. Circa 1984.

Roy’s Whip and Tribute

The whip in the photos doesn’t look like much, but it is one that I am very proud to have in my collection. Why? Because it was made by my great-grandfather, L.R. “Roy” Bronson. The whip is crude; there is no plaiting, nothing fancy. Most collectors would think it was a piece of rubbish.  It’s made from some leather straps, a wooden dowel, some tacks, and a bit of buckskin. According to my grandmother (his daughter), he used it mainly to control his dogs and around the cow pens.

Lest you get the impression that this is simply the work of some poor old cow-poke who couldn’t afford to buy a real cow whip, you should know that Roy Bronson was actually a very wealthy man. His surname is well known and respected among those in the Florida cattle industry.  In his lifetime, he owned thousands of acres of land and tens of thousands of cattle.

You see, the thing about my great-grandfather was that he was a crafty old fellow; he didn’t become wealthy by being frivolous with his money. If he needed something, he usually made it himself.  Long before people ever thought of digital clocks or putting them in car stereos, Roy had mounted homemade gadgets in all of his vehicles that would hold a pocket watch, so he could tell what time it was as he drove down the road or around his ranch.

You never had to look far to find something he had created in his workshop. When I was a child, most of his farm equipment was already decades old, but all well maintained; most of it is still in operation to this day. As a ranch owner, he was demanding; a perfectionist from what I’ve heard. Yet, many of the men who worked for him held him in high esteem.

Roy Bronson was a true Florida Cracker. A real “cowman;” since childhood really. I remember him talking about how that his father weaned him from his mother by taking him away to go “cow hunting.” Perhaps not even 3 years old and his father was already teaching him to ride and work cattle in the humid, mosquito infested scrubs and swamps of old Florida.

Even in Roy’s waning years, he could vividly recall how on that first cow hunt, he was amazed by the way the horses’ hooves splashed water in the air as they rode through a slough in search of wild scrub cattle.

I was living on his ranch, in his house, when I first started to make Florida cow whips. One morning in the Fall of 1991, grandpa finished his breakfast and stood up to go back to his room. As he did, he dropped his walking cane. Being close by, I picked up the cane and handed it to him. He thanked me and I responded with a simple “your welcome grandpa.” That would be the last time I spoke to him; the last time anyone spoke to him. He died later that morning.

Though he died only a short time after I started plaiting, I will always be grateful to God that Grandpa Bronson lived long enough for me to know him well and to be able to show him that I had learned to make cow whips.

His death was an end of an era in the family; I always sensed that it would be. Indeed, things were never the same. There was the usual sadness at first, then years of senseless litigation. Some of the heirs ended up with land, others got money. In the end, nobody really won. A couple of things I ended up with are some great memories of the old man and this old whip.  And I wouldn’t trade those things for all the money, land, and cattle Roy Bronson ever had…

(A special thanks goes out to my grandma, Ruth, for giving me this whip!)

Deer Hide Project Update

Cordell and buck

Cordell and buck

Within a few weeks I will be buying the supplies I will need to start bark tanning my own deer leather. I have looked and looked, and I’m just about certain that there are no commercial sources for top quality bark tanned deer hides.

I’ve found plent of places that sell tanned deer hides, but most are chrome tanned Chinese made trash. I want to make quality deer hide whips, so I am not going to compromise on the leather even if it means I have to tan it myself.

The good news is that the good folks at sell all the supplies I will need to get started bark tanning -including the hides I’ll need when hunting season in closed here in Georgia. With lots of hard work and patience, I hope to be able to unveil my first deer hide cow whip toward the end of the year.

The photo above is of my son with his first buck. He got this one behind our house with his 8mm Mauser rifle last Fall. Unfortunately, this hide went to waste. If I accomplish what I am aiming for, the next buck Cordell harvests will provide food for the family, as well as leather for a cow whip!