- Cow whip maker George "Junior" Mills holding whip - Okeechobee, Florida
- Okeechobee cowboy Mills painstakingly fashions whips from buckskin by first cutting the "strings" from tanned hides and then plaiting several layers in a carefully controlled taper. To achieve a smooth taper, he is exacting about the dimensions to which he cuts the strings and is careful to plait them under just the right amount of tension. The "belly," or thickest part of the whip, consists of four layers. At the end of the whip, he ties a thin piece of deerskin, about a foot long, called a "cracker." It is this component that is responsible for the loud noise. He protects his finished whips from sun, sand, rain and abrasion by coating them with a mixture he makes by heating beef tallow, beeswax and pine rosin.
- Mills was mentor to J. Taylor Marcus of Okeechobee.
- Florida cowmen use braided leather whips to control the movement of cattle, though the whips seldom actually touch the animals. The cattle respond to the loud "crack" of the whip, without having to be struck. Some people say the name "Florida Cracker" derives from the sounds of cowboys cracking their whips while driving a herd.
- Shelf number: S1640B16FF3.
Learn more about the Folklife Collection »