The first Swedish settlers in Texas arrived in the 1830s and went on to found one of Texas’ largest ranches and even founded a town in northwestern Texas. SMS Ranches and Stamford, Texas are just part of the Swedish legacy in Texas.
The newest Swedish immigrant just arrived on my doorstep a few days ago in the form of an Australian-style kangaroo hide bullwhip. Kangaroo hide and kangaroo hide whips are no strangers on my doorstep, for sure, but this is the first time one has made a detour through Sundsvall, Sweden. There the hides found their way into the hands of Johnny Öhgren of Witchcraft Whips who turned it into a beautiful 16-plait black and saddle-tan bullwhip.
As I study this whip, I’ve become even more impressed with the workmanship. It’s a 7-ft whip, the diameter of the handle is 19.4 mm, the diameter of the tail just before the fall hitch is 5.75 mm. The strand width at the handle is 4mm and the strand width at the fall is a little less than3 mm. The handle is 12 inches long. The heel knot is rather unique in that it is a tripled globe knot rather than the typical TH or pineapple knot. Another unusual feature is the variation of the whip maker’s plait in the upper part of the thong. Generally a whip maker’s plait is an under 4 over 4 pattern (in 16-plait.) Johnny adds even more interest into an already interesting whip by plaiting under 3, over 1, under 1 and over 3 to add a double row of diamonds down each side of the whip. Add the intricate patterns of the handle and lovely interlude in the plait about a third of the way down the thong and you end up with a work of art. The whip looks delicate at first glance but has an underlying strength and solidness that adds to its beauty and grace.
The real beauty of the whip emerges when it goes in motion. It forms a loop effortlessly which, with only the slightest encouragement, flows straight down the length of the whip, growing smaller and gathering momentum until it explodes across the fall and cracker in a very soul-satisfying crack. This whip adds another gem to the Swedish legacy in Texas.