I appreciate all the offers to visit with various groups who read here often, but impossibly time cannot be split to occupy more than one place at a time. My summer has been an excessively busy one, especially July which began in Central Florida and ended in Greenville, Ohio at the Annual Annie Oakley Festival of 2013. At the Fairlawn this year the crowd at the back of the room was larger as more children from our group of Wild West practitioners were coming of age, and were sitting at the tables with their parents. CLICK HERE TO REVIEW LAST YEAR. Many of my opinions about politics, education and life in general come from spending over a decade with my Wild West friends who are the closest thing to knowing the real Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill that there is in the world. There is typically more talent at the back of the room at the Fairlawn Steak House each year during the last weekend of July at the climax of the Annie Oakley festivities than entire cities produce. There are artists, authors, musicians, knife throwers, professional Wild West acts, master whip handlers, photographers, World Record holders, television producers, newspaper journalists, magicians, and comedy actors who all converge that one time of year to visit the steak house as the sun runs for night in the land that God blessed, with Darke Country, Ohio where American flags are as common as farm houses painted white. Click the videos below to witness some of the key events. This year I put up entire sections of unedited video of the contests so that people who might consider coming next year can see exactly how things were done.
The group is amazing, so of course the children that are produced by such people are noticeably more bright-eyed, happy and willing to learn anything they can from the adults. Like any tight-nit group everyone is kind to each other’s children who directly benefit by having access to so many unique personalities to teach them. This is particularly the case with the children of Kirk and Melodie Bass whose children radiate a brilliance that is put out in most kids by the time they are seven years old by more conventional parents. They are lucky to have parents who spend so much effort making their children’s lives unique as one of the only remaining knife throwing acts in the country with Bass Blades.
My whip making friend David Crain was back again with his wife and little girl who started off the bull whip speed and accuracy competition this year, which really took some guts exhibiting a confidence that was unusual and only comes from parents who deeply care. David made special whips for my grandson which were given to him upon his birth. David’s little girl was hitting targets out of her daddy’s hand as a 5-year-old and now she started the speed and accuracy competition against the best whip crackers in the world with the exception of a couple of people who couldn’t come out due to paying gigs elsewhere in the country.
Chris Camp was able to take a much needed break from his world tour across Asia, Greece and all places in between where he travels extensively with his family as clearly one of the best bull whip acts there is. Chris has been on America’s Got Talent, The Tonight Show and many other venues and is a multi World Record breaker for most whip cracks in a minute. Because Camp is so highly sought after his family travels with him and performs in the acts. His children are privately tutored as being in a fixed public school would be impossible. They must learn math and English on the shores of the Mediterranean and the busy streets of Hong Kong so that they can travel with the family business as “The Whip Crackin’ Dare Devils.” CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON CHRIS CAMP. If my schedule has been busy lately Chris will far surpass that. He told me that he came to Annie Oakley this year as a vacation because he was booked solid for the next two months. By the videos here you can see what he considers a vacation. It was Camp who taught me the trick I used in A Whip Trick to Save America. Chris has since turned up the heat to improve upon that by cracking a single poker dice into a glass cup by removing a playing card. Watch this.
Lash Luke was back too, and his act was more polished after another year of diligent work as his entire family came to Darke County to cheer him on from Alabama. At dinner he had the wonderful opportunity to sit across from Chris Camp and hear stories that will ultimately become his fate as the next generation of whip cracker. Last year the little girl who was the official Miss Annie Oakley for the city of Greenville was after Luke knowing a good thing when she saw it. But since last year, the long distance between them geographically made a relationship nearly impossible and she found a new romantic interest. But she wasn’t fooling anybody as she came back again and like one of Luke’s first groupies hung out in the back of the spectator stands waiting for the show to be over so she could speak to her old flame once again. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and there is still a fire in her eyes that burns for Luke. But what young woman wouldn’t like a young man who can play music with bull whips and crack poker dice off of the top of his own head with them. As I told Luke after the evening shows that we were heading over to the Fairlawn to eat, I could see in her eyes the carefully concealed truth that she would be a part of his life for many years.
Years ago Gery Deer who produces the whole Annie Oakley Western Showcase, singing, playing the piano for the group The Brothers and Company, doing whip acts, performing magic with his friend Professor Karns, all while doing production work for Channel 2, freelance writing, and various other activities gave my wife a special bull whip pendent that she wore at this event. It’s a very unique item that only Gery has been able to provide from the only indoor bull whip instruction studio in existence in Jamestown, Ohio. Gery gave it to my wife while we were producing one of our various projects together. The bull whip for all of us represents creative power and is the source of our focus which is the reason for the pendent. The bull whip is all that’s left of an era in classic American art and we hold to it ruthlessly.
In the competitions I missed a cup during the Speed and Accuracy portion which put me in second place behind Chris Camp who won that event. I did better on the Speed Switch and Bull Whip fast draw. The key to these kinds of things is to actually slow down and not get ahead of yourself which I was able to do once I settled into the events. With Lash Luke’s third place timing on the Speed and Accuracy I suspect that he will really be pushing for first place next year along with a host of young talent that is up and coming including a young man from North Carolina who came to the Western Showcase with his mother. This year he sat in the audience and watched after receiving a couple of brand new stock whips from David Crain, but in the near future he will likely be out there with Luke ushering in a new generation.
And that is what pleases me most. As Gery and I finished up our meals the kids were running around the Fairlawn enjoying themselves immensely. In that dining room were most of the people the kids cared about, and they enjoyed the stimulating environment provided by these excessively creative individuals. The children were unhindered by the kind of social norms most children have to contend with, and it showed clearly. In the past I’ve reported about my trips to Annie Oakley with reverence for the “old days” dying in a dimly lit future but in the eyes of the young I saw new generations rising to the challenge to keep the Wild West Arts of America’s past from disappearing into a void of modern scrutiny. I saw at the Fairlawn in 2013 the start of a new generation that holds the hope of America in their hands, and am confident that the task will not be fruitless.