I have won the Ohio Bullwhip Fast Draw competition for several years during its decade of existence. I don’t win it every year, but most of the time I either win it, or I’m climbing around the top contenders and if I lose it is because of a miss. I can’t ever recall being beat to a target. In 2014 the whip maker David Crain told me before we paired off against each other that he had built a whip just for the annual event and showed it to me. As I looked it over it was built of nylon, which is his style, and was very springy. It had nice movement and was well balanced—but it felt light. I’m used to my whips built by Terry Jacka in Australia which are a nice balance between heavy and the weight of the nylon whips so I had my doubts that his whip would be fast to the target in spite of his efforts. But when we paired off, and the judge called “draw” it looked to me that our whips both reached the target at the same time. It was too close to call, but the judge gave him the win as seen below.
I was impressed by how his whip sprang into action from about the 11:00 position over his head and jumped toward the target like a rubber band. It moved differently than my whip which could be seen in the slow motion breakdown. Crain’s nylon whip launched toward the target and got there quick. The effect was impressive and demonstrated that the “roo” hide whips from Australia were not the only ones capable of winning at the Ohio Bullwhip Fast Draw.
I have used Crain’s whips often and can testify to their quickness, my grandson has three of them. They are great for two-handed vollies and general technique. But after seeing them perform at this year’s Annie Oakley event in Greenville I am convinced that they perform excellently in competitions as well. David Crain’s whips are well made and unique featuring finely finished wooden handles making them easy to manipulate and excellent to look at. But in the hands of an expert, they are proving to be as quick as whips like the ones I use which cost $600 to $800 dollars. Crain’s whips typically cost a third of that but are every bit as accurate and many times are faster cutting through the air.
For me the elation of life is in the moments of time when a judge announces “draw” and when the whip hits the target. I find bullwhips more fascinating than firearms because all of the movement of the whip is done by a human being transferring the power of momentum through several strips of leather brought together by a whip maker to provide a focused force at the point of impact. By watching the coil of my whip strike its target in slow motion it is easy to see the world the way I do—first in the fast form, then slowed down the way it works in my mind. I live for those fractions of moments in time—those moments between seconds where decisions and momentum come together to define an objective. The same skills are used when driving a car, or making decisions that might affect millions of dollars in profitability—often we are only given a fraction of a second to make a decision and to act. The beauty of the bullwhip quick draw is all the decisions that have to be made in far less than a second, the uncoiling of the whip, the calculation of where the end is in space and time, the rotation of the handle to get the lay of the whip pointed in the right direction on the upswing from the coiled position—because if you go against it, the whip will push-off its mark during the strike, then finally the projection of the target cut with the whip in the air and pointed in the right direction, the flip of the wrist to get the coil started and finally the pop of the whip hitting the target squarely.
It was easy to see how I pulled off my side of the target cut, but David’s shot was a bit different. I looks like in slow motion that he was able to skip a few steps in the process. His whip being made of nylon didn’t have to be rotated in his hand to prevent working against the natural direction of the belly inside the whip that is formed to the coiled direction of a leather whip. From the extended position above his head it looks that he was able to launch the whip toward the target with a sling shot type of effect which can be seen the way the end of the whip turns into waves after it meets the target. What is easy to see in the very slow motion of the bullwhip fast draw above is that the nylon whip and kangaroo whip behaved very differently during the bullwhip fast draw but the goal is to reach the target first. In slow motion it looks like there is great advantage in using a nylon whip in the bullwhip fast draw.
For those who want to win the bullwhip fast draw in the future, a David Crain whip might be very wise. As it can easily be seen in the video, a lot happens in the span of time that two whip experts attack a target in the moments fragmented by such occasions. And like regular life that often feels slow and mundane it is those fragments of time that dictate the direction of success or failure—so the bullwhip fast draw is an excellent way to train the mind into the types of decisions that accompany such moments.
When people wonder how I do some of the things that I do in regular life whether it is under the guise of a suit and tie, or torn cloths hunting ghost ships in the back woods of river tributaries, the secret is not in a book, or a college, or any institutional influence. It is in the lessons learned in the fragments of time seen in the Ohio Bullwhip Fast Draw and how those lessons can be applied to problems others might find overwhelming and impossible. Even with all my years of experience I still see new things and learn from them as I did from David Crain this year—lessons that I will carry with me that will prove very valuable. But for others contemplating such a thing in the future consider that last year David didn’t think he had the experience or skill to perform such a feat—but only one year later, he has proven himself to be a contender of great repute. And part of his journey in getting there was in building a whip that would do supernatural things under great pressure and as it can be seen by the video, he was successful.
David Crain can be found at the following link: