Few of us get to be what we wanted to be when we grow up. When I was 5 years old in 1977, I saw Star Wars. I wanted to be a spaceship driver. (My father still has my 5-year-old voice on tape saying so.) Then a few years later, I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark; and I wanted to be an archaeologist. Not because I had any interest in the ancient world or the people that lived in it, but because archaeologists used bullwhips to swing on things, and that was what I knew I was meant to do.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll turn 48 years old. There’s still time.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve re-watched all the Indiana Jones movies before they’re due to leave Netflix at the end of the year. I haven’t seen some of them in a long time. Raiders is still the best, followed closely by Last Crusade. Temple of Doom wasn’t bad; and it was better than Crystal Skull for sure. As far as that one…it wasn’t as terrible as I remember it; but it sure wasn’t great, either.
Throughout this re-watch, I began to wonder…how much does a bullwhip cost? Well, settle down, amigos, because this is one rabbit-hole I went down so you don’t have to. Here’s what I discovered about bullwhips.
Bullwhips come in lengths from 6 feet to as long as 16 feet or more. The shorter the whip the easier it is to crack; the longer the whip the tougher it is to handle. Nowadays, the best whips are made from kangaroo hide (whip-cracking is pretty big Down Under); but they still use cowhide, too. Many modern whips are made from paracord. My eyes glazed over while reading about plaits and the “belly” of the whip; I gather it’s important stuff but I didn’t really care. The more plaits a whip has, the more pliable and responsive it is. In other words, the better the quality; kind of like a thread count in sheets. 16 plaits is better than 12, is better than 10, etc.
The general consensus is you get what you pay for, and a decently-made beginner bullwhip will likely cost you around $150 USD for a 6′-8′ whip, $250 for anything over 10 feet. (One thing is certain, the cheap whip I use when I dress in my Catwoman costume won’t work. Enjoy that image.)
So, I got to thinking about the practicalities of buying a whip.
I’m 6’1″ tall and I have plenty of backyard space, so I would likely try my hand at an 8′-10′ whip. Anything smaller and I would probably whip myself (which is apparently something you better get used to doing, especially in the beginning); anything larger would require Herculean strength that, at my advanced age, I sadly no longer possess. As a general rule, I don’t believe in buying cheap shit; for example, when I needed a reciprocating saw a couple of years ago, I bought the good one. A worker is only as good as his tools, after all. (In my case, my tools are usually much better than my level of skill would require.) In other words, I’m looking at spending about $250.00 USD to start this new hobby of mine; i.e. the hobby of whipping stuff.
I began to look at whips, and research whip manufacturers. Based on my recently acquired expertise and on the opinions of anonymous (but no doubt wise) Internet whippers all around the world, I dismissed inferior (or what I considered inferior) whips outright and homed in on the good quality bullwhips; the ones that must be better because they cost more. If I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it right, damn it.
As my collection of unpainted miniatures proves, resisting impulse buys has never been a strength of mine. But I generally pause when I’m about to spend over 200 bucks on anything. I decided I’d sleep on it. I did, and by the next morning I had pretty much forgotten about my whip obsession completely.
At least until about a week later, when I was shopping on Amazon, and this blue paracord bullwhip popped up in my “suggestions for you based on your browsing activity” window. I thought nothing of it, believing I was alone. Until…
“What’s that?” I heard from behind me.
“Nothing,” I said. I suddenly felt like I got caught watching porn.
“Why are you looking at whips?”
I shrugged. I resisted the urge to turn around. The silence was deafening. It seems an answer was expected. I began to wish I had been caught watching porn instead.
I sighed, and it all came out of me. I confessed the whole thing. I blabbed about how my re-watch of the Indiana Jones movies led to my new bullwhip obsession, which led me to research buying a bullwhip, because I know could get really good with one and that would be cool, and I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist and…”
Two words. That’s all it took.
That was when I began to reconsider the whole bullwhip purchase; to think about a better way to spend $250.00.
I thought about the utility and practicality of becoming a bullwhip adept. What do you use a bullwhip for, really? I mean, Indiana Jones is quite skilled with his; but I suppose that there may be a bit of creative license there. Am I going to whip someone? No. It’s not exactly a weapon ideal for home defense. You can’t swing a bullwhip in the house (I certainly wouldn’t be allowed to, even if I could); and unless I’m attacked in my backyard by someone who is taking their sweet time approaching me, it’s not a good option there, either. Can you really swing on a whip? Probably. The initial swing would be fun, but getting your whip untangled from the ground is probably going to be more of a pain in the ass than the trip was worth in the first place.
Whips make a loud noise. That’s about it. I have to assume the novelty of making a loud noise will wear off quickly, probably the first time I injure myself. And self-injury is pretty much assured. Whips hurt; that’s why being flogged is generally considered an unpleasant experience.
So, knowing what I know about me, here’s what would have likely happened had I gone ahead with this:
I would have gleefully uncoiled my new whip and tried to crack it. I would do this until I cracked it successfully, or more likely until my arm got tired or I cut my own flesh. Then I would either get bored or get upset, depending on whether I cracked it or cut myself. I would put the whip down and not pick it up again. Occasionally, I would glare at it, remembering that I spent two hundred fifty dollars on it.
That would be a really fucking stupid thing to do, so I’m not doing it.