Art can be found in many different elements of agriculture, most of which perform some kind of function. Creative artisans can take a tool as common as a cow whip and craft it into a work of art. I can think of no other artisan who makes them so beautifully as KJ Smith. He makes leather cow whips by hand the way his father and grandfather did before him, and they’re as useful as they are beautiful.
Originally from Central Florida but now calling Georgia home, KJ has been making whips since he was young; a skill he learned from his father and grandfather. “I guess if my dad had been a dentist, maybe I’d have wanted to be a dentist,” he quips. He’s been cowboying his whole life, and he swears that making cow whips means he gets to “deal with the best people in the world.”
Each whip is handmade of nylon parachute cord, but it still looks like leather. They have leaded core centers with 18 plait, and then they are dyed and dipped in bees’ wax. KJ gets the wooden handles from the forests around his home and spins on a lathe. He then carves the owner’s initials and date in each, making them an heirloom. “If you have your great-grandfather’s whip with initials and a date, you’re going to treasure that forever,” he says.
KJ makes cow whips— “It’s not for the money, that’s for sure”— but because they represent and uphold the traditions of the cattle industry way of life; “making whips is something I do to make me feel like I’m promoting the cattle industry, and its traditions,” he says. “That industry, in my opinion, is based on our past, our history, our traditions; it’s what makes the cattlemen, the horse lover, or the cattlewoman unique.” Find KJ’s whips at cowhunterwhips.com.
CREDIT: DON HARDEN
This column is sponsored by AgAmerica Lending.
BIO: Donald Harden, a Relationship Manager for AgAmerica Lending, grew up in the cattle and citrus business, managing a family ranch of several thousand cattle and horses. He has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate business, and more than 20 years specializing in agricultural sales. Over the years, Don has been honored to serve the ag community in many facets, including as a director and on the board of the cattlemen’s association, as a manufacturer’s representative for ag equipment companies, and as a beef cattle specialist for a national feed company. For more information about Don and the AgAmerica team, call 844.238.5312 or visit AgAmerica.com.