Miller turns hobby into money-maker
Sophia Johnson | Staff Writer
Senior Sierra Miller is taking a crack at the western art of whip cracking.
Over the last three years, Miller has continued to develop her technique in sport cracking, the practice of cracking whips in a recurring pattern. Miller said she first became aware of whip cracking through western entertainment.
“I used to watch Indiana Jones and MacGuyver all the time on TV and be like ‘I want to do that,’” Miller said. “Then it wasn’t until Mythbusters did their Indiana Jones episode I realized you could actually make whips yourself. So I saw Adam braiding his and was like ‘shoot, I’m really crafty, I can do that as well.’ That’s when I made my first bullwhip and then I started off from there. Me and my dad have kept braiding ever since.”
Sharing an interest in sport cracking with her dad, Miller said they spend a lot of their time braiding paracord in the process of creating their own bullwhips.
“He kind of went through the process with me. I picked it up and he was like ‘that’s just a bunch of paracord and BBs, we could totally do that,’” Miller said. “We would just be braiding at the table for hours.”
Miller said along with watching videos online, she and her dad would attend conventions where they interacted with others who were more experienced in sport cracking.
“Me and my dad looked on YouTube and then we also went to these western fairs where they always had a person demonstrating,” Miller said. “It would be like ‘hey me and my dad make these, could you show us how to do one or two moves.’ They would always start off with a cattleman’s crack and an overhead cattleman’s crack.”
By being in an environment where sport cracking is a respected and encouraged activity, Miller said the fairs have enhanced her appreciation for the sport.
“It was actually really interesting and fun because the people are so enthusiastic and they want to get people interested in sport cracking, especially kids my age,” Miller said. “It’s super fun, they’re willing to teach you anything they know, they’re just like a fountain of knowledge.”
After familiarizing herself with sport cracking, Miller and her dad started selling a variety of bullwhips, making sure to emphasize the danger that they can cause if not properly handled.
“We have been trying to sell them for a while. We only really give them out to friends, then I teach people how to use them.” Miller said. “If I give somebody a whip I always tell them it’s not a toy, it’s a tool. It will hurt and it will make you bleed.”
To ensure that all bullwhips are handled correctly, Miller said she teaches the buyers different whip cracks for beginners.
“I show them how to hold it and handle it, then I show them just a basic cattleman’s crack and an overhead cattleman’s crack,” Miller said. “It’s basically the same move, you’re just now doing it over your head.”
Having experienced injury from sport cracking, Miller said handling bullwhips can be challenging and therefore requires control.
“It’s definitely all about timing; the first day I really started, I was trying to do a cattleman’s crack and I had cracked it right on the tip of my ear,” Miller said. “My dad was like, ‘hey you might want to stop, you’re bleeding all over yourself.’ I reached over to my ear and said ‘huh, I think it’s time to stop for today.’”
For Miller, whip cracking is more than a hobby. She said It’s a way to relax and manage her emotions.
“I wait for doing the four or five-hour sessions for when I’m really angry,” Miller said. “I actually don’t know what I would do with myself if I didn’t find sport cracking because it has been my stress reliever for so long. I don’t care if it’s pouring rain, If I’m pissed, I’d rather be drenched and cracking my whip then take it out on anybody I knew.”
Aware of its rarity, Miller said others her age should not let the danger of the bullwhips prevent them from trying whip cracking.
“I’m just happy I found it, I usually pick it up right when I get home,” Miller said. “I think people are way too scared and it is not all about that, it’s about having fun, just trying new things and getting out there.”
Photos by Tanner Pearson.