December 12, 2013

Points East: No critter was safe from Uncle Willie’s sling shots



I never did learn to plan a tune on it, but Uncle Stevie could play “Old Sally Goodin,” “Billy in the Low Ground,” “Camptown Races,” “Ole Dan Tucker,” and several dozen other traditional fiddle tunes.  He was also a master fiddler, an instrument that baffles me to this day, but I loved to hear him play the homemade flutes as well. 

Uncle Willie’s specialty was sling shots.  If he was in the woods and happened upon a forked Y-shaped dogwood, sourwood, or ironwood limb of a certain size he would “harvest” it for use as a sling-shot prong.  Any time a vehicle had a tire blow out, we would procure the inner tube so that it could be cut in strips to make slingshot rubbers.   Not just any old inner tube would work.  Tubes that were made before WWII worked best because they were made from real rubber of which there was a vast shortage during the war.

Inner tubes made after the war contained so much synthetic material that they wouldn’t stretch like the real McCoy. Suffice to say that the older the better when it came to using inner tubes to make slingshot rubbers.  I’m not sure which company made them but the best ones were red and very hard to find. 

Any time a pair of leather shoes wore out, meaning after they had been re-heeled and half-soled half a dozen times, and the uppers had pretty much rotted, we cut the tongues out to use for slingshot pouches. 

The ends of the strips of good rubber were attached to each end of the shoe tongue and the other ends were attached to the tips of the Y-shaped prong.  The bottom of the Y was the slingshot handle.

You grasped the handle with one hand, placed a pebble in the pouch with the other, pulled it back as far as you could reach or as far as the rubbers would stretch and let it fly.  When Uncle Willie made a sling shot it was both a lethal weapon and a work of art.  You could take one glance at a sling shot and tell if Uncle Willie had made it.  His oldest son, my cousin the late Arlie Adams, also made extraordinary fine sling shots.    

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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