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The first Wiplstix goes to New York City

As promised I want to share the story of the first prototype Wiplstix I made, and field tested during a trip from the wilds of the mountains of West Virginia to New York City.

This story is by no means fresh, and its been years since its been told, but I feel something archetypical resides in it somewhere. At that point I had no idea that the Wiplstix would be one of the lasting achievements of my life. I have chosen a simple life homesteading in West Virginia and I was making a living as a self employed furniture maker. The Wiplstix was conceived Fall of 1999, gestated through the winter and was birthed by early spring. The first one was made of reject curly maple that had been infested with powder post beetles that shotgun holes in the wood filled with sawdust making it useless for any meaningful project. I had borrowed and shaped some zither pins from a friend who made hammer dulcimers and revived some old rusty violin strings. In my usual fashion I used only unwanted scrap laying around for R and D. It was was quite playable and pleasantly downhome.

It would have been around March of 2000 and I had pretty much figured out the logistix of the Wiplstix by then save the chinrest. I took a notion to visit a friend in New York City after holing up in my little cabin for most of the winter taking the Amtrak Cardinal train from White Sulphur Springs, WV to Washington DC and then shuttled up to Grand Central Station. I was carrying a backpack, and strapped to it was my new Wiplstix prototype! I couldnt wait to show this new contraption to my friend. I was somewhere on 5th Ave crossing a very large intersection when the light turned red. There was an legion of white knuckled taxi drivers ready to start the next leg of their golden chariot race, and I ran for the safety of the other side of the street. The joggling must have loosen the strap and the Wiplstix slapped onto the pavement and rolled into the middle of the intersection. The frames froze while everyone on that side of the street waited see what would happen to this mysterious white case that dropped out of the backpack of some mountainman, clearly not in his natural habitat, in the throes of New York City.

The first tier of cabbies missed it, but then there was a direct hit and various pieces of the Wiplstix flew apart and lay dismembered in the middle of the road. I watched the case roll slowly kitty corner to the opposite side of the road as the lights changed and there was a man standing on the curb waiting for the light to turn when the tube hit the curb and drew his attention to his feet. He picked up the case and looked inside. I was powerless as he tipped it upside down and shook the loose pieces out. I screamed to leave it alone, but he could not hear me. He then walked off with it. I made it across one street and then waited for the light to turn on the next crossing and finally I caught up to him half way down the block, and snatched my tube away saying, "that's mine!"

I went back to the corner of the intersection and out in the middle of the road was pieces of entrails of my first Wiplstix - the broken bow, the tail piece and neck attached by the strings. I waited for a light or two trying to figure out the timing to go out in the middle of the road to retrieve the pieces when out of nowhere from across the intersection a very tall, and unassuming black man dressed elegantly in a limousine suit walked out in the middle of the intersection in no particular hurry, and I swear all traffic stopped. Everyone again held their breath as this man picked up the pieces of decimation, walked over to me. I was standing on the curb, and he on the street, and I was still looking upward at his face. He handed it to me and said," I hope it will be OK." Just like that he disappeared, and my mouth was agape. This little tear in normality closed, and life revved back up through out the city.

There are few things in my life that seem as mythological as that event. Who ever that man was, and whatever motivated him to part the waters to salvage what was just a notion of mine, I am always grateful, and inspired to do the same for others that appear to be overwhelmed and underdogged by the machine we call modern society. That there are those of us eeking a life in the cracks trying to express themselves, to push out a modest flower reminding us that there is a little beauty in everything that can pop out of nowhere- even an innocuous white plastic tube.

Bill Whipple


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