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Letter - What I know about the ‘Whangdoodle’

Editor:

            Read with interest Roger Allen’s tale, “Whangdoodles invade Bulloch” printed in the September 23 edition of the Herald. Whangdoodles of various kinds have been prominent in Southern lore for a long time, but have about faded from current usage, along with terms like bone felon and may pop.

            Recall an article from “North Carolina Folklore” that described the Whangdoodle as a swamp bird with a wailing cry. The limpkin is a long-billed swamp bird of Florida that nests as far north as the Okefenokee. This bird has a plaintive cry and has been called Whangdoodle. Sometimes the limpkin strays farther north and to hear one calling in the night might strike terror in the hearts of even modern sophisticates.

            The Bulloch Whangdoodle was reckoned to be a furry animal somewhat like a cougar or panther. It makes sense to imagine that a fierce noise is made by a fierce beast.

            Whangdoodles in Screven County were not wild beasts but wild contraptions made by human hands. To make a Whangdoodle one needed a well-soaked goat skin with the hair removed. This was stretched over a section sawn from a hollow cypress knee. The stretched skin was wired securely and allowed to dry. A small hole was punched through the skin and a length of stout twine, what we called cat cord, drawn through and knotted at each end. The cord was rubbed with rosin. When the string was plucked with a scrap of felt, the Whangdoodle made a raucus noise that sounded about midway between the squall of an infuriated panther and the bleat of a dying calf in a hailstorm. The object was to terrify people at night.

            In my little book, “With Their Ears Pricked Forward, Tales of Mules I’ve Known,” the redoubtable Sam Cato played his Whangdoodle one night trying to terrify his pals who were fishing on the Ogeechee River. There was no record as to whether that worked, but he did scare the tar out of a crew constructing a kiln at a nearby brick factory.

            A bunch of us lads made a Whangdoodle out of a gourd, hoping to scare some black citizens on their way to church. Our ‘doodle made a great fuss, but the only response we got was from Aunt Ida Green who threaten to whup us if we didn’t cut it out.

            In Mexico hunters once called jaguars with a Pujadera, a kind of Whangdoodle made from a gourd. I recall a “Wild Kingdom” program where the late Marlin Perkins and his crew took on the task of relocating a mother jaguar that had been preying on livestock. To capture her cub, the mother was lured away with Pujadera. It worked. The feisty cub was placed in a bag, the mother treed by hounds and captured and all were safely relocated.

            More power to Roger Allen. Keep the history rolling.

Joshua A. Lee

Sylvania

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