Thanks for visiting my bio page. I hope this will give you some sense of who I am and why Rhett Kelley Whips, LLC. exists today.
I’ll always be a “Florida Cracker” through and through. Though I now live in southeastern Georgia, I spent most of my childhood and teenage years living on or near the ranch of my great-grandfather, L. R. Bronson. I’m very proud of my “cracker” heritage. Making the Florida cow whip, in particular, is my way of staying connected to my heritage.
I was just a young fellow when my grandfather bought me a 12 ft Florida cow whip. It was made by a plaiter named Richard Clark. It wasn’t long before I became interested in making whips myself. My grandfather had Richard to come over and show me. Richard taught me a 4 plait, told me a few things, and gave me a sheet of handwritten instructions; I took it from there and practiced like crazy. By 1991, at the ripe old age of 13, I was a bona fide plaiter of Florida cow whips!
In the years following, I mostly made whips as a hobby for working cowboys. In 1996, I moved to southeast Georgia and shortly thereafter I married Diana, my high school sweetheart.
By the year 2000, I was working a lot of overtime at my job, so I decided to pursue whipmaking as way of being able to be home more and making the additional income we needed. Not many of the local cattlemen use whips here in Georgia, so I didn’t have very much success selling the whips at the local stockyards and feed stores.
Everything changed when I bought a computer and took my whips online in early 2001. After a couple good online reviews of my whips, I had more orders than I could handle coming from all over the U.S.A and around the world. By the end of 2001, I was making nylon bullwhips; nylon snakewhips would follow shortly after that. In early 2009, I developed my own line of nylon Australian stockwhips. New for 2012 were the budget priced FCE stockwhips and 12 plait bullwhips.
When I first took my whips online, I was surprised to find that nylon whips were frowned upon by lots of people and few had even heard of the Florida cow whip. It was a lonely world for a nylon plaiter. I even received a few snide remarks from people for not using leather. I didn’t let that hinder me and have been fortunate enough to see many minds and attitudes changed in this regard.
While I’d never try to claim all the credit for that shift in attitude, I think it’s safe to say that I helped pave the way for the acceptance of synthetic whips around the world. In recent years, I’ve seen an exponential increase in the number of internet based plaiters who use nylon. Now you can even find synthetic whips being made by plaiters who once made leather whips exclusively. This tells me that synthetic whips now have a permanent place in the worldwide whip cracking and whipmaking community.
May 2012 would bring the biggest change of course for me as a whipmaker as I left my 16 1/2 year career with Walmart Stores Inc. and began making whips full time. In July I registered Rhett Kelley Whips, LLC. with the State of Georgia.
In October 2012, I had the pleasure of traveling to Dallas, TX. for the DFW Whip Weekend XIII. I met many of the people who have supported my business throughout the years and even won a couple of medals in the targeting competition. Now I spend each day working to support my wife and 5 children literally with my bare hands.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledged the hand of God in this venture. Were it not for His grace in my life, I would not be where I am today. To God alone belongs all the glory for whatever good that is found in me.