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About the Driver's Tools
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As to the driver’s accoutrements, he had but two, his whip and his voice. The whip had a stock 10 feet long made of a hickory sapling with a lash of the same length made of rawhide. Attached to the end of the lash was a strip of soft leather five to six inches long, called a popper or cracker. A similar whip was used by men capturing wild Spanish cattle in the Everglades. The term "cracker" evolved into the language of the Deep South to designate an unsophisticated person. When the whip was cracked, it produced a sound as pronounced as a gun shot.

U.S. Army scientists in 1959 measured the speed of a cracker as it was snapped. The conclusion was that the cracker exceeded the speed of sound. Regardless of conventional wisdom, drivers were often encouraged to spare the whip, especially during the latter part of the period when American traffic on the Santa Fe Trail was monopolized by huge freighting firms. The handling of oxen was stipulated in great detail by written regulations issued to personnel employed by the various firms. Tom Cranmer, who compiled a set of such regulations, wrote, "I would therefore, most emphatically denounce the practice of beating oxen under all circumstances." However, such was not the case with the Mexican drivers. James Mead recalled, "The drivers were known as ‘bull whackers’ or ‘mule skinners,’ mostly semi-Indian half-civilized, faithful, brown skinned, with hair of jet hanging on their shoulders, wielding lashes with such skill as to cut a rattlesnake’s head off at 20 feet, or cut through the hide of any refractory ox."

Perhaps more effective than the whip were the voice commands of the driver. Walking near the head of the wheelers, he spoke well-recognized commands the oxen learned quickly to obey. Originally, gee-up meant to move up. In time, the command became giddap. Gregg wrote that a simple hep was the command to move forward. Gee was the command to turn right; haw was the command to turn left. Whoa, originally ho, was the command to stop. With regard to other voice commands, Cranmer wrote, "No loud cursing, swearing, or frightening of cattle should ever be allowed in the corral."