What is a Cracker?

For the past fifteen years Englewood has been celebrating Old Florida with a “Cracker” Fair. This year the tradition continues. It is said the term “Cracker” comes from the cracking of the whip Florida cow hunters used to herd cattle. Florida was the first cattle producing state in America — not Texas, not Missouri – Florida. In the early 1500s Spanish conquistadors landed on the shores of Florida and attempted to colonize the area. They were thwarted and attacked by Native Americans. The colonists abandoned their quest, leaving behind horses, hogs and Andalusian cattle they had brought by ship: this was the first livestock in North America.

The Florida livestock bred and ran wild for centuries. Following the Civil War, a rugged brand of individual settled along Florida’s central corridor. They relied on bullwhips to flush cows out of the palmetto scrub. They used 10-to-12-foot-long whips made of braided leather. The snaps of these whips would break the sound barrier making a loud CRACK. Thus these early settlers became known as Crackers. Today the term Cracker is used to refer to anyone who is a true native Floridian.

At this year’s Craker Fair there will be classic country music by John Tuff and Friends, music by the Fiddle Crabs with country blues, tin pan alley and traditional bluegrass. Also Cracker whip demonstrations, local food, a lemon dessert baking contest, kid’s games and all sorts of crafts and fun for all. Come one, come all: Saturday, February 10th from 10 to 4 at Pioneer Park on Dearborn Street. Admission is free.


A Litard Knot Floater

The storm was a “litard knot floater.” Mike Miller (with Florida Backroads Travel.com) quotes his friend Howard who is a Florida Cracker. A Cracker is a true Native Floridian. Mike says Crackers have a language of their own. He explains, “a ‘litard’ is a fat pine knot used like kindling to start fires. A fat pine knot is very heavy, and it takes a lot of water to make it float.”

Most Floridians say the term Cracker comes from the cracking of the whip Florida cow hunters used to herd cattle. Florida was the first cattle producing state in America — not Texas, not Missouri — Florida. According to the Florida Cracker Trail Association (FCTA), it started back in the early 1500s when Spanish conquistadors, such as Juan Ponce de León, landed on the shores of Florida in an attempt to colonize. Thwarted and attacked by Native Americans, the colonists abandoned their quest, leaving behind horses, hogs and Andalusian cattle they had brought by ship: this was the first livestock in North America.

The Florida livestock bred and ran wild for centuries. Following the Civil War, a rugged brand of individual settled along Florida’s central corridor. They would hunt and round up cows over the wooded rangelands and miles and miles of open plains, in the hammocks, and by the rivers and streams, and had a unique way of herding cattle. They relied on bullwhips to flush cows out of the palmetto scrub. They used 10-to-12-foot-long whips made of braided leather. The snaps of these whips would break the sound barrier making a loud CRACK. Thus these early settlers became known as Cracker Cowmen, Cow Hunters, or Florida Crackers.

Physicists Alain Goriely and Tyler McMillen at the University of Arizona explain: “The crack of a whip comes from a loop traveling along the whip, gaining speed until it reaches the speed of sound and creates a sonic boom. Even though some parts of the whip travel at greater speeds, it is the loop itself that generates the sonic boom.”

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