Weed, California June 18, 2008: Walking the dogs in the huge vacant lot toward the end of day, I plucked a thick blade from an uprising of wild grasses, and made a loud whistle. This both excited and alarmed the dogs. So we had a little game all the way back to the house. Loud whistle. Leap and gyrate. Loud whistle. Leap and gyrate. Loud whistle. Leap and gyrate. Damn, we had fun!
And this reminded me that, back in September of 2007, Derrel Blain, another Henrietta Texas boy, took the time to capture this wondrous technology on his weblog of photos, drawings, and musings, called Daily Art Mas O Menos (Daily Art more or less). He drew the illustrations with ink, graphite, and a Derwent wash pencil.
With his permission, I here reprint “How to Make a Grass Blade Whistle.” Something every boy ought to know.
HOW TO MAKE A GRASS BLADE WHISTLE
Let’s suppose you need to make a loud noise to frighten off a large wild animal (assuming you’ve encountered a large wild animal that can actually be frightened), or suppose you become lost or injured while hiking and need to signal your whereabouts, or let’s suppose you are eight years old hanging out with your cousins in a small town in Texas with not much to do, trying to make as much noise as possible.
In that case you can make a really loud whistle from a grass blade. Strictly speaking it’s not a whistle but a single reed instrument. A whistle has a fixed surface; a reed instrument has a moving surface vibrating against a fixed surface.
Whatever, it still is ear-splittingly loud.
Here’s how to do it.
Find yourself a grass blade, or leaf, or something similar, longer than your thumb. Not a wimpy grass blade from a suburban lawn, but a native grass or weed that’s tough, with about a finger’s width to it.
Hold it between thumb and forefinger so the grass more or less drapes along the length of your thumb.
After holding it between thumb and forefinger with one hand, so the grass more or less drapes along the length of your thumb, catch the bottom end of the blade with your middle finger.
Pull the grass blade tight along the side of your thumb with this finger, while bringing your other thumb up to replace your forefinger.
After pulling the grass blade tight along the side of your thumb with your middle finger, bring your thumbs parallel to form an opening with the grass blade centered in it.
Keep holding the grass blade taut with your middle finger, at the base of your thumb, so that the grass blade is stretched tight across the opening.
When you blow between your thumbs, the reed (the grass blade) will vibrate against the sides of your thumbs, much the same way a reed works in a harmonica.
This reed-whistle will be piercingly loud and strident, sort of like a one-note saxophone gone bad, a very desirable quality if you’re eight.
Thanks to Derrel Blain for permission to archive this essential information.
And now you know.
Go thee forth and share this with young lads everywhere. The world will be a better place.