Is This You? What’s in a whistle?

I wish I could whistle better. Not just a little whistle of a tune only I can hear in my head. I can whistle, don’t get me wrong. I whistle while I work, I whistle to some songs on the radio. But I wish I could whistle one of those ear-splitting, “here I am over here” whistles. A whistle when let go, everyone within earshot of about half a mile turns around to see what’s up.

Most cowboys can whistle that kind of whistle. Riding along gathering cows there seems to always be at least one cow that will stray out of line and get the notion to feel her oats and go to gather them along her own way. Then the cowboy sees this hardheaded cow, he whistles this ear-splitting, earth-shattering whistle, which the cow has heard before, and she kicks up some dust and runs for the nearest draw. Then his horse picks up his head and off they go to gather the cow where she has found the grass is really not any greener on the other side of the cold, muddy, deep creek. The cowboy whistles and harangues long and loud about his horse and cows and the gal he left behind. Slapping at his thigh and saddle with his lariat and all three — cow, horse and cowboy — come back to the beginning, where the herd is. All because of a whistle.

Yeah, I want to whistle like that. Or whistle like a cook calling the gang to dinner. Let’s keep this in the cowboy culture. The cook at the chuck wagon. This guy needs to be able to whistle loud enough to reach the guy riding drag. The guy who has been eating dust for the last several miles and his ears are packed with so much dirt only a whistle of, like, 9,643 decibels would get through. Along with a corker of a triangle to announce dinner, a cook needs to be able to whistle loud enough to reach even the cowboy who’s asleep on his horse dreaming of going to town Saturday night and meeting that gal who line dances better than he rides his horse. And that’s saying a lot. Whoops, I slipped off the saddle — back to the whistle ...

Whistling isn’t limited to men. I know some females who I’m pretty sure could crack glass with a whistle. And my other half’s whistle would cross your eyes. I’ve tried to learn this art. I screw up my face, wiggle my tongue in the dark hole under my nose, like I think it should be. I push air out and all I get is something that sounds like a tiny island breeze is flowing through palm trees. Shoot, the waves lapping at the imaginary shore where I whistle are louder than my air flow!

Are there whistle classes? I suppose there’s some YouTube video about learning to whistle, but that isn’t like learning from an expert. Someone who could look at my screwed-up mouth and see what I’m doing wrong. Do I have to put my fingers in my mouth? There are those whistlers who do that, too. Put two fingers in their mouth and let go a whistle that would stop a train. But do those fingers go under your tongue or alongside the outside of your teeth? I have also tried this whistle technique. I nearly gagged myself into unconsciousness. Oh, this whistling thing can get pretty technical.

Thankfully, knowing how to whistle isn’t something that’s a must. Like knowing how to walk and chew gum at the same time. Those two things, I admit, are also something I need to work on. Oh, I can walk, and I can chew gum, but seriously, have you really examined yourself walking and chewing gum at the same time? I bet you think it’s just a funny saying walking and chewing gum is something not everyone can do. But the next time you get gum in your mouth and you need to get up and walk, just see if you don’t put the gum in neutral as you go. Then you stop and the gum goes back into gear and chewing takes over. Making you think about it, huh?

After you master that, try whistling with those two fingers and gum in your mouth. That should keep you busy for a while. Oh, ice will help you get any stuck-on gum off your fingers. I’m nothing if not helpful!

Trina Machacek lives in Eureka, Nevada. Share with her at Really!


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