(Photos at end of article) When Keith Young made a dulcimer for me a few years ago I had him send me a limberjack he made from dulcimer scraps and my intention was not to paint him. Last week I decided to paint him. Not having a definite idea of what I was going to do with it I started with his boots and moved up. As I worked on it ideas gradually came to me such as using the paint to make textures on his face and hair and used paint to create a nose and ears. I used cotton from a Q-Tip for his beard and eyebrows. Karen fashioned the floppy hat from a decoration on an old western theme music box that I gave her years ago.
As I worked on the limberjack our cat, Peachy, was fascinated with what I was doing and gave the final seal of approval.
The limberjack is an American folk percussion instrument consisting of a dancing wooden doll and a flexible plank and was popular in many areas including Appalachia. Wikipedia says, “…In London they were frequently operated by street entertainers… In England, old soldiers from the Great War (WW I) sometimes busked with them to supplement their meagre war pensions…” Louise Todd always draws a crowd when she plays her limberjacks when the Athens Dulcimers play.
The jig doll goes by many names and I read that in the Appalachians the general term amongst the old-timers was ‘dancing man’. The term ‘limberjack’ may been introduced in the late 1800s when such homemade toys started to be commercially produced. The term comes from its loose ‘limber’ method of dancing and ‘Jack’ was the generic name for any boy (ref. the tradition of Jack tales) ….
David Bennett <>< 5 November 2016
[as always, click on the first image and then you can scroll through each one]
More on limberjacks:
Limberjacks Part One by Strumelia
Limberjacks Part Two by Strumelia