Annual Cotton Gin Festival

The Cane Tradition

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  The Cane Tradition

In Burton, the “Ball in Cage” cane tradition began with a quiet unassuming man named Oliver Whitener. During his lifetime Oliver Whitener never sold a cane. He gave his hand carved canes to only very dear friends and some Burton non-profit organizations. These lucky organizations would then auction the canes during their annual fundraisers.

The Burton Lions Club, the Volunteer Fire Department, the American Legion, and the Burton Cotton Gin Museum all received these prized canes – each made from different woods – and each cane raising funds for their operations. With the passing of Burton’s beloved “cane maker” in May 2005, it appeared to all that Burton had lost a great supporter and that his legacy would only be a memory.

Then in March 2006, the Burton Cotton Gin Museum received by mail a cardboard box containing an exquisitely carved cane with a letter signed by Mr. A. Nony Mous…

"For several years I have watched Mr. Whitener’s canes being auctioned off at the spring Cotton Gin Festival and have been fascinated by the cane’s construction as well as how the canes help support your organization’s efforts. It seemed such a shame that the tradition has been discontinued.

I would like to continue the carved cane tradition by donating a cane each year to the spring Cotton Gin Festival and again in the fall for the Barn Dance. This is not an attempt to copy Mr. Whitener’s work, although the ball in cage style will continue in his honor.

The first cane was made of mesquite on the top part and cypress on the bottom. Two different woods are used to show the color contrast for what I call the "impossible dove tail joint.” This joint looks like it is impossible to put together or take apart, but if you know the secret!!!! The dove tail is solid all the way through and was hand cut. The detail on the carved ball is a mosaic pin, which consists of brass, copper and stainless steel rods and tubes put together to make the design. The quarter on the handle is a Barber Quarter, which was in circulation at the time the gin was opened in 1914.

Each cane will be different in the future and I will strive to make each one better than the last. It is my hope that the mystique of the past canes will continue with these new ones and greatly benefit the Burton Cotton Gin & Museum.”

Mystery Cane #1 was auctioned at the Burton Cotton Gin Festival and purchased for $2,400.

Then in September 2006, the Burton Cotton Gin received Mystery Cane #2 by express mail with the following letter, also signed by Mr. A. Nony Mous:

"1915 was the second year that the Burton Cotton Gin was in business so; it seemed appropriate that the second cane would represent the second year of operation. The cane you are looking at is made of American black cherry on the top and bottom section, with the center cage material being Central American Cocobolo. Both woods are very hard and brittle plus I added another mystery dovetail joint. These conditions kept the cane on the workbench longer than anticipated. The coin on top is a Barber quarter and the mosaic pin appears on the ball again.

You guys have done a great job this year with the Wehring house and all the other work done on the grounds. The board members, office staff and all the boll weevils* deserve a huge thank you for their hard work. It looks like the barn dance is shaping up to be a lot of fun and a great success. I will see you all there and you will see me as well, but will you recognize me?”

* The boll weevils is an elite group of year-round volunteers who maintain the grounds, buildings and equipment for the Burton Cotton Gin Museum. They are always ready to help

Mystery Cane #2 was auctioned at the Barn Dance & Dinner Gala, October 21, 2006, and purchased for $3,500.

Each Festival and Barn Dance found Mr. A. Nony Mous hold true to his word and each cane was more exquisite than the one before… although no one at the museum knew the identity of the magnanimous benefactor, it appeared that he or she knew everything that was going on and approved! Each year all proceeds from funds raised were used for the restoration, preservation and support of the museum. So the Cane Tradition continued as a mystery until 2014 and a challenge by Mr. A Nony Mous was met. The challenge was such:  if the winning bid for the cane was more than $5,500, Mr. Mous would reveal himself!

That day came upon the Centennial of the Burton Farmers Gin and the 25th annual festival when the 16th cane sold for a whopping $7,500 to Mr. Gerry Kasberg of Birome Gin.  And the generous and talented craftsman revealed himself as Mr. Terry Weesner of neighboring Round Top, Texas.  Mr. Weesner had moved to the area in 2002 and was inspired by Oliver Whitener's work and decided to continue this art form and its efforts to help maintain and preserve the Burton Farmers Gin and the museum.

As of 2017, we are proud to say that Mr. Weesner is still crafting these unique pieces of history and donating them for the annual auction fundraiser.  We will forever be grateful for his continued generosity and willingness to keep Burton history alive in both the cane tradition AND his support of the efforts of the Texas Cotton Gin Museum!!!

Cane #1 Festival 2006

Cane #2 Barn Dance 2006

Cane #3 Festival 2007

Cane #4 Barn Dance 2007

Cane #5 Festival 2008

Cane #6 Barn Dance 2008

Cane #7 Festival 2009

Cane #8 Barn Dance 2009

Cane #9 Festival 2010

Cane #10 Barn Dance 2010

Cane #11 Festival 2011

Cane #12 Barn Dance 2011

Cane #13 Festival 2012

Cane #14 Barn Dance 2012

Cane #15 Festival 2013