Few things have contributed more to the character and upbringing of our elder Americans than the razor strop. This one- or two-piece weapon, designed and patented to sharpen straight razors, did double-duty as a sure-fire deterrent to orneryness and disobedience. Our strop had a heavy leather strap to sharpen the blade and a canvas edge to whet the edge.
The Trews were dedicated razor strop people with the dreaded device hanging at the ready behind the bathroom door. I believe the spot was cunningly chosen as a psychological subject to be studied as one sat on the throne each day. This subtle reminder was always noticed but seldom heeded.
With Mother, little brother Don and I could get away with almost anything up to a certain point. Once we crossed that line, she informed Dad, who fetched the strop, bent each of us over his knees and carried out the sentence according to the severity of our infractions. He seldom questioned Mother’s reasoning nor heeded our pleas of innocence as he whacked our bottoms.
I can distinctly recall the sound of the strop making a whack with an echo. This was because the heavy leather strop hit first, and the canvas strop hit a fraction of a second later. Evidently the strops caused friction, as our tender little behinds heated up quickly. After about the third lick, most of the feeling had disappeared but it always seemed to pay to put on a loud show with lots of tears. If the act was dramatic enough, Dad usually let up or quit altogether.
There seemed to be a five- or six-day warranty on a good “stropping,” as we only received about one per week. Looking back now, I believe it took that long for the feeling to come back and the heat to dissipate. Once the sting was gone, the lesson was usually forgotten.
Evidently the word “abuse” did not appear in Webster’s dictionary until a later date, as teachers and bus drivers also had the right to mete out punishment. In fact, we knew if we received a spanking at school, we had another waiting at home. Today’s lawyers would have a field day with the double jeopardy clause.
Some think the demise of the razor strop began with some guy named Spock. At our home, I think the strop just wore out with overuse. As I read about the problems in schools and observe the arrogance and disobedience of many of our youngsters in public, the image of the swinging strop and the whack with an echo keeps coming to mind.
Today, I’m sure no one in their wildest dreams would consider bringing the razor strop back for disciplinary purposes, but once upon a time, my dad’s swinging arm and the application of a little heat in the lower end sure helped change a couple of little boys’ attitudes. FC
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.