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 has found Mr. A. Nony Mous holding true to his word… the Cane Tradition continues. The Museum is honored by the talent and generosity of “Mr. Mous” twice each year…and each cane is more exquisite than the one before. Proceeds from the funds the Mystery Cane raise are used for the restoration, preservation and support of the Burton Cotton Gin Museum.

Although no one at the Burton Cotton Gin knows the identity of this magnanimous benefactor, it appears that he or she knows everything that is going on at the Burton Cotton Gin Museum, and approves. Thank you “Mr. A. Nony Mous” …whoever you are!


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