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From the editor: On alcohol, bullwhips and good judgment
From the editor

From the editor: On alcohol, bullwhips and good judgment

Cynthia Sweeney mug

Cynthia Sweeney 

Over the past eight or so months, due to boredom and/or frustration, the pandemic can doubtless be blamed for a lot of behavior that could be considered a lack of good judgment.

That said, it’s not often one gets to use the words “alcohol” and “bullwhip” in the same sentence. But this is Calistoga.

And while city council meetings can be mundane and even tedious to cover, those two lively subjects were on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting.

The discussion of alcohol involved drinking in Calistoga’s public parks, and a specific few bad apples who threaten to ruin it for the rest of us with their poor behavior in Pioneer Park.

The police department has been more than patient with this group that has been regularly getting together after work and drinking and socializing in the park. According to reports, they get loud, litter, and disrupt the peaceful flow of the park for others.

The matter was finally brought before the city council on Tuesday evening. This column was written before that meeting, so you’ll have to see the results online Wednesday morning, or in print on Thursday.

The problem with outright banning the consumption of alcohol in public parks is that it punishes those who can behave themselves. Concerts in the Park, whereby the park is filled with residents enjoying live music, and more often than not, a glass of local wine, has been successful for a number years. Successful in the sense that people have a good time and no one needs to call the police. My hunch is the city will come up with an ordinance that will allow for the continuation of outdoor events where wine is served, while providing consequences for those who disturb the peace with unruly behavior.

Then there is the guy with the bullwhip. Many have seen him cracking his whip (for practice? Entertainment? Intimidation?) in parks and other places around town. I first encountered him while taking a walk at the fairgrounds. At first I heard what sounded a lot like gunshots. Not much to my relief, I saw it was a young man swinging and cracking a bullwhip at nothing in particular.

Bullwhips are usually made of braided leather and range in size from 3 to 20 feet and even longer. According to Google, an average length is 8 feet. I’m not an expert, but I’d say this guy’s is about that long. According to a Google definition, bullwhips “are traditionally used to control livestock in open country.” Just for the record, I didn’t see any livestock at the fairgrounds that day. Google further states, “They are not intended to hit anything or anyone, except in emergency.” (Emergency?) “A whip is a tool that was traditionally designed to strike animals or people” (people?) “to aid in guidance or exert control through pain compliance or fear of pain, although in some activities, whips can be used without inflicting pain, such as being an additional pressure aid or visual directional cue in equestrianism.”

Just for the record I didn’t see any horses at the fairgrounds that day either.

Well, it turns out a great many residents have also been disturbed by this outdoor activity, although it certainly satisfies in the social distancing category. After many complaints by residents, this matter, too, came before the city council on Tuesday. Although we all know the issue is aimed at the bullwhip guy, the city apparently also seeks to curb other questionable activities by calling the agendized item “the possession and use of dangerous items that pose a risk to public safety.” Otherwise known as “the bullwhip ordinance.”

In fairness, and out of curiosity, I would like to have the opportunity to ask the bullwhip guy why he chooses to crack the whip in places people frequent with their children and their dogs, but as you can imagine, he’s not very approachable.

All I can say is at least the guy isn’t part of the group drinking in the park.

You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.

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