It might seem odd that any product with “cowboy” in the name would be made in Maine.
But the Cowboy Yoyo is named in honor of Cape Elizabeth resident Teddy Stoecklein’s uncle, David Stoecklein, whose cowboy credentials are solid: Last week, he was inducted posthumously into the Idaho Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Teddy Stoecklein, who is executive creative director at the VIA Agency in Portland, was very close to his uncle and considered him a role model. David Stoecklein was a well-known photographer who lived on a ranch in Idaho and documented the western way of life. He took advertising photos for Marlboro, Chevy, Jeep and Stetson, and he authored or shot the photographs for several books on the cowboy lifestyle.
About 20 years ago, David Stoecklein gave his nephew Teddy something called a “Cowboy Yoyo” to play with, but Teddy Stoecklein could never master it. This is no ordinary up-and-down yoyo. Stoecklein’s yoyo was born around a campfire, invented by bored cowboys looking for a way to pass the time. It’s a wooden ball attached to a rope, and its raison d’etre is to do rope tricks.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. The standard trick is to flip the rope in such a way that it ties itself into a knot.
“Most people have never heard of it, but you can find antique versions of it, handmade versions of it,” Stoecklein said. “It’s kind of a cult thing.”
Stoecklein’s own Cowboy Yoyo languished in the back of a closet until his uncle died. Then Stoecklein’s father found it and suggested he try again. Stoecklein practiced his rope-tossing skills while his wife watched one of her favorite shows, “Dancing With the Stars.” It took him three episodes to master the toy, which he likens to a puzzle.
“It requires a little bit of practice, a little bit of dexterity and some patience because it can be very frustrating – in a very good way,” Stoecklein said. “It’s fun to watch people try it. It’s not for everybody, though. Some people, after five attempts, give up on it and never touch it again.”
Stoecklein wanted to give Cowboy Yoyos to all of his employees, but he needed 100 of them and couldn’t find them for sale anywhere in those numbers. So he decided to make them himself at home. The wooden balls come from a Maine lumber mill, and the rope from a Maine company that makes sailing line. It’s perfect for playing with around a back yard fire pit.
“If you’re hiking,” Stoecklein said, “it’s the perfect thing to throw in your backpack.”
Although Stoecklein hopes to get Cowboy Yoyos into retail stores, for now they are sold only online at <URL destination=”http://cowboyyoyo.com/”>cowboyyoyo.com, where you can also see Stoecklein performing basic Cowboy Yoyo tricks.
They cost $21 for one, $39 for two, or $99 for a “six shooter.” A portion of every purchase is donated to the David R. Stoecklein Memorial and Educational Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to preserving the Western way of life through fine art and literature.