FLOYD — Roger “R.O.” Slusher lived out his entire life on his family farm in Floyd County.
The World War II veteran had a passion for music — he and his wife, Evelyn, were members of Floyd’s Over the Hill Gang bluegrass band.
And he was also an inventor.
In his childhood he’d been entertained by limber jacks, little wooden dolls with jointed limbs that, when vibrated, do a clacking dance in time to the music.
About 1980, when Slusher turned 60, he contemplated making limber jacks of his own by hand. Evelyn challenged him to improve on the design — since people usually dance in couples, there should be limber jacks that can dance in couples, too.
Slusher died in 2006, his wife in 2011. His dancing couples comprise a posthumous folk art exhibition in Floyd’s tiny Old Church Gallery, next to Hotel Floyd. The dolls will be on display for two more weekends, and then it’s likely they will never be reunited, said gallery director Catherine Pauley.
His design innovation was based on a bit of rustic technology available at the farm — the doubletree, a device that allows a farmer to hitch two or more horses to a cart. He made smaller versions of the doubletree that resembled wooden clothes hangers and balanced them with a doll on each end. When the hanger is suspended in the middle by a string, vibrating the string makes both dolls dance.
“He’s the first person that ever did it that we’re aware of,” Pauley said.