No Rain, No Lightening, just a Lot of Thunder from the Gourd Club

Martha Spillane

Last year, we exceeded more than 100 consecutive days without rain, and they’re saying this year we’re going to have another “Nonsoon” year. Gourd Club members are busy at work designing one-of-a-kind thunder gourds in the hopes they might bring about some greatly needed rain.

How did it begin? Ron Swank is the original creator of the thunder gourd. He grew up in Argentina, and while in college he attended a class called Intro to Native American Flutes, and started making flutes out of sunflower stocks. He later came upon what is called the thunder tube and wondered if he could make one with a gourd. The rest is history.

So, what is a thunder gourd? A thunder gourd is a gourd with the bottom cut off so a drum head and spring can be attached. When the spring wiggles, it vibrates the drum head, which in turn creates sound waves inside the gourd. The gourd amplifies the waves and releases them through other holes in the gourd which sounds like thunder. Each drum reverberates differently depending on the size of the gourd, the size of the drum head or opening, shapes and placement of holes in the drum, and smoothness of the inside of the gourd.

A crash course on how to make a thunder gourd. You first need to find the gourd (gourds can be purchased locally at Wuertz Gourd farm in Casa Grande) with the shape you like. The bottom of the gourd is cut off, sanded and hollowed out. A skin is applied and a metal spring is inserted into the skin. And voila. When the gourd is shaken by the neck, you’ll look up and think, “Was that thunder I just heard?” You might even wipe some rain from your face.

Bet you’re thinking, “Well that’s easy.” And you would be right—but I did leave out some instructions. So, if you’re interested in learning about thunder gourds, sign up for a general orientation class, and learn more about the wonderful world of gourds.

The photo shows only a few of our beautifully created pieces. Our showcase displays one-of-a-kind pieces from our members and some are for sale. We’re open Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We’re a fun group that’s always willing to help and inspire.