Freeland man’s invention has Whidbey Island buzzing
By BEN WATANABE
South Whidbey Record Sports, South Whidbey School District, South Whidbey Fire/EMS
July 10, 2011 · Updated 11:33 AM
FREELAND — The buzz and flutter of a hummingbird is unmistakable when it’s a few feet away.
It sounds like a “whhrr” that buzzes and hums and is heard before it’s seen.
Imagine it five inches away.
That’s what inspired John Henderson, a semi-retired Freeland man, to make a hat from a hummingbird feeder. Two, actually.
“It’s fun. It’s whimsical,” Henderson said of his invention, called the Hummer Hat.
The whimsical-nature of birds feeding only inches away enticed Diane Driver to purchase one for her husband, David Albright.
“My first reaction was ‘Oh my god, this is a hat for my husband,’” Driver said, adding that she gave the Hummer Hat as a Father’s Day gift.
Henderson came up with the idea in the fall of 2008 and began making Hummer Hats soon after.
He buys used helmets and applies rods to them that extend a few inches away from the wearer’s face, and then hangs the hummingbird feeders from those rods. The Hummer Hats cost $37 and shipping is free if it is ordered on Whidbey Island.
Since then, he’s sold 35 Hummer Hats.
“Nothing I make is practical, or makes sense,” Henderson said.
The Hummer Hat made plenty of sense to Sego Jackson. The Clinton resident purchased one for his partner Raven Jirikovic, also a South Whidbey resident.
“It was a gift from my sweetie,” Jirikovic said.
“The kid in me just loves it,” she added.
Both Jackson and Jirikovic are wildlife and bird-watching enthusiasts. Jirikovic said she has three feeders around her house on South Whidbey.
But watching hummingbirds through the window doesn’t compare to watching them and feeling the air displaced by the fast flapping wings.
“It was exciting. It was thrilling,” Jirikovic said. “The hummers came right up on my ears and into my face.”
Jirikovic said both Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds fed inches from her face.
“I got to see them up close,” she said. “I got to hear their calls and, boy, do they talk a lot. I could actually feel their wing beats next to my cheek. That was exciting.”
Henderson grew up on Whidbey Island during the summers at the Freeland home he now lives in with his wife, Judy Feldman.
Henderson sells the Hummer Hats from his home and on his Etsy site, www.etsy.com/shop/royroadfishcompany.
In 87 Etsy sales, Henderson has only one complaint — that the hummer hat was “obviously used.”
Since then, he makes it clear the helmets are purchased from thrift stores and cleaned. He estimated that he buys one helmet for every 10 he sees at various thrift shops.
Feldman and Henderson are a do-it-yourself couple, at least when arts and crafts are involved. Feldman creates jewelry in her spare time.
“We’re both just artsy, craftsy, hippie, want-to-be-hippies,” Henderson said.
Jirikovic and Jackson saw the conversation-starter potential of the hat, and Jirikovic said she planned to take it to an upcoming community potluck.
“I don’t think it’ll be put on a shelf by any means,” she said.
Henderson’s instructions for first-time wearers are to relax, close their eyes and focus on breathing in, then breathing out.
Once the wearer hears the hummingbird, he tells them to open their eyes, slowly.
“It’s intense,” he said.
Driver said giving the Hummer Hat to her husband was an easy decision because it matched his personality.
“It’s just an ingenious idea, and my husband’s a genius,” Driver said. “My husband’s a geek like the guy who made it. And my husband has a wild sense of humor, like the guy who made it.”
The inventiveness of the Hummer Hats led Jirikovic to regret not owning one sooner. She was an advisor for the gardening club at Coupeville Elementary School and said the students would have adored the funky feeders.
“I think the kids would dig it,” she said.
Humor and fun were the common denominator between seller and buyer. It’s hard to stay content with a home hummingbird feeder, though, when you can wear one on your head.
“People who have regular feeders out in front of their houses don’t have nearly as much fun as this man,” Feldman said of Henderson.Contact South Whidbey Record Sports, South Whidbey School District, South Whidbey Fire/EMS Ben Watanabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-221-5300.