Daughter of “Steady Eddy” Teaches Stilt-Walking Tradition to Her Children
Ashley McCauley spent her childhood walking on stilts in parades and fairs, and now she is passing along the family tradition to her children.
“It really was a family affair,” she said of her youth on stilts. “My Mom was our ‘Mom-ager’ who organized our events and made sure our outfits were washed and ironed, while my Grandma was the one to actually make all of our costumes.”
McCauley’s father, “Steady Eddy” began walking on stilts when he was 12 years old, practicing at the sawmill business his father owned. Her older brother, Travis, began walking on stilts when he was 11 months old, actually taking his second steps on stilts.
“My two other siblings and I followed suit, but I started walking when I was 3,” said McCauley. “We grew up walking in local parades, but as we got older it turned into a hobby that we spent every weekend in the summers doing.”
Steady Eddy first broke the Guinness Book of World Records in 1980, with stilts measuring 30 feet 3 inches. He continued to break his own record in 1981 in California, this time measuring 40 feet 2 inches. In 1986, the record was once again broken by Eddy in Tokyo, Japan, with stilts measuring 40 feet 6 inches. Finally in 1988, her dad broke his own record for the last time in Loyal with stilts that measured 40 feet 9 ½ inches.
“My oldest brother, Travis broke his record in 1998 at Universal Studios, Florida,” continued McCauley. “The stilts measured 40 feet 10 ¼ inch.”
McCauley enjoys stilt-walking because it forces her out of her comfort zone and provides entertainment to many. Though she started on stilts made by her father, all members of her family now use stilts specially designed for their own legs.
“It provides me an opportunity to be silly and vulnerable,” she said. “I love the smiles that stilt walking brings to children and adults. I honestly did not realize how unique stilt walking was until I was older. When I was a kid, I thought it was just something fun we did on the weekends as a family. Looking back, stilt walking really provided our family the opportunity to travel together and we made many memories because of it. I have met so many amazing people because of the opportunities that stilt walking provided us. We even had our own segment on Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”
McCauley practices on her stilts occasionally, and uses them for random jobs around the house, such as putting the star on the family Christmas tree.
“Because we have been doing it for so long, we do not necessarily need to practice like we used to, but leg training is still important as it definitely is a workout!” she said. “When my Dad and brother practiced for their record, they trained in an empty silo.”
“I think stilt walking is intriguing because it is different. Because the stilts are hidden, people look at you and are wondering how you are standing on them, how they are strapped on your legs, and what kind of balance it takes to walk,” she explained. “I get asked all the time, ‘How do you do that?!’ I never really know how to answer that, because to us, it is like riding a bike. We literally grew up on them.”
She added that stilt walking helped shape the person she is today, even inspiring her career choice of dental hygienist, after stilt walking helped her realize how much she enjoyed making people smile.
“I love the way stilt walking brought my family together,” she said. “We supported, encouraged, and believed in one another. Because of stilt walking, I feel like I can set ‘high’ goals (pun intended) and achieve them. None of us started out on 40-foot stilts, we started with small goals and continued to work hard to be better. Like anything in life, big goals and dreams take time, commitment, and a passion to make it happen.”
McCauley is excited and eager to share her family’s stilt walking tradition with her own children.
“As I began my own career, got married, and had two children, I took a break from stilt walking. I have done a few parades now as my kids have gotten older, and they absolutely love watching me,” she said. “It is time for them to learn the family tradition, as my older brothers have taught some of their children already.”