WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, Reuters -- A 94-year-old folk artist tied Saddam Hussein's execution noose using the rigging of an historic warship, then risked her life to save the rope from a lynch mob, the White House said today.
Elizabeth "Granny" Knott of York, PA., created the huge noose at the request of President Bush, spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.
"The First Lady is much impressed with Ms. Knott's so-called 'primitive' rope work, which, as most of you know, preserves the craftsmanship of the past: clothes lines, goat tethers, lassos, ladders, sailors' riggings."
Snow said the National Archives provided Knott with rope from the USS Bonhomme Richard, which was commanded by John Paul Jones and sank after its crew boarded and captured a British frigate in 1779. The rope survived because Jones had lashed himself to a mast with it to keep his footing during part of the four-hour battle.
Knott tied the noose and tested it on a dress-maker's mannequin, Snow said. She also tried to test it on a stray cat, but "Saddam" wriggled free with minor injuries and is now a beloved pet in her home.
The government attempted to keep the identity of the noose-maker secret. But word leaked out. A mob of capital punishment foes brandishing torches tried to force their way into her home, intent on lynching the noose, according to Snow.
"She shamed them into leaving," Snow said. When reporters asked him how, he paraphrased poet John Greenleaf Whittier:
"Shoot if you must this old gray head,
But spare the tyrant's rope, she said."