Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle


Glad you ask! On September 20th and 21st, I’ll be attending the 28th annual Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle Contest.

I’m sure there will be some Gee Haw Whimmy Diddles to try for yourself. The Southern Highland Craft Guild in Asheville, NC is home to the contest. That is just one of the fun treats and attractions for the day. I’ll also be watching the Apple Chill Cloggers and listening to Orville Hicks spin a tale. Orville is called the master of the Jack Tale and  has been named a North Carolina Treasure.

There will be a demonstration on heritage toys. One of the games is called Jack Straws. The original Jack Straws is set of miniature farm implement tools. You gather them up and let them go. Each person tries to remove a tool without upsetting the bunch. Or you can decide to watch the demonstrations and explanations on beekeeping, canning and preserving, spinning, quilting—and anything else that makes the Southern Appalachian history what it is today.

Growing heirloom apples by Tom Brown is a must on my list. I hope to meet Peggy Poe Stern the famous Appalachian fiction writer.

As they say down here—a good time is to be had by all!  

Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle 

Notched Stick link
A most interesting and amusing toy is one that has been made out of mountain laurel in Appalachia. It has been considered a folk toy for a long time and is referred to as a Gee-Haw Whimmy Diddle4; it is called a “notched stick” in this writing. Excellent handcrafted toys of this description have been purchased from Guy’s Folk Toys, Jack Guy Home Industries, Beech Creek, North Carolina.

The image shown to the left was scanned from Miller’s article1. His description of the toy is as follows:

The toy is made of “a slender stick of some 6 or 8 inches long, of square or rectangular cross section, a quarter-inch or so on an edge, to the end of which a propeller is attached. The stick is notched with a rasp or file for 3 or 4 inches, the notches being one-eighth inch deep, more or less, across one face. The propeller is a sliver of wood, 2 inches long, roughly, one-half inch wide, and about one-sixteenth inch thick…This strip is drilled with a small hole and held to the notched end of the stick by a brad or nail. If, now, the notched stick is stroked back and forth along the notches with another stick the propeller is made to whirl. The “secret” of the device lies in two details—in the hole in the propeller and in the method of stroking. Regarding the stroking, this is best done along a corner…Regarding the hole, this can be a round hole drilled ever so slightly offcenter or a hole somewhat off-round, elliptical, say. Either provides an eccentric mounting…A very rapid whirling can be achieved by very rapid stroking.”

The propeller can be made to turn in either direction. While stroking, if the index finger is laid over the stick and allowed to touch the opposite side, the propeller will spin in one direction. If instead of the index finger touching the opposite side, the thumb is advanced to touch the closer side during stroking, the propeller will spin in the opposite direction.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. gail says:


    You are the best PR woman that NC ever had! You ought to get paid for the great job you do to promote NC and encourage tourism!

    I love Asheville…we passed through there on our way to the Beach last summer and also stopped in Saluda, another really cute town with artists an adorable shops.


    *** Gail, I love Tennessee too! We lived in Oak Ridge just after my husband retired from the Air Force. We still have family there. I sold log homes when I lived there! Or tried to—we moved about a yr after living there. We left to buy a business elsewhere. It’s not so different than here. Same hillbillies.

    You can blame my great aunt for the zeal about NC. She made sure I knew every hoot and hollar. You need to come back to NC and pass this way. It won’t take you long. I live in a small town with a big heart. I lived a lot of other places and have returned home to be a North Carolinian.


  2. I have a couple of these from Virginia, where I grew up. Such fun.

    ** Then that should be your next post! You doing the Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle. I can’t be the only one having a good time.


  3. Frances says:

    Hi Anna, that brought back memories. We used to live in Kingsport, TN and those same types of crafts were shown at the local arts and crafts fairs. Nothing as organized as those around Asheville though. Did you see we bought The Hop ice cream shop in Asheville on Merrimon? I have two paintings by an artist in Jonesborough, TN of Orville Hicks at the storytelling festival there. She did a series of local scenes of Jonesborough and the storytelling festival is the biggest deal they have. I love the Appalachian area and its history and beauty. We are on the other side of the mountains now.

    Frances at Faire Garden

    ** Frances.. I am over the top excited for you and your family. I’m going to read the link and fill in on the details. I will be up there over the next two months on several occasions. You can bet I’ll stop in at The Hop in Asheville.

    The Gee Haw Whimmy diddle seems to evoke a lot of memories for me. It brings back smells and flashbacks that are comforting. I can’t wait to hear Orivlle—-made me excited that you knew who he was! And you got a painting of him too…you are my kind of gal. Your gardens look awesome and I really enjoyed your last post on New Design.


  4. pgl says:

    Sounds like an interesting contest. All the events they have planned sound great.

    *** I like anything about NC and the heritage. Fortunately, we have others who do too. Most of the great colleges around here are host to all kind of demonstrations of traditional and organic living. It is loads of fun cause the people you meet are just like you—a gardener.


  5. Gee Haw Who? :). That sounds like a lot of fun, do you go every year and do you have one of these thingies? I bet it will be beautiful in the mountains at the end of September 🙂

    Have a great day Anna 🙂

    *** I had one as a kid. It was just something you got every trip to the mountain house. I use to be pretty good at making it change directions. You have to practice a lot. I try to go to everything that NC host. I don’t often make it to the things down east because of the long drive. It can take 8 or more hours to get from my house to the Outer Banks of NC.


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