No, I’m not speaking in tongues. This is the name of an Appalachian folk toy that, based on this video, was very easy to make, and didn’t cost a dime. That last was an important criterium for all things Appalachian, as it was and still is one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the country.
The Whimmy Diddle went by other names as well, including Whammy Doodle, Hoodoo Stick, Ouija Windmill, Hooey Stick and VooDoo Stick. It consists of a notched stick with a propeller on the end. When you rub the notches with another stick and put pressure on the notched stick with your thumb or forefinger, the propeller will spin right or left (“gee” or “haw” respectively, if you were herding cattle or oxen in those mountains). It’s a pretty neat trick, and according to this article, it may date back as far as ancient China.
Having grown up rather poor myself, I have always admired the innovation of poor people. They learn how to entertain themselves with practically nothing. That’s an impressive skill that really ought to be marketable. But then you have to also jump over the hurdle of living in a remote area with very little opportunity. This country really should tap into this resource more often.
I wouldn’t have learned about this little toy were it not for having read the book by Kim Michele Richardson called The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. It’s about the packhorse librarians of Kentucky, whom I’ve blogged about here, as well as the Blue Fugates, whom I’ve long wished to learn more about, so naturally when I came across this title I had to read it. And I highly recommend it. It teaches you a lot about the hardscrabble life of the mountain people in this area of the country. It’s a fascinating read.
I don’t know about you, but I’m just happy to live in a world where something called the Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle exists.
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