All I want for Christmas is a whimmy diddle

Posted by | December 2, 2011


The whimmy diddle (sometimes called a Hooey Stick or Gee-Haw) is an Appalachian folk toy that has been around for centuries. It’s fashioned from two sticks of laurel or rhododendron into a rubbing stick and a slightly thicker notched stick. The whimmy diddle makes a characteristic sound when the one stick is rubbed back and forth across deep notches in the other. A spinner nailed to one end of the serrated stick revolves in response to the vibrations.

By knowing the secret of the whimmy diddle you can make the spinner turn right or left at will, hence, the name “gee-haw.” Of course, you should try to keep time to music. Legend has it these “gee” and “haw” movements also serve as a reliable a lie detector, but if you believe that there’s a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in buying.The gee and the haw commands come from the days when horses and mules pulled wagons and plows.

Today, thousands of wooden versions are sold each year, and a Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle Competition is held every summer at Asheville NC’s Folk Art Center. The top whimmy diddlers receive moon pies and T-shirts. The champion is presented with a certificate, and of course entitled to all the bragging rights.

appalachian history
appalachian mountain history
appalachian stories
Appalachian Studies
Appalachia

4 Responses

  • hmdenton says:

    I will be happy to provide the Gee-Haw sticks for you.

    Send contact NFO.

  • hmdenton says:

    I will be happy to provide the Gee-Haw sticks for you.

    Send contact NFO.

  • I would love to get in touch with the person who is willing to provide the gee-haw sticks. I would enjoy including a whimmy diddle competition at one of our events this summer. Sounds like so much fun..

    Thanks, JOY

  • Zach Bleacher says:

    Hello! Thanks for the great article! I am attempting to research the Whimmydiddle (Hooey Stick, Voodoo Wand, Alchemist’s Stick, etc) to its earliest source. Perhaps a written reference? Since its resurgence in the Sixties, I can’t seem to find anything earlier —except an “Old Timer’s” recollection— than just before the turn of the century. I’ve read elsewhere that it can be traced to the Cherokee & possibly to Medieval Europe (Czechoslovakia?) as well as Appalachia. Any help is appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance!
    Zach

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