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|06-05-03: Retired farmer whirls away his time
|By JANIE SOUTHARD
The Daily Standard
Owen Weaver's mailbox post has a whirligig on top, so does his
clothesline poles, a couple fenceposts, the flower beds - and there are about 100 stored
in the garage.
Where they aren't, there are tubs and tables of plastic jugs waiting to
take their place in the world as, yes, whirligigs.
At a spunky 89 years old, Weaver has become the area's whirligig guy,
the Big Kahuna of the handmade flappy creations on a stake that circle endlessly in a
And, that's not just Mercer County breezes. He has sent whirligigs off
to several cities and states nationwide to friends and friends of friends who have admired
his handiwork. As well, it looks like he is branching out to the commercial market if the
whirligigs on the picnic tables at the Celina McDonald's are any indication.
"A friend of mine took three or four to decorate and said he was
going to give them to the girls at McDonald's. Then they fixed Oem up on the picnic
tables," he said shaking his head in disbelief.
But four whirlies is nothing. Weaver has made about 400 in just the
past two years. "Oh, I keep track. And I put my name on every one," said the
rural Mercer County resident who works from his barn on Oregon Road.
It is that pride of accomplishment and simply making other people happy
that is Weaver's reward, because he gives them away free.
Obviously a generous man, he has made teeny whirlies from medicine
bottles up to giant ones from five-gallon plastic jugs and everything in between.
"Let me tell you all plastic jugs are not the same. Some are real
thin. I call them flipsy. And some are heavy and kind of hard to cut. But others have
built-in designs, like Ocean Spray jugs or Gatorade. Those probably make the nicest
whirligigs," he told The Daily Standard on Tuesday at his kitchen table where he
chatted and carved yet another plastic job with his pocketknife.
His hands are steady and his three-sided cuts that make the wings are
true. In about 45 minutes Weaver can transform a cleaned-up jug into a spinning wonder.
"It's been about 30 years ago that I first saw one of these at a relative's house in
Michigan. Well, I studied it and thought, Owell, thunder, I can make one of those.' So I
came home and made a few," he said, now punching holes in the wings to fit in the
sturdy wires, which he trims to fit each jug.
Never one to rest at status quo, he has now improved his product.
A while back he noticed the top and bottom holes in the whirlies out in
his yard were growing larger and larger with the friction of the spinning motion, so now
he has developed a reinforcement method using the plastic covers of spray cans.
The whirligigs aren't his first hobby. That honor goes to jigsaw
puzzles - the 1,000-piece variety of which he has 16 completed and framed hanging in the
house and several out on the garage wall.
A widower and a retired farmer, he said he likes to work with his
hands, and he doesn't like to throw anything away.
He also likes to ride his bike three or four miles a day on a
county-square mile route that takes him by the house where he was born about a mile east
of his present farm home.
"After my heart attack a couple years ago, the doctor said I
should ride an exercise bike, so I got one for bad weather. I've got over 8,000 miles on
it now," he said, cutting and bending wire from a roll to finish off another gig.
One day he decided to build his own exercise bike and put it out in the
barn in case he takes a mind for a change of scenery. And he did build one from old
combine parts and an even older Schwinn bike frame someone left at a house he sold.
"I put plastic wings on the back tire spokes to act as a fan
when I ride in hot weather," he said, walking briskly out to the barn to demonstrate
his creation. "The cat used to sit out there beside me and enjoy the fanned air while
But, if the weather is bad and he is bored with stationary biking, he
turns to indoor walking on a route in the garage.
"One day I calculated 52 revolutions around the car equaled a half mile.
So every now and then I get my exercise that way," he said.
His hobbies and exercise programs keep him busy and also serve as
"The day I learned you were coming out here to talk to me, I
didn't know what to expect and it kinda flustered me. So I sat down and made eight
whirligigs that afternoon," said Weaver, who will be 90 in August.
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