Appalachia Through My Eyes Folklore

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Granddaddies

I call it a Granddaddy-do you call it a Daddy Long Legs or something else? When the girls were babies I didn’t want them to be overly scared of creepy crawlies so when they pointed one out I didn’t make a big deal out of it even though I didn’t like them myself. Over the years I’ve wished more than once that I had passed my fears on to them, like the time they brought me the handful of hairless baby mice they found in the wood pile or the time I saw 2 long kicking Granddaddy legs sticking out of the corner of Chitter’s mouth. I never found the rest of him I’m positive it’s cause she ate him.

I’ve heard the story of the Granddaddy being the most poisonous spider-but it can’t bite you because it’s fangs/mouth is too small. You can go here to find out if it’s true or not (it’s not). Frank C. Brown’s collection of North Carolina Folklore has this to say about Granddaddies:

7611 When ones cows have strayed from home they can be located by saying this to the granddaddy spider: “Granddaddy, Granddaddy where are my cows?” He will point one foot in the direction in which they are.

I asked Pap if he’d ever heard of a granddaddy helping you find your cows. After he quit laughing he said no he must have missed that one.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Angela Canady
    November 16, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Yes, my family is from WV and we always held them by the back leg and said “Granddaddy Longleg, show me a cow” and he’d point with that front foot in the direction of the cows.

  • Reply
    Bobby Title
    June 11, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Until a spider bit me on my chest one night while I was asleep and by morning had caused a huge red weal that sent me to Urgent Care, I’d always had a live and let live attitude toward house spiders. “Friendly” I though of them as. However, after the episode above which cost me a pretty penny, I changed my opinion and now quickly dispatch every house spider I see (though I do apologize to them for doing so.) Daddy Longlegs are exempt from this fatwah. They stay out of my way and I stay out of theirs.

  • Reply
    Delores "Rusty" Ellis
    July 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Grasshoppers, oh yeh! Grew up with ’em in Indiana, North Carolina and now here in Tucson.
    But, hey, what about my granddaughter jumping out of her sleep and bed to discover a cockroach had fallen on her forehead. She got really creeped out, the type of person who runs
    at the site of any critter that crawls and spins webs and lives
    in the swamp. I told her she hadn’t lived til she caught site of a mesquite beetle here in the desert. I thought it was dog do
    when I first saw it. CREEPY. Remember the fiddle tune cricket on the hearth? I was fiddlin’ one day with friends in the living room and saw a cockroach climbing my fireplace hearth. And they say I’m “buggy”….mmmmm?
    Rusty Ellis, Tucson, AZ [email protected]

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    June 14, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Well, growing up here in Knoxville, Tennessee we always called them Grandaddy Long Legs. If they come around I just grab em by a leg and sling em away.
    We call Lightning Bugs….Lightning Bugs and baby frogs Tadpoles. Then there are Water Spiders.
    It would be nice when someone says, “In my neck of the woods we…” to put where their neck of the woods is. I like knowing who says what where.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    June 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I’m late, but we would always hold the grandaddy by the back leg and recite: Grandaddy, grandaddy, which-a-way’d the cows go! It was Mother’s way of keeping us entertained–cheaply.

  • Reply
    Melissa P (misplaced Southerner)
    June 14, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Always called them Daddy Longlegs! Played with them all the time in the mountains. They are the ONLY spider (even though I’ve heard they aren’t technically a spider) that I will rescue and put back outside. Yes, we have them in Michigan which is oddly comforting. Had heard that they were extremely poisonous, too. Never worried about it because their mouths are so small and I figured I’d built up good karma from saving so many. Nice to know they aren’t deadly. I’m smiling over the pointing the way to the cows…First time I’ve ever heard that one.

  • Reply
    June 13, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Georgie-I don’t have a clue : ) But maybe someone else will!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    June 12, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Too funny! The picture of Daddy Longlegs (that’s what I call him!) two kicking legs handing out of Chitter’s mouth had me laughing out loud and reading your post to my husband. I grew up carrying Daddy Longlegs around in my hands, but don’t ever recall eating one. LOL~
    Didn’t know he could help me find the cows, though…

  • Reply
    June 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Daddy longlegs in Oklahoma….

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Hey Tipper,
    Ewwww! I can’t imagine kicking Granddaddy longlegs hanging out of my child’s mouth…
    It makes me gag just to think about it….but of course I have had those similar episodes raising two boys..
    It is amazing what they can put in their mouth even with you screaming to stop and racing to get to them before they do it! Yuk! I have a story about one of mine but can’t think about repeating it here, without getting sick to my stomach!…Ha
    That said, I used to play hand games with my children and grandchildren, like (here is the church, steeple, doors, etc and clapping games as well! )…A few of them were learning tools!
    Cup your hands with the fingers touching each hand, open them until they spread out flat, with palms and fingers still touching, open and close them two or three times fast while asking the child to guess what it is?…You can give the hint that it is an insect, (without getting scientific, actually arachnid!)…When they give up tell them it is a Five legged Granddaddy Longlegs doing push-ups on a mirror!…The learning tool:…Spiders have 8 legs and bugs have 6. It helps them remember! At least it worked for my kids! By the way if you ever observe Granddaddy long legs you will see them doing push-ups on basement walls or the side of the house!….I always wondered if that was a scare tactic they used when you got to close to them, they kind of bounce like they might jump on you!…Also they do lift a leg and point….but don’t always follow the first point ‘cause they will sometimes point a front right leg as well as a back left leg at the same time! Ha They do this just to confuse you! I always heard if you asked about anything lost they would point in the right direction, but never heard specifically cows! We are a little short on Granddaddy longlegs this year…it has been too dry…once things moisten up around here they will arrive on the side of the house in droves..
    I always heard they were poison too, but the mouth parts were to small to bite…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    June 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I call them Daddy Long Legs and we are blessed with an abundance of them.

  • Reply
    Lisa @ Two Bears Farm
    June 12, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I never heard that legend about the poison or the legend of the cows. Interesting!

  • Reply
    June 12, 2011 at 9:47 am

    We call them Daddy Long Legs here. I got the willies picturing legs sticker out of her mouth. Never heard about them finding cows, but love the idea. Have a great day!

  • Reply
    June 12, 2011 at 8:46 am

    When I was little I was scared of Grandaddy Long Legs. My Mama would say, ‘That’s just a poor old Granddaddy Long Legs.’ IT worked like a charm on me. I never heard that they were poisonous, but their beak to weak to penetrate skin until a friend from Colorado told me that. She said she heard it from a science teacher. I tired telling her ‘it’s just a poor old daddy long legs’ but it had no effect. She lived in fear of the mutant Grandaddy Long Legs who could penetrate skin. Incidentally, the same is said of Coral Snakes. They are a danger to pets, but not really to humans because of the placement and small size of their fangs.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Sandra-I hate walking through webs too. We don’t sing Rank Strangers-but I love the song too!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    June 11, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Grandaddies-I used to play with them when I was a kid. I threw one on my neighbor & she had an absolute hissy, screaming I was trying to kill her! That was the first time I heard they were poisonous. Just the other day, a boy thought I was gonna die for sure when I plucked one off Mitchell’s shirt. Some of us need to get outside more often-

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    June 11, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    We called them granddaddy spiders or granddaddy longlegs and all of my childhood we knew that you could ask the granddaddy spider where the cows were and he would point in that direction. Of course, we were never actually in a cow-finding mode; it was just for our entertainment.
    I’ve always been told that their closest relatives are scorpions and not arachnidas.

  • Reply
    Ron Corley
    June 11, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Oh my goodness Tipper … Daddy Long Legs (as we always called them back in Colorado) are the spiders that I am the least afraid of! And that was the same as a child. Never, ever have I heard that they were poisonous … in fact, just the opposite. In my lifetime, I’ve probably handled thousands of these little harmless creatures. Nothing to fear with these … I find them rather cute.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    We call them granddaddy long legs; I’m not afraid of them but don’t want one crawling on me. They stink too when crushed.
    The folklore tell about the cows is sorta like “a horsehair turning into a worm”.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    June 11, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    tipper how you make my days.. lol i laughed when you said what grandpap said about the little legs showing the way to the cows.. as for me…. i dont like ANY kind of spider.. even if it has granddaddy legs.. my brothers called them daddy long legs and loved to throw them on me.. so with four brothers who loved to torture their sister.. the subject still makes me queasy.. but i adore your stories and would stand back and watch a granddaddy tell the farmer where his cows were.. rofl
    sending much love and ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve always called them daddy long legs. As a child I used to catch them and let them crawl up and down my arms, though I don’t think I have ever eaten one! Nowadays I catch them with my grandaughter Kate, even though I live in terror of all other spiders.
    I love the old tale about them helping to find cows, but I must say they’ve never helped me locate any of my mislaid garden tools!

  • Reply
    Dorothy Sanderson
    June 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I love the story about Daddy Longlegs pointing the way to the cows. Yes I said “Daddy Longlegs” That what we say in Kansas.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    We call them Daddy Longlegs. Yesterday I found a nasty looking red/brown spider in the soil by a rosebush. It was thin and scampered quite fast. Any idea what variety of spider that would be?

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I call them granddaddy long legs. I’m not afraid of them but I wouldn’t eat one either. EWWWWWWW!!!!
    I’ve heard that about them being poisonous, too. I’m off to check out your link.
    Oh, I can just hear Pap laughing. LOL

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    June 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

    They are granddaddies in my neck of the woods but I’m with Pap on never having heard about them helping to find the cows. I put up my first farm post today. Try to keep cool and keep on gardening!

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I wonder if those Granddaddies had
    a good taste. Only Chitter would
    know! When my oldest granddaughter
    was just crawling she got into a
    patch of ladybugs (those speckled
    Voltswagons) and when her mama
    hollared at her, she just smiled and there were pieces of glitter all over her teeth. What little
    girls won’t do! And we also had a
    cow when I was little, but I don’t
    remember anyone asking a daddy long legs which direction the cow
    was in. Nice post…Ken

  • Reply
    Barbara Johnson
    June 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

    We call the Daddy Long Legs..and if you kill one it is sure to rain!

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Down here in east Texas, we call ’em daddy longlegs. They must be a different species though ’cause all I’ve ever seen were dark brown to black.
    Reading the reference material leads me to believe ours are true daddy longlegs and not the spider variety as I always wondered about the single section of body.
    Thanks for “spicing” up my morning read.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I’ve always called them granddaddys and sometimes just them ole long legged spiders. Never have liked the things. Have heard they were also poison.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    June 11, 2011 at 9:11 am

    We called them Grandaddies, Tipper.I remember when my twins were little, I found Lucy with a medium size miller in her mouth and then she threw a fit cause I took it away from her. Ya’ll have a blessed day.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 11, 2011 at 9:06 am

    They are scary looking things, we call them daddy Longlegs

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 8:15 am

    i vote with granddaddy long legs, but have heard daddy long legs to. comes from half life in three states. never heard the story and i laughed too. i don’t like them at all. have not seen one in years, but my friend that lives here says her garage is full of them. i have not checked to see if it is so. our yard is full of spiders and their webs. 4 different species. i knock the web down and they build it back. i want to kill them but hubby says they eat mosquitoes, but if i tear down the web they can’t catch them. i really hate walking through a web and having the feeling something is crawling on me. does your family sing Rank Strangers? i have been listening to it, heard it on bluegrass station this morning.

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    June 11, 2011 at 7:49 am

    We call them Granddaddy Long Legs down here in Spartanburg Co.-carol

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 11, 2011 at 7:33 am

    I call them Grandaddy Spiders. I consider them the gentle giants of the spider world. I don’t deliberately kill them….unless they are in the house.
    Maybe Chitter will now be immune to spider bites…lol!
    When they came in with the hairless baby rats, did you let them keep them?!?
    I’m glad you didn’t teach them to be afraid. Their life will be easier without that. When the Deer Hunter was little I caught my Aunt Ruth trying to make him afraid of snakes. Her intent was good, it was for his own protection. I had to really work at overcoming what she told him. I wanted him to have a healthy respect for snakes but not be afraid of them. I took him to a zoo where he could hold a beautiful big King snake. It worked, he is not afraid of snakes but he has a healthy respect for them. He doesn’t harm a harmless snake but doesn’t hesitate to kill those copperheads that are in such abundance around your house.

  • Reply
    June 11, 2011 at 7:12 am

    That is a cute and funny story. I have to say ewwwww on the legs sticking out of Chitter’s mouth. We also called them Daddy Long Legs and I didn’t know they were poisonous 😮

  • Reply
    canned quilter
    June 11, 2011 at 6:38 am

    I’m with Pap as I missed that one too. We call them Grandaddy Long legs and like you I had heard that they were extrememly poisonous but couldn’t bite. Guess that was wrong : ) My kids used to love to catch them and play with them.

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