Appalachia children Games

Hide n Seek


Hide n seek was a game I greatly enjoyed as a child. I never heard the game called anything other than hide n seek until a couple Blind Pig readers referred to the game as whoppy hide. My Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has this to say about the game:

whoppy hide noun

A variant form hoopie hide.
B The children’s game hide and seek. Same as hide and whoop.
1939 Walker Mtneer Looks 7 And the game called “Hoopie-Hide” in Tuckaleechee is just plain “Hide-and-Seek” in Happy Valley. 1966-67 DARE (Burnsville NC, Gatlinburg TN, Maryville TN). 1973 GSMNP-74:25 We’d call it whoopyhide, but [they] call it hide and seek now. 1973 GSMNP-79:10 We’d use the big boulders that they’d scrape from the roads, beside the roads as our hiding places when we’d play whoopyhide. 1980 Smokies Heritage 224 Us boys liked the running games best, like “base,” “whoopee-hide,” and tag. 1996 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Jones, Ledford, Norris, Oliver).
[perh from the caller’s cry when beginning to search for those hiding]


B. Ruth shared how she played hide n seek when she was a kid:

Tipper, We counted potatoes to see who would be “it”…with four following the third potato. As each member fell out the last one was “it”. We picked a home place! This game was generally played between dusk and 11 o’clock on a summer night while all the adults were sitting around talking. We got a big juice can or bean can and placed it at the home base, usually a scrap of wood or a tree. Then we would count potatoes again to see who would get to “kick the can”. When the can was kicked the “It” had to run and get it and bring it back to home base while we all scattered to hide…”It” would start looking for us and yell out if “it” saw one of us by name, or tagging one of us before we could run in to “kick the can” again. Which would start the game again to the despair of the “IT”. I only remember once or twice slipping in behind the “It” and getting a kick of the can before getting tagged. This game would wear you out…plus hiding in the dark could be creepy at times. Sometimes it was played with a stick and called “hit the can” which was more dangerous! We also did the Eenie Meenie one too, to pick the “It” person. Sometimes we would pick teams…I guess we just made up our own rules as we went along. The worst part was a lot of us had pet dogs and they would always give away where you were hiding….


The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore shares an old variation of hide n seek where a rhyme was called out just before the hunting started:

Bushel of wheat bushel of rye All not hid holler I

Then if no one answered the call:

Bushel of wheat bushel of clover
All not hid can’t hide over
All eyes open Here I come 


When I was kid, we counted potatoes to figure out who would be ‘it’. Then we chose a base. Lots of times it was the back step of Mamaw and Papaw’s house, Uncle Henry’s house in later years, or a car parked in the yard. Whoever was it hid their head on base and counted loudly to a predetermined number while everyone else hid. Once the it person had counted they’d usually shout “Ready or not-Here I come!” and the game would commence. In our game if you made it back to base you were safe. My strategy was always the same try to hide in a spot that made it easy to sneak back to base while the seeker was out finding the other hiders. If the person who was it did find you in your hiding place you still had a chance to beat them back to base, but if the it person tagged you before you got back to base then you were it for the next game.

Hide n seek was one of Chatter and Chitter’s favorite games when they were little. They wanted to play in the house and they wanted to play the game over and over even though the little rats always hid in the same places.

One day they were begging me to play with them and I finally gave in saying “Alright but no one hide in the hall closet or behind the bathroom door. Try to find a new place to hide.”

I volunteered to be it first. I set in the living room with my eyes closed, counted, and then yelled I was coming to find them. As I started down the hallway I glanced into the foyer and seen a big lump under the rug. Chatter had indeed found her a new place to hide under the rug in the foyer. I laughed until I cried and she was so little she never did understand why I thought it was so funny, but she does now.


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  • Reply
    pippin Baker
    September 4, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Tipper, just had to visit for a minute, yes over here Australia, South Australia, where I was born, we called it HIDEY,,,, and it, was HE, for instance ” I’m gonna go HE; Just love your warmas molasses site.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    That brings back memories as a child. We played Hide and Go Seek at night time with our cousins. It was just them and us. No other kids around.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Miss Cindy has been missing for a couple of days. Hope she is alright! I always expect a good comment from her.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    We called it “hide-and-go-seek” and it was one of the most popular games of my childhood 🙂

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    August 7, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Dear Tipper, We played both hide and seek and kick the can. We also used both of the rhymes, sometimes one, sometimes the other, to decide who would be “it.” We also played it just as it was getting dark. I actually had mixed feelings about the game because we were always barefooted and I always stepped on one of those fat slugs that were in the yard at night in those days. I never see one anymore. My favorite game was “Mother, may I” which we also played in the yard, in the evening just after supper but way before dark. Those were wonderful times.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Growing up deep in the mountains we called it “Hidey-go-seek.” Nobody can play any harder or find more interesting things to do than a bunch of coal camp kids. We had fewer rules than one would think because parents were more trusting back then. So, played until it was too dark to find anyone. I lived there until the age of ten, and I learned more than I should have at that young age. That is where I got my mouth washed out with soap and water for repeating a word I heard, and to this day that word has never been repeated by me. Soap tastes terrible by the way!

    A rather troublesome memory was a bunch of us children playing until past bedtime in the old coal camp. I think there might have been a rather feeble effort to get us into our row of homes along the dusty road where we were playing. Anyway, suddenly appeared among us a sheet clad tall figure waving its arms, and making scary moaning sound. Children scattered and tripped and skinned knees trying to run to their homes. Dad was not happy, and he did speak to the neighbor, Aileen, who chose to scare us into the house instead of simply telling us it was time to come in. He was firmly against scaring children into behaving, and we never heard anything like some other children experienced. Some would tell children there was a “booger” in there to keep them out of a room, or even more common was if you didn’t behave, “a policeman will get you.” I always had a deep fear of total darkness for no apparent reason, even with all these precautions. Maybe it had to do with other adults using scare tactics for behavioral modification. I don’t know if it is common in other parts of Appalachia, but scaring children was a very common practice in my growing up years. I’m ever thankful it was not practiced by my parents.

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      I was threatened with reform school (farm school is how some said it). Sometimes I was threaten with being sent to Morganton. By that they meant the N.C. State Mental Hospital (Broughton) located in Morganton. Now I live near the hospital and have no fear of the place.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Our version of hide and seek was like yours, Tipper – counting out loud and then “Ready or not, here I come.”

    But in choosing not only who was to first be “it” in hide and seek, but in other games (such as who got to be the batter in rolly bat – which I assume most of your readers know about), we used a rhyme something like B. Ruth’s. It went like this:

    One potato, two potato, three potato, four
    Five potato, six potato, seven potato – OR

    Whoever was OR became “it” (or whatever the role was). I have no idea why the word Or was used, other than it rhymed with four.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      August 8, 2018 at 1:26 am

      Don….I always thought it was ore….We also played hide and seek like Tipper played with her children as I also played in the house with my grandchildren….Back in the day Kick the Can was to me the ultimate game of hide and seek and of course torment for the IT person…

      • Reply
        August 8, 2018 at 9:20 am

        Don…we said “more” instead of “or.” I remember that rhyme too and smiled.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 11:29 am

    My best place to hide ws in a cedar tree. No one ever found me. Several minutes after everyone else was found or got safely to base ‘It’ would give up and I was declared ‘Home Free’.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 11:24 am

    To choose “it” we’d say the bushel of wheat one above but with “ bucket” instead of “bushel.”
    We kids would be gathered in a circle with fists out and one would use a fist to hit the other kids’ fists but hit their own when coming to themselves in the circle while quoting the rhyme.

    Another one was:
    “Inka binka bottle of ink,
    One fell over and now you stink.”
    (Stink meaning out, not it).

    Another was:
    “Engine engine number nine,
    Coming down Chicago line.
    If the train should jump the tracks,
    Would you want your money back?”

    The child whose fist was just tagged would answer “yes” or “no” so the rhyme would continue:

    “Y-E-S spells ‘yes’ and you are not it.” (On “it,” that person was out from being chosen it.”

    I remember playing past dark at times too and we had what seemed like a huge yard but when I saw my childhood home later, it had shrunk.

    One time we were playing in the old hay barn which was built on a hillside. Rules discussed prior were that no one could climb down the hillside to the horse stalls (empty) below.

    My sister was “it” and she found 2 of us but couldn’t find my oldest brother. We hollered and hollered. “All clear.” (“It” gave up, you can come out safely). Still no big brother. So we discussed and figured since he’s oldest, bet he hid in the horse stalls just to show he can anyway.

    So, we went down the hill where the wildflowers grew and through tall grass. Entering the cool lower level and peeking in the empty horse stalls, we saw my brother sitting up looking dazed. He adamantly argued he hadn’t gone on purpose to the lower level, he had fallen through the floor.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 7, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Chatter made a beautiful picture. We use to play “whoopy-hide” near our big appletree just below the yard. It was forked about 3′ from the ground, and made a perfect place to play after dark. Mama had a clothes line near that tree and if you were about to get tagged, you forgot and got clotheslined. It’s a wonder someone didn’t break their neck, but we didn’t. …Ken

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 7, 2018 at 9:57 am

    We played outside most of the time. Hide and seek and tag were favorites. I vividly remember one of my brother’s friends scaring me playing hide and seek. He was wrapped up in an old coat in a dark corner of the back porch and let out a growl as I passed. I had an extreme crush on him–guess that’s why the vivid memory.

    We played a game we called stealing sticks. Each side had a pile of sticks guarded by a player. The object was to steal the other side’s sticks by sneaking over or running over. If you got tagged they kept you for their side.

    We did a lot of roaming the pine thickets and grape vine swinging. We all loved to ride down the trees which was forbidden. Built lean to shelters with the pine needles and fallen tree branches. Later on my best friend and I would take a quilt and our books and read there. Very peaceful especially when the wind was blowing.

  • Reply
    Daisy Gardner
    August 7, 2018 at 9:46 am

    So many versions of tag games. We had one where there was a mother bunny and eggs. She would give all her “eggs” a different color and the buyer would knock on her pretend door and ask “mother bunny, do you have any colored eggs for sale?” and she’d say “why yes, what color would you like?” “Do you have any red eggs?” asked the buyer, “why yes, I do” said mother bunny, and then the person who was the red egg would run around the house and try and get back to the bunny house before the buyer caught her. Ghost in the graveyard was my favorite, it had to be played in the dark, the person who was “it” would search and when he found a hidden player, he’d yell “ghost in the graveyard” and the found person was automatically “it” , when you heard the call “ghost in the graveyard” it was time to run to home base but you never quite knew who had been found and who was “it” so you were running toward home base in a crazy way trying to avoid everyone because you never knew who was gonna get you and make you “it”.
    I remember endless games of hide and seek with kids I baby sat and then my own kids, its funny I can remember telling them not to hide in their favorite spots too! Neat post, thanks for jarring those memories Tipper, great stuff to think on.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 9:22 am

    We called it “Hoopyhide” and Hide-N-Go-Seek. You got to put the “Go” in there to make it authentic.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      August 8, 2018 at 1:28 am

      Papaw…My Grandmother in NC…always called the game “Hoopyhide” as well….

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    August 7, 2018 at 9:21 am

    I remember those sweet games of youth…..Carefree and fun…..But some of the best times was when my children and I played hide and seek…..Then when their friends stayed over it was even more fun to hear all their hollers of delight and laughter!…..

    Your description of Chatter hiding under the rug is one of sheer beauty, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Jane W Bolden
    August 7, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Last week, I taught the potato game to two darling little girl while waiting at their father’s Chinese restaurant. They loved it.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 8:41 am

    These are wonderful variations.
    BTW – while most of your readers know what “countin’ potatoes” is , you may have a few who don’t: for those who don’t, fists look similar to potatoes so all participants hold one fist in the center of the circle; whoever called the game uses their other fist to “count” potatoes by hitting (gently, we hope) the others fists in sequence with (usually) the fourth one going “out”. The counting continues round and round (back and forth as you get to the last few) until all are out put one who is declared “It”.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 7, 2018 at 8:37 am

    We never called it anything but hide and seek. We played it just like you Tipper except we sometimes used the rhyme.

    I wish we had known about kicking the can like B.Ruth played.
    TMC mentioned getting clothes lined I climbed a tree in the dark. When I was spotted, I jumped and caught my feet on a clothes line. That really hurt. End of game.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 7, 2018 at 7:23 am

    We called it jide and seek too along with counting potatoes. Such fun as I recall. I was never good at hiding though

  • Reply
    Neva [Wyatt} Slocum
    August 7, 2018 at 6:18 am

    Our family also played “hide and seek” when camping. “It” would hide their head on the picnic table and the rest would hide just outside the campfire light. Even the adults would play. Another game me and my brothers would play with a ball, “evee, ivee over” one throwing the ball over the roof of our house and another trying to catch it..sometime if the ball got lost , one of my doll heads would be a good substitute much to my sorrow. We also played “baseball with the neighbor kids in their cow pasture using dried cow ‘pies” for bases. such are the memories.

    • Reply
      Dana Wall
      August 7, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      We played that game as well. The one who was it threw the old tennis ball over the garage roof to the other side. Someone there tried to catch it while the one who threw it ran around the garage to the other side with out being tagged out. The one throwing the ball called “Annie, Annie Over” to announce the throw. If it didn’t make it over the peak of the roof to roll down the other side, the thrower called, “PIG TAIL.” That meant he or she would throw the ball again and try to get it over the roof. “Annie, Annie,” or “evee, ivee,” the variations show one way languages change through children’s usage and oral history.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 5:31 am

    That brings back a lot of memories, playing outside was the the past time for us, and when company came over us kids would play past dark, I remember somebody got clothes lined by a guy wire off of a T.V. antenna pole one night, hard to see those things in the dark, it was funny then, but not to the person that got hurt.

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