The man behind the whirly birds
By: Trish Hill
Anyone who has traveled Highway 111 from Overton County toward Pickett County has probably noticed a small sign on the right side of the road at the bottom of a curving driveway advertising Whirlybirds for sale.
It is not surprising that 91 year old Estes Speck, “Eck” to his friends, crafts a trade that involves wings. During his younger years he worked in the aircraft business starting in Battle Creek, Michigan, then at Lockheed in Marietta, Georgia and ended up in Tennessee to work at Avco Aircraft in Nashville.
Recently surviving a heart attack, this was not his first brush with a potential life threatening situation. He served in World War II from 1942 through 1945 in the medical department. Even though he had completed his service duty, he re-enlisted and served during the Korean War making him a true hero for our country during difficult times.
Not a man used to time on his hands and bored with retirement, he discovered 15 years ago that he enjoyed handcrafting and painting whirlybirds. He and his wife of 60 years, June, have opened a savings account for their five great grandchildren with the money raised from this unique hobby turned business.
While one may think of the whirlybird as just a fanciful lawn ornament, Beth Cummings of Byrdstown, had a special use for her purchase. When her 18 month old grandson, Jesse Cummings, died several years ago, she placed one at his gravesite. It’s bright orange wings spin whenever the wind blows for the sweet babe who rests there.
There is something for everyone among Mr. Speck’s creations. A partial list of his whimsical curios features many types of birds including: mallards, robins, eagles, quail, blue jays, chicks, ducks, parrots, owls, roadrunners, flamingoes, hummingbirds and penguins. He also offers bunnies, turtles, angels, football players, Grover, Barney the Dinosaur, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, too!
So next time you’re in the area and see that small sign on the side of the road, you may want to stop and check out the wares of the “Whirlybird Man.”