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How to Scare Crows and Cultivate a Better You

Jamie Cearley, PhDScarecrows, those lonely icons that embody the heart and soul of rural America, we all love them. But do they really work?

These days, more often than not, they find themselves bringing smiles as fall decorations. They certainly work in that regard. However, they were originally designed to elicit fear in birds, hence the name. Scarecrows are still occasionally enlisted in this effort today on small farms and homesteads. Do scarecrows really frighten crows?

Scarecrow on tractor

CrowSome kinds of scarecrows do frighten away crows. The original kind were especially effective. That is because historically speaking, scarecrows were children. They would watch the fields for the arrival of pesky birds and run flailing their arms and throwing rocks to scare them away from the newly planted seeds. Unfortunately, the Black Plague took out a significant number of these little bird frighteners. Hence, farmers began creating the stuffed model we are more familiar with today.

Whether running children or stuffed clothing with gourd heads are actually effective to any large degree in increasing crop production is speculation. However, there are two things you can do that will unquestionably maximize the impact of your scarecrow.

 Two tips to make your scarecrow more effective:

Change your scarecrow often.

Faceless ScarecrowShakespeare recognized this attribute of failing scarecrows in "Measure for Measure" where he wrote:

"We must not make a scarecrow of the law, Setting it up to fear the birds of prey, And let it keep one shape, till custom make it Their perch and not their terror."

If your scarecrow never changes, it will soon lose its effectiveness to alter the behavior of the crows. Its value will be diminished to a perch on which individuals sit and watch the world go by, barely noticed.

The more unusual your scarecrow the better.

Merely exchanging one scarecrow for another of the same nature isn’t good enough. The new scarecrow must be unfamiliar to warrant the attention of the birds. The moment your scarecrow simply looks like another token member of the crowd your efforts at affecting crows have become fruitless.

As one of the most famous scarecrows of all time put it himself, in reply to Jack Pumpkinhead's remarks on his rather odd new leg, "That proves you are unusual, and I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed." – The Scarecrow. "The Marvelous Land of Oz" by Lyman Frank Baum.

Did you know there is a sense in which we are all scarecrows?

We are all placed here with the opportunity to make the world a more productive place. We all have the capacity to have an effect, but many of us would rather serve as perches.

The same two keys that make a scarecrow effective in increasing production in the field will allow us as individuals to have a maximum impact in the plot we find ourselves.

crowd of scarecrowsWork to change yourself, not the world.

Keep molding into a better you over time.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

Stop trying to be like everyone else.

There is strength in diversity. Individuality is the fuel that drives collective exceptionalism.

Be the best you. Do scarecrows really work? It depends.

Would you like to read more stories like this? Please visit my website for more Mental Morsels with Dr. Cearley. Learning life principles from the farm.