By Lois Hoffman
There are some feisty folks hanging around the countryside these days. Scarecrows are as much a part of the fall season as pumpkins, bonfires and Halloween. Once created to scare pesky crows and other birds from gardens and fields, their primary job of late is to add a touch of whimsy in autumn.
Fall is my favorite season because it is usually colorful, cheery and bright. I guess that’s why I like scarecrows-when you see them they tend to make you smile and think of the brighter side of life. Being curious as I am, this year I decided to learn a little more about them.
Scarecrows have been hanging around, pardon the pun, for some 3,000 years. Egyptian farmers along the Nile River concocted some of the first ones. They have been found in most cultures in some form ever since.
The very early scarecrows actually had jobs to tend to. Birds and other critters have always been a problem for cultivators of the earth, whether it be in gardens or farm ground. Crows can literally go down a corn row eating the remaining seeds or newly sprouted seedlings. So, any likeness of a person would scare these intruders away until they grew accustomed to seeing the imaginary person every day. Modern day scarecrows are usually more for decoration than practicality, having been replaced with sound devices and solar powered light- up decoys.
MAKING A SCARECROW
When many people think of scarecrows, images of Ray Bolger who played the scatter-brained scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz comes to mind. Making one of these is pretty simple. You basically need an old pair of jeans, old shirt, boots, hat, some baler twine, a couple 2 by 4’s, nails, straw and a pumpkin for a head.
Stuff the pants and shirt with straw for the body and tie off the arms and legs with twine. Cut one 2 by 4 four feet long and the other six feet long. Nail the shorter one about two feet down on the longer one in cross fashion. Fasten the stuffed body to the 2 by 4’s then secure the boots. Carve a face in the pumpkin and fasten that to the 2 by 4 on top of the body. Add a hat and you have your basic pumpkin person or scarecrow. You can add any finishing touches to make him (or her) as elaborate as you want.
Many communities have scarecrow contests where businesses and others in the area compete to see who can make the most unique straw person. Many of these contests are the central part of a town’s fall festival.
Whether they have a purpose, or they just hang around the countryside on a lazy October day, scarecrows are still a festive part of this season. What would a fall drive be without meeting one or two along the way!
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Participate in the National Register of Champion Trees campaign to help document and preserve nature’s arboreal wonders.
Happy, Happy, Happy Halloween
Halloween is a fun, happy time of year. Even if you are not a fan of the spooky season, there are tons of things to do this harvest-time. Originally published in October of 2018.
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Check out GRIT’s 1918 newspaper report on the Spanish Flu pandemic covering obituaries, hospitals, medical tent cities, and ads selling “proven” cures.