Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dreaming of Halloween: Scarecrows

Clank, clank, clank! This drew her attention. She eyed his enormous dark shape on the post, the wind making him slap back and forth as if trying to loosen from his mooring. His tattered clothing whipped about him angrily. The inanimate had come to life, his shadowed face pale beneath the large hat, but she felt it. His eyes were upon her. As soon as he freed himself, it was her farmhouse window he would be knocking upon. She picked up her basket of corn and raced from the field, willing herself not to look back. Then, as she approached the safety of the backyard, she had the courage to face him again. His head bobbed now in the full force of the coming storm's energy. The hat flew from his head and, in the dying light of the day, she saw him throw back his head and stare her down as he unhinged from his cross and jumped to the earth with a heavy thump.

(The above is an unedited piece from a short story about a scarecrow I'm writing)

I am utterly fascinated by scarecrows. No, not those happy little country ones you find in the craft store around Halloween time. I’m talking about the hardcore you-don’t-want-to enter-my-property-kind. This YouTube artisan (above) does amazing scarecrows and films them in creepy settings. I’m so inspired by this that I think as a performance art it is without Halloween equal.

There are traditional ways to make them with clothing and straw and more modern techniques using PVC pipe and T-joints. There’s wooden crosses with newspaper-filled clothing secured to them and even some ambitious folks who use a mannequin. I found with the last one I made that rolled up old towels with duct tape wrapped tightly around them make amazing upper arms and lower arms and legs and balled up socks make great shoulders, elbows, and knees looked very real, but it was also very heavy and the supports needed to be extra strong.

I have no problem with the black robed ones fluttering in the breeze and I think they look best with tree limb arms and branch hands and a Jack O’Lantern head like the one on Johnny Depp’s “Sleepy Hollow” at the beginning of the movie. I also enjoy the worker’s overall types, as well, with a gunnysack face with dark stitching like in the movie “Night of the Scarecrow." The one with the trench coat and big hat on “Jeepers Creepers” was awesomely intimidating and human-like. Ideally, he’s fastened loose enough that he flaps in the wind against his posts as if trying to get free.

I think the scarecrow is one of those things like clowns and baby dolls that was meant to be cute and quaint and ended up becoming so human-like it’s disturbing. I hope to make a really good one for my yard that I can keep up year-round once I come up with the right design.

Beware, however, as twilight arrives, they seem to come to life. You have to watch scarecrows constantly because you never really know what they do when you're not looking...

What is your experience with scarecrows?

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