The Scarecrow

Andy was a farmer. Worked the land, hands hard, worn with work, face like a wedding cake left out in the rain, year in and out, ploughed the chocolate sillions , planted the crops, kept the wildlife in the copse and out of the fields. Burly, broad, thickset, tall, dressed in the wear of work. This years’s crop was planned, soldiers in the field, left,right,left, when it was ripe it would blow in the wind, waves of crops crashing against the copse and picket fences around his land. Corn, wheat, barley,oats, planted to the horizons, hedgerows and ditches breaking the landscape into a patchwork of farms and farmers. In the rural zone, neighbours where close but far, in that strange village way, where everyone knew your business before you but not your character or dreams. Harvests were his livelyhood, and Andy tried to control what he could. The weather came, its rain and sun, hail and frosts, and there was little to do but plant three fields early and three fields late, and three fields in the middle. This made the work hard, and in good years he’d harvest three times and bad years once or twice, and in the worst not at all.

So every February , along with the other farmers, into the copse they would go to cut branches or collect fallen wood and fashion the staves and crosses to make the frames for the scarecrows. A kind of competition with the county. Farmers would spend the evenings sewing corn sacks or seed sacks together, a few would wander round the local villages with barrows , ringing the bell for the rag and bone, and of course collecting old clothes for a few coins. In the parishes, children grew ,people died and so clothes were either passed on to kith and kin or sold for scraps to the paper mill, or, when really worth nothing, sold to the farmer for his scarecrows. But the competition every year meant that sometimes farmers would pay a premium if the harvest had been good, or, if someone died with no kith or kin, a scarecrow or two would, rarely, be decked out in crinoline and bonnets , or Sunday bests , the splash of exotic in the landscape of humdrum.

So it was that Andy blustered and swore, hammered and painted his way through the scarecrows, creating as many as he could before sewing began.

He thought that ten would be enough, and with the rags and scraps he’d fashioned nine now, one more to go. He’d nailed the struts to make a cross structure and all he needed now was some clothes. Old Bert next door might have a few scraps. But when he’d trotted the 5 miles to next door, Bert wasn’t answering the door. Bert was a loner, a hot and cold .

Yes, he and Bert would set the world to rights in the local in over a tankard of stale weak warm ale, or argue about where his land began and ended. So it was in the country, at the edge of wealth, boom or bust.

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