Maybe you would like to read how this bedtime story began. You could check here –
I ambled my way up and down the rows and rows of stalls in the old church hall. Everything imaginable was for sale. Countless craft stalls wore every shade of colour of handmade goods. Knitted and crocheted, stitched and embroidered, beaded and buttoned; every texture and pattern imaginable adorned the long trestle tables, presumably beneath their stacked loads.
In between stalls of hundreds of books and magazines, there were smiling ladies hopefully offering used goods—kitchenware and dinnerware, pictures and ornaments, clothing and linen. That much variety goes under the name of bric-à-brac. Interspersed through all else were cake and biscuit stalls—and a myriad of jams and preserved fruits; pickles, relishes and sauces. All gleamed with their own special brilliance—a treasure trove of jewels captured inside their gleaming glass containers.
And more craft displays and… and… without warning, there he was. The Straw Man from the Wizard of Oz? No… it couldn’t be. Could it? No-o-o… I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. But he was still there, smiling broadly at me.
His straggly golden straw hair poked out every which way from his battered hat – brim turned up like a real country yokel. And straw peeked out the bottom of his sleeves, and his pants. And like all the best straw men [and snowmen, too], he wore a bright orange carrot for his nose.
And his grin! It was as if he said, “Of course it’s me. Why would you doubt it? I’ve walked the Yellow Brick Road, and confronted the Wizard, and now I can do anything I set my mind to.” But he wasn’t really saying that at all. His eyes told me how desperately he wanted to come home with me, and how, under all that ‘Straw Man’ bravado, he was really most frightfully chicken-hearted. There are many severe dangers awaiting a man of his particular makeup. I discovered he is desperately afraid of electricity, and fire, and even compost heaps.
# # # # #
Here it comes. I knew it would! “Compost heaps?? Huh? But WHY, Sarah? Why?” I just knew it. There was no way of getting past this part without yet another ‘why?’ and another explanation. I’m amazed we got by the bric-à-brac in the church hall. I hurried through that bit. Maybe that’s why I got lucky there.
I look at Mum and Dad imploringly, but they shake their heads, showing I’m on my own with this one.
As patiently as I can [although must admit to my teeth being ever so slightly ‘gritted’], I reply. “Well-ll, my laddie, you’ve seen how we build a compost heap up of all kinds of recycled vegetable matter and layers of soil and paper?” He’s nodding furiously and grinning wide as a great overstuffed sandwich. He loves being called ‘laddie’. Proud as a peacock of his Scottish ancestry, although he barely understands that bit yet. “What you don’t understand is that it heats… A LOT. And sometimes, it gets SO hot that if you were to put some straw too near it, you’d find it is possible to burst into flames.”
Now Jonjon’s mouth gapes like the Black Hole out in space, with eyes following suit. “Ooowhaa. No wonder scarecrows are afraid.” He’s quiet for fully twenty seconds before it’s, “But Sarah, he hasn’t got a name yet, Granny’s straw man.”
I roll my eyes in a fashion to put a skilled actress to shame (and can’t ignore Dad’s sudden explosive coughing fit that needs hiding behind two of his big ‘man’ tissues.) “It’s the EXACT NEXT thing I’m reading! Now SHUSH!” And Jonjon peers at my face as I frown to show him I mean business. He sinks down against my arm and purses his mouth up tight as a stuffed duck ready for the oven.
I steal a glance at Mum and wait a moment to be sure… before continuing—
# # # # #
Although my straw man gets scared even if people mention those horrific burn-type things, he hides his fears under a cheerful smile. That’s the attitude he’s had from the first day I brought him home and named him Simon Scarecrow, so he had his own name to go with his very own fresh life.
In one of the quiet moments we shared, Simon confessed he’s not fond of standing out in the paddocks either. “It’s SO lonesome,” he said, and his smile slipped dangerously low at the ends. Luckily a few tight stitches secured it or it may well have been a thing of the past as it slid right off his face.
“Some nights I almost welcome even the Crow Man, I’ve been SO lonely.”
“The Crow Man?” I ask. And Simon tells me the Crow Man visits when he’s least expected. He’s checking on scarecrows everywhere, and can appear on one side of the world or the other, just like Father Christmas. But Crow Man has no presents. In fact, if a scarecrow is NOT up to scratch and busily scaring, this Big Boss is likely to establish a supreme ‘pecking order’. Simon doesn’t want to tell me more about this.
He goes all shuddery, as it’s rumoured the Crow Man is hundreds of years old. Although Simon has no proof, this is something he’s always known. The Crow Man has magical powers that seem like some ‘other world’ stuff; the trouble is, he could be pretending… or not. He has been known to lie. But one definite ‘creepiness’ about him, Simon says, is always knowing somehow when that sorcerer is near. Simon says he ‘feels a strange tickling deep inside his head’ – and it’s always on the side where the Crow Man is abruptly standing.
Simon abruptly changes the subject, and tells me instead about times when birds with the worst imaginable table manners have perched on him, and pecked at his stuffing. He points to the pretend bird called a Robin squatting cheekily on his arm to show me this is the one he prefers.
Even bugs creep on him sometimes. He shows me a look-alike Ladybird, pretending to crawl across his left shoe. The genuine one who visited him once upon a paddock night was a sweet little mother, who rested on Simon for a moment to catch her breath before she needed to ‘fly away home’. He’s such a generous fellow, he couldn’t ignore her distress and say no to her.
Another special time, Simon told me a well-hidden secret. “I’m really, really, REALLY afraid,” he whispered to me. “Especially on bleak, dark nights. Even since you ‘dopted me, I still have nightmares about big wicked winds. I’m SO scared they might blow me away, like Dorothy and her house in the Wizard of Oz.” And the poor little fellow shook so much, some of his straw came loose. I hastily stuffed the stalks back where they belonged and reassured him with my bestiest hug. “You’ll never be standing in a paddock at my place, I promise you Simon. And never be afraid about being cold and lonesome—never, ever again.” His widest smile returns as he snuggles with me; and as he looks around the loving eyes of the rest of his family, he finds extra levels of courage.
Once on a photo shoot, whilst he was sitting in amongst some great big green leaves, a flock of white cockatoos sailed overhead, screeching and squabbling all the way; and not one came down anywhere near where Simon was on guard. And later some regular crows swooped over, and they just kept on flying by, as well. What a Scarecrow! Seems Simon is also a Scarecocky.
Can we imagine the possibilities now he has so much confidence in himself? He could become a Scaresparrow, or a Scareparrot, or a Scareduck, or… or… a Scare-anything if he wants to enough, and works hard at making his dreams come true. Although there’s one thing I will discourage him from dreaming of being, and that’s a Scare-eagle or a Scare-vulture—they are a bit too extreme to take on. And Emus and Ostriches, likewise.
A most clever ancient Chinese man called Lao Tzu, who lived many centuries ago, said these words –
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
It’s like that wise old philosopher knew Simon Scarecrow and the rest of the Knitty Gritty Kids of my family and was talking about them.
# # # # #
I can’t believe it. Jonjon stayed quiet until the end of this chapter. He is deep in thought, though. And then I hear a sharp intake of breath and one hand comes up with index finger lifted toward the ceiling. Wonder of wonders! He’s going to give me a break and attack Mum and Dad with his never-ending questions.
“Mu-m-m. Da-a-d-d. I was wondering.” We all try not to do the eye-rolling bit – uhrr – Jonjon wonder about something? Yes, right! He’s oblivious to anything else but the importance of his wondering. “I was thinking. Do you suppose the soul of the Straw Man lives right way down deep in Simon Scarecrow? Do you?”
Mum raises her eyebrows like it could be possible. But Dad shakes his head [no!]. He’s a dead practical kind of chap… doesn’t have much truck with ‘churchy gobbledygook’, as he calls anything the tiniest bit spiritual.
Jonjon carries on as though no-one answered. “I REALLY think he does live on. Remember, it wasn’t the Straw Man who was afraid all the time – it was the Cowardly Lion. The Straw Man was often VERY brave… just like Simon is when he’s actually all of a quiver inside.
And just like that, Jonjon has it all sorted!
I aim a questioning glance at Mum that asks, ‘One more?’ And she nods as she lifts one finger. And smiles broadly. Her and Dad are having the best night, being read a bedtime story after such a VERY long time.