Maybe you would like to read how this bedtime story began. You could check here –
Jonjon is tugging furiously at my sleeve. “Sarah… Sarie-sarie-Sarah…” His voice is even more breathless than usual, kind of stage-whispery, but there’s an urgency to it. “Look over there… by the door. I saw something move—” and with one leap he’s out of bed, sprinting across the room and flinging the door wide open. And he’s right! Something DID move. And. It. Was. MUM… and lurking behind her, peeking over her shoulder, DAD?? Wow! Trying to back off without falling over each other, and red-faced? I never saw that before.
Turns out Mum was coming to put away our jumpers last night when she heard me making the cutie voice for the songs Derek Cat sings to Susie. She says she snuck back down the passage to tell Dad. She knew he’d get a laugh, too. They waited until tonight to tiptoe up and secretly listen to the next story.
What a hoot! Here was I thinking Mum might get mad I’d been up in the attic, riffling through Granny’s works. Instead, she says, “I’m pleased as pleased can be. I feel so bad that I tucked them back away from you, and then almost forgot them.” Now she gives me a kiss on my head. “I’m so sorry, honeybunch. I got SO distracted with all that moving and stuff. How could I have done that, when I knew you loved them so?” Now Dad gives her a kiss on HER head, murmuring sweetly to console her.
When they ask if it’s OK if they drape themselves over the end of the bed, I pretend to agree most graciously, though my heart is beating 90 to the dozen with joy and a little nervousness, too. Will I be good enough? Mum smiles her special, proud smile at me, as I take a deep breath and repeat –
Chapter 7: Simon Scarecrow
(and here’s the pic again, too)
I strolled my way up and down the rows and rows of stalls in the old church hall. Every thing you could imagine was for sale. Countless craft stalls wore every shade of every 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. Every kind of everything. It’s called bric-à-brac. And interspersed were cake stalls and biscuits – and a myriad of jams and preserved fruits and pickles and relishes and sauces. And all sparkled 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, grinning 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. I would not get past this part without yet another ‘why?’ and yet another explanation. I’m amazed we got past the bric-à-brac in the church hall. I must admit to mentioning it hurriedly. Maybe that’s why.
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 know that we build a compost heap of all kinds of recycled vegetable matter and layers of soil and paper?” He’s nodding furiously and grinning as widely 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 know 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 could actually 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 and then it’s, “But Sarah, he hasn’t got a name yet, Granny’s straw man.”
I roll my eyes in a fashion to put an accomplished actress to shame (and can’t help noticing Dad’s sudden explosive coughing fit that needs hiding behind a couple of his big ‘man’ tissues). “It’s the VERY NEXT thing I’m reading! Now SHUSH!” And he peers at my face as I frown to show him I truly 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 look at Mum and wait a moment to be sure… and then I continue –
# # # # #
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 very own name to go with his very own new 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, it was secured with a couple of tight stitches, or it could easily have slid right off his face.
“Some nights I could 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 they rumour the Crow Man is hundreds of years old (although Simon has no proof – this is something he’s always known) and has magical powers that seem like some ‘other world’ stuff; the trouble is, he could be pretending… or not. He lies. But one definite ‘creepiness’ — Simon says he always knows when that sorcerer is near, because he ‘feels a strange tickle deep inside his head’ – and it’s always on the side where he suddenly finds the Crow Man 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 actually pecked at his stuffing. He points to the pretend bird called a Robin perched cheekily on his arm to show me this is the type of bird he prefers.
Even bugs crawl on him sometimes. He points downwards. It’s a look-alike Ladybird, pretending to crawl across his left shoe. Luckily, the real one who visited him once upon a paddock night was a sweet little Mother, who rested on Simon for a little to catch her breath before she needed to ‘fly away home’. He’s such a generous fellow, he just couldn’t ignore her distress and say ‘no’ to her.
Another special time, Simon told me his well-hidden secret. “I’m really, really, REALLY afraid,” he whispered to me. “Especially on cold, dark nights. Even since you ‘dopted me, I still have nightmares about big evil winds. I’m SO scared they might blow me away, just 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 biggest hug. “You’ll never ever stand in a paddock at my place, I promise you faithfully, Simon. You never have to be afraid of being cold and lonesome—never, ever again.” His biggest, widest smile is back as he snuggles with me; and as he looks around the rest of his family, he discovers extra levels of courage.
One day on a photo shoot whilst he was sitting in amongst some great big green leaves, a flock of white cockatoos flew overhead, screeching and squabbling all the way; and no one came down anywhere near where Simon was on guard. And later some regular crows flew over, and they kept on flying by as well. What a Scarecrow! Seems Simon is a Scarecocky, as well.
Can we imagine the possibilities now he believes in himself so well? He could become a Scaresparrow, or a Scareparrot, or a Scareduck, or… or… actually a Scare-anything if he just wants to enough, and works hard at making his dreams come true. Although there’s just one thing I’m going to discourage him from dreaming of being, and that’s a Scare-eagle or a Scare-vulture—they are a bit too much to take on. And Emus and Ostriches, likewise.
A most clever old 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 old Chinese 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 deep 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 lives 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 beams. She and Dad are having the best night, being read a bedtime story after such a VERY long time.
# # # # #
Coming up Next? Clarence the Clown (click here)