I have decided to post some of my children’s stories under a separate category here on my blog, and am including a link to the other blog here in case you wish to explore that as well:
Peace & Grace,
Olive Twist ~♥~
I know it sounds strange for a scarecrow to say this, but I yearned to travel for most of my life. When I realized that I would never leave this post in the cornfield, I felt cheated, because my existence seemed so cruel and meaningless. I was wasting away on the inside with the dry rot of despair. That was before I discovered my gifts and my true purpose.
It cost me a great deal of questioning and crying all through the night hours, but it was worth it to learn who I really was, to find out that I had value in the larger scheme of things and that I could serve stuffed humanity.
Let me go back to the days before my second awakening, during those long troubled hours of sorrow and searching.
Corn Sweet Corn
I am a third generation scarecrow. That means that two other stuffed men hung from this same post before me, and each of them were laid to rest when they became too dirty and tattered to be scary. I was stitched and clothed by Farmer Dillon’s wife to watch over a cornfield a few years ago. Scarecrows are not born in the manner of men. We are awakened or “quickened” through the Second Act of Creation. The First Act of Creation was when Adam and Eve were made by the Great Gardener of Eden. The Second Creation refers to any creative act by man since Adam.
Scarecrows are awakened upon the endowment of their name by a human. Names are the breath of life for stuffed men like us. This is how we are bequeathed with our own personality and a third-level sense of humanity. We are created in man’s image, as he was created as a secondary image of the Great Farmer.
I have heard of a wooden puppet named Pinocchio who was awakened in the same fashion as scarecrows. There have also been rumors of Frosty, a snowman who arose from a child’s handiwork after he was clothed and named by some children.
Without a name, a scarecrow has no identity or humanity, and he is oblivious to the world. There is a stuffed man in our field like that, who our farmer forgot to name. We call him Cousin Bloomers, because that is how he looks with his fat stuffed legs blowing loosely around him. He has never shown any signs of intelligence since the day he was hung in the field. But we scarecrows love those who are different too. We talk to him as if he understands and sing songs to him. Once it looked like his hands were twitching in rhythm as I sang a tune, and there was no wind at the time. At least they remembered to stitch a smile on his face, so he looks happy.
Scarecrows don’t remember their birth, but only their quickening, which is like a wind-blown rustling in the straw of their woven heads, and an opening of their eyes to behold an amazing stage of colors and images that is terribly astonishing upon the first day of life. I remember that day almost as a dream, when the sky suddenly opened up blue and white, with yellow corn shining around me, and a smell of warm earth, and seeing my own green overalls for the first moment with rust-colored patches on them.
I have seen the farmer that named me, from a distance. His flaming red hair blows about his bearded face and he wipes the sweat off his forehead with his plaid sleeve. They say his ancestors emigrated from Ireland when the potatoes were all rotting in their fields. I wonder if that makes me an Irish scarecrow. Anyway, he seems not to be aware of my existence at all, and sometimes I feel sad that I don’t know him personally. If I made something and named it, I think that I should love it and nurture it. Sometimes I feel like crying out to him, “Remember me? It’s me- Cornelius Cobb III, also known as ‘Corny.’” But Grandpa Cobb, the oldest scarecrow who hangs a few rows from me, always reminds me that I was created for one purpose, and that is to keep birds off of the vegetables. That doesn’t seem to be a very noble cause to be created for, but I accept this for the most part. Sometimes.
Scarecrows don’t have families in the traditional sense. We are in the company of others like ourselves, and we sort of adopt each other. We feel special kinship with those who are made by the same farmer, or those whose straw was taken from the same trough or bail. Sometimes we might even see some familiar fabric on another stuffed man, a patch on their knee, or a strip of cloth around their hat that matches our own, and we can even evoke a family feeling from that. Scarecrows are very loving and accepting of each other.
For some reason there aren’t many female scarecrows, but there are two in our cornfield. One is a plump elderly stuffed woman called Mamoo who looks like she could be Dutch with her moldy golden braids and light blue eyes and faded lavender calico dress. When the wind gets blustery, you can see her blue pantaloons underneath. I get embarrassed and Grandpa has a hearty laugh when this happens. He can be a bit seedy at times.
There also is a husky brown-haired female scarecrow wearing a black dress with red and white striped stockings. Her name is Heather and she is smart and hot-tempered. Her tongue is like a strike of lightning when it catches you off guard. She often complains of being made of peculiar fabric for a scarecrow. I told her that fashions are changing in the world to try to make her feel better, and this thought gave her some pleasure and a touch of arrogance. Mamoo affectionately calls her “Heatherbeast” or “Beastie.”
Grandpa is the closest to me a few rows down, and then there is Cousin Bloomers across from us, and we can see the straw ladies about twenty rows to the west within shouting distance. Other stuffed people are too far away for us to communicate with, unless an animal friend delivers a message.
Our farmer has several fields of vegetables, so we often don’t know all of our relatives. We might hear of them through others, or we might see the farmer’s wife sewing a new man and carrying him off somewhere. We are keenly aware of one another’s existence and we give ourselves titles according to age and familiarity, such as Grandpa, Cousin, Sister, Brother, and such.
Luckily, scarecrows don’t get arthritis, or we’d be in great pain. Our twigs and straw get moldy, and eventually our insides start to disintegrate until we lose our fluffiness. Sometimes the farmer has been kind enough to put a bit of lavender or pine straw inside of us, so that we don’t get too awfully smelly as we rot. But after many years, we look like old faded sacks or something you might see on a clothesline after someone forgot to bring the clothes in for a few days and some stormy weather had passed by. When we get too pitiful, we are replaced, and it can be terribly sad to say goodbye to someone you hung around with for years.
My cornfield is near King’s Mountain, North Carolina. I take some pride in that. The name of this place has an air of royalty somehow, and when you live your life in overalls with patches on them, that really means something. I always felt that there was some royal seed in my straw somewhere, because I was never quite content with hanging on this cross over the field and listening to the sprouting of green beans, the crawling of insects on cucumbers in the night, and the roots crackling their knuckles under the ground. I felt that I had a greater purpose.
I wonder if people can pass on their traits to their scarecrows. I think it might be so, because I am told that the Dillon’s of Dublin were known to have an ailment called “rambling fever.” I have heard the farmer’s wife sing a song called “Ramblin’ Boy” and another one called “I’m Bound for the Mountains and the Sea” by a man named Tom Paxton. I remember when I first heard these songs. I could feel my soul drifting and floating away and I learned to hum and whistle them as I hung around feeling bored and restless.
I once heard a young migrant boy speaking in another language as he picked corn and peas and threw them into crates. A visitor came from Spain to see the farmer one day and they walked out to look over the fields. The olive-skinned man with an accent I’d never heard took some photos out of the chest pocket of his embroidered shirt, and he talked of the cliffs on the Mediterranean Sea and trees with apricots and almonds growing on them, and boats in the harbor, and cathedrals with lavish stained-glass windows and great bell-towers. He said his neighbor was a shepherd boy named Jasper, and that he could hear the sheep bells clinking through his bedroom windows in the spring. His villa was beyond a dragon gate and down a cobblestone path nestled among the cottages of artists and musicians and poets who gathered each evening at the pub to talk and sing.
That is when I first realized that there was a huge glorious earth beyond the fields in which I lived. I began to dream of going on journeys to exotic places that I heard humans talking about. Grandpa let out a terrible scratchy laugh when I mentioned it to him. “Scarecrows don’t go nowhere no-how!” he bellowed. “Have ya fergotten that yer nailed to a piece o’wood?” My face felt hot with shame. I wondered if Cousin Bloomers ever felt dumb like this.
Grandpa always made me feel silly about my ideas and dreams. He said that I must have been made with too little stuffing or perhaps my fabric wasn’t tough enough. He said I would probably fade out before my time. I was pleased with my bright yellow hair and leafy green overalls, so this worried me exceedingly. He would shake his scruffy head and mutter under his breath, “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.”
Heather and Mamoo often overheard Grandpa making mockery of me, and Mamoo would say, “Let the boy be. He’ll get over it when he gets older.” Heather would get furious at both of them and ask, “Didn’t you two ever have dreams or ambitions? Stop being so stuffy and insensitive to my brother!”
At one point, I entertained the idea of asking Farmer Dillon to help me to get away for awhile, but how can you request favors from someone you don’t know? It’s not that I didn’t want to know him. He just never took an interest in me.
People talk about the mind having seasons and weather, and I had one very stormy summer inside of my head. It seemed like I kept having cloudbursts without any warning, and I just rained and rained until I was drenched and there was flooding. There was no drought that season, and the water table was much too high.
I guess part of my problem is that I have too much time to just hang around and think. I thought about the poor scarecrows who had come before me and lived their whole lives on this post and never got to go anywhere. I thought about how much I longed to make something of myself while I was still young and had a chance, but looking at Grandpa and Cousin Bloomers really made me feel terribly sorry for them and for myself most of all.
I heard about some singing cricket who said you could make wishes upon a star, so I wished as hard as I could for many nights on the prettiest stars I could find but I just wore myself out from lack of sleep and sadness. Then I began to just cry whenever I thought everyone was asleep, and a couple of times Grandpa stopped snoring upon hearing me. I know he felt bad for making fun of me and my dreams, and he would say softly, “It’s okay, son. Just calm down and get some rest before the sun is up again.”
I don’t know how long I suffered like this, because when you are sad, it seems much longer that it really is. I would cry until I was weary and the fabric on my face and neck were soaking wet. Sometimes I had to stop until I dried up because I was so waterlogged and miserable. I was doing this every night, and I was exhausted.
I have animal friends that became very worried about me during this time. Two Persian cats scampered over to me one night as I wept, and they tickled my toe straw with their bushy tails, until I began to giggle. Their names were Tabitha and Patches, and they purred and rubbed against me and stayed near me until I fell asleep.
One bright night as I was sobbing, I spotted two large white oars twisting side to side among the carrot rows as if trying to detect something. Then out darted a lovely white moon-shaped rabbit. That is when I first met Pearl, still chewing her carrot as she softly sprang over towards me. She turned her head sideways to better see me, and said, “Hello, straw man. Are you all right? Are you crying, or do you just snore in a funny way?”
“Pardon me,” I said with embarrassment. “I’m okay. Just a bit edgy tonight.”
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Corny. My grandpa calls me that because he thinks I’m too sensitive and silly.”
“Well, it’s a good name anyway. It suits you well,” said the rabbit.
“Thanks”, I said not knowing if I had just been insulted, but she didn’t look like the type.
Pearl stayed with me and talked to me awhile, chewing constantly with her mouth full. I guess human manners don’t apply to rabbit-kind. But I told her my troubles until I was feeling a bit selfish and dumb, and she kept her pink glowing eyes on me until I was silent. She was a wonderful listener with those lovely giant ears. When I finished, she told me that I should try talking to the Original Gardener that made everything, because she had found out that he listens to animals and bugs and other creatures besides people. She said that he even listens to bad animals, and does good things for them to help them want to do better.
Once, she said, a sneaky old fox who was always stealing chickens asked the Great Gardener to help one of his sick little cubs to get well, and a miracle happened in his den that night. That fox never forgot it, and stopped being a thief, and he even started bringing those chickens corn to eat every day. He would just stop over there and clean out their coop and make sure they didn’t need anything. He was completely transformed. I had never heard such a story.
So one night, I closed my eyes and imagined that I was talking to the Great Farmer who made everything:
Hello there. Can you hear me? My name is Corny, and I’ve heard a lot about you and how great you are. I hear that you are really good and kind and that your ears can hear everyone at the same time. I don’t know if you even listen to scarecrows or not, but I am so sad and I don’t really have a father to talk to. So I was wondering if you could please help me in some way. My life doesn’t make much sense. Everybody seems to come and go from here and no one seems to have anything to show for it. I feel trapped in this body sometimes and I don’t want to waste my time here. I really want to do something for the other straw people I know, and for the animals and bugs I meet, and for you too, if I can. I don’t know what a poor scarecrow could do for someone as great as you, but if you help me somehow, I will do my best for you and for everyone else I know. Please have pity on me. Help me not to cry so much, because I’ve been all wet and mushy and my head aches. If you can hear me, thanks for listening.
After I was done, I fell peacefully asleep. I had beautiful dreams that night. First I was running through a forest chasing a fox and laughing out loud, and then I was sitting in a field of soft moist flowers and a pastel dawn splashed across the sky. After that I was flying like a bird, and I kept soaring down to bring other stuffed people up into the sky with me and we flew around together. When I woke up, I felt cheerful and rested for the whole day.
But when twilight came, my mind became dark again, and I hung there wondering if anyone in the universe cared for me and if I could ever be truly happy for more than a short moment, or if I would only be free in my dreams. As the night grew darker, and the midnight dew became heavy across my forehead and my sorrow became almost unbearable, I began to weep out loud.
Then something landed on my shoulder, something fluffy that was too dark to see very well. I felt a feather brush against my chin, and I heard a voice say, “Hey, dude. What’s going on? Are you okay?” The voice crackled like fire, low and wild and wise. I squinted to try to see what it was, and I could just barely see an outline of it. I sniffled and blinked away tears, and it asked again, “What’s wrong, man? Are you hungry or something? Is there anything I can do?” I was so embarrassed and surprised that I didn’t know what to say.
“No, it’s okay,” I said.
“You don’t seem okay. You want to talk a while?” said the voice.
“Well, maybe…but first, who and what are you?”
“Oh, sorry to butt in without introducing myself. I’m Cyrus, and I’m a crow.”
“Wow, I’m not supposed to talk to crows. I’m supposed to be scaring them.” By the feel of the weight on my shoulder, this was a pretty big crow. I didn’t know they could be that big.
“Well now” said the crow. “I know we’re not supposed to talk to each other, but I can’t say you’re very scary at the moment down here crying. Besides, it’s dark and if we whisper, no one will ever know the difference. If you can barely see me, I’m sure no one else will notice either. So now, what have you been doing?”
“The same old thing,” I said. “I just hang here and watch over the corn and other vegetables, and it’s mighty boring.”
“I can only imagine. It takes real patience to do that. I couldn’t do it,” said the crow.
“Neither can I. That’s the problem,” I said, hanging my head. “I think I’m losing my mind from boredom. I feel so trapped and miserable.”
“You’re not the first scarecrow who’s told me that,” said Cyrus. “I tried helping a guy down one time, but it didn’t work. And I’m not sure he could have walked around even if I did. You guys have a tough life. I can see that. All I can do is come and visit you and be a friend if you want me to.”
“That would be great,” I said, already feeling somewhat better. “By the way, could you scratch my shoulder a bit while you’re right there? I can’t reach that spot at all, and it’s itching. And why don’t you tell me about yourself while you’re sitting there?”
So Cyrus the crow did just that. He sat there and scratched my shoulder, and told me stories long into the night. He told me he had migrated all over the world. He had been to Egypt and pecked at the nose of the Great Sphinx. He had been into the jungles of Africa and made friends with zebras and lemurs and medicine men. He had perched upon the ugly faces of gargoyles that guarded cathedrals in England. He had flown out with fisherman into the Baltic Sea and had seen whales and dolphins. He had seen the Northern Lights in Alaska. It seemed that Cyrus had been everywhere and done everything. I was amazed by him and by the warmth and wisdom of his voice. I could have listened to him for days at a time, if I had not fallen asleep.
He came night after night and sat on my shoulder and told me of his journeys and all that he had learned. I would fall asleep to the sound of his voice that was warm as a winter fireplace, and then I would drift into exquisite dream worlds full of delights that were beyond description. My mind was so elevated that nothing seemed to bother me during the days, as long as I knew he would come back at night and tell me more stories. I found out that with my mind, I could go on excursions anywhere and do anything. I went all over the world with Cyrus as he told his tales, and in my dreams, I continued my adventures. Nothing gave me greater comfort than the feeling of Cyrus sitting upon my shoulder with his soft feathers sweeping my neck as he spoke like an ancient wise man. When he told stories, a great inner star glowed in his round black eye that watched me.
From the day that I met Cyrus, I never doubted the Great Gardener again. I knew that he had heard my pathetic crying and had sent the noble crow to help me and teach me great things. I discovered that I had power and value, and that knowledge took away my pain. He gave me such strength that when his days of migration came in the autumn I was not afraid of his departure. The power was inside of me now. His voice would never leave me. Never.
♥ ♥ ♥
A Seedling Sprouts
Stories were in my straw like sparkling seeds that I could feel sprouting within me. I made many animal and bug friends during this time, and I passed Cyrus’s tales to everyone I met. They passed them on to their friends, and to other scarecrows. Words were flying around like maple seeds and taking root everywhere they went.
I began to make up my own stories and they spread around as well. Words have amazing power. I have been told that by mere words, the worlds and creatures were all summoned into existence. I found that a few well-sprinkled words could bring comfort to the downtrodden and peace to the restless, and that they would sprout in time and bear fruit. I watched stories work magic for others just as they did for me. I found myself telling stories to any animal or bug that would listen.
My early tales were not very cheerful ones, because some bitter thorny weeds had taken root in my straw. In those days, I would tell stories about scarecrows who captured humans in cages, and walked them out on leashes once a week or so, and scarecrow scientists who prescribed tickle therapy to humans who became too glum or self-important. In laboratories, woolly bear caterpillars would be set free to roam on the skin of these patients until they almost fainted from laughing. This process would be repeated several times a week until the patient developed a sense of humor.
Now I am older and my stories are more dignified, since I have overcome my anger and sadness. I have learned to tell my tales to comfort and inspire others who have thorns inside their shirts.
Grandpa was laid to rest that autumn, and he somehow knew ahead of time that his service was almost done. He seemed to be overflowing with happiness at the end, convinced that he would go to an eternal garden which some have called Paradise, others Nirvana. He sought my forgiveness for the pain he had caused me earlier, largely because of his own hopelessness. I understood it and forgave him before he asked me to.
That day when the farmer’s son came out with a hammer, using the prongs to pull the nails out, and Grandpa’s straw body fell helplessly to the ground, a great sharp pain cut through my straw into my chest. A few seeds sprinkled out from his shirt where he had lain and I looked upon those pitiful little grey seeds with sorrow for days after that. I wondered where they take the scarecrows after they have served humans for so many years, but I tried not to dwell upon the matter.
I would have wept bitterly, but Mamoo was in such agony that I had to comfort her. Now she had become the eldest scarecrow, so I know that it affected her more intensely than the rest of us in our family cluster. Heather was trying to keep her calm. I sent messages through Tabitha the cat, and Pearl the rabbit came by that night so I asked her to go and visit Mamoo too. Pearl has such a gentle way that I knew she could help.
Cyrus came early that evening, because he heard about Grandpa somehow and he knew I would need his company. He just sat there upon my shoulder and scratched wherever I was itching, and swept my face with his soft feathers. He didn’t talk much. There are times when it’s best to be quiet.
Even that notorious fox started coming around and offered his services to the stuffed women, and he visited each day until they felt better. Heather and that fox became close friends because they both had a lot of guilt feelings about different things and they understood each other.
A couple of weeks after that, Cyrus came to tell me that it was time to migrate again, and that he was very sorry to leave me at such a hard time. He said that he would return as soon as he could, but seasons are like that, and things change. I was very sad to see him go, but as I said, I wasn’t afraid any more. I was a stuffed young man now and not a child. I had the strength inside of me, and I was immensely grateful to that wise crow who built me up when I was broken down in spirit.
After his departure, I just continued to do for others as he had done for me. I spread stories far and wide because I knew the power of their magic. Animals and insects began to come from great distances to hear the scarecrow who told mystical healing stories. I was humbled by this, that my name was becoming famous- first on our farm, then in the fields, then on our whole mountain. But would you believe that in time, birds began to fly in from other states and even foreign countries? I was honored by visits from Scarlet Macaw’s, African Grey’s and Birds-of-paradise!
Then one winter evening, a world famous owl named Olive came in from a journey abroad, bringing with her Cyrus and enormous clouds of migrating birds of all kinds. It sounded like a great storm coming in, and I saw Farmer Dillon open the door and step outside. On the lighted porch, I saw him gazing in my direction to see what all the commotion was about.
The fields were covered in birds and insects as they settled on the cornstalks and the fields, and Olive bestowed upon me a great honor in the presence of them all. She gave me a new title- “The Master Storyteller of King’s Mountain- Cornelius Cobb III. ” The birds had woven a crown of grapevines twisted with flaming red piracantha berries, and Cyrus placed it upon my brow saying, “This is in honor of all of your service to the all of the creatures everywhere, including straw people.”
Then Olive the owl summoned all of the talking birds and ordered them to tell the story everywhere of how the Great gardener helped a lowly scarecrow. She said to carry the message to the four corners of the earth- to scarecrows and birds and bugs and beasts in the sea and on the land. They gave the owl their solemn word in one great thundering voice. The way that I felt was unspeakable.
I bowed my head in joy and shed a few diamond tears and thanked the Great Gardner and Cyrus the noble crow. I had found my greater purpose at last.
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