A Time for Scarecrows

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Lea Wait, here, reporting on a growing trend …

According to some sources, farmers on every continent have been trying to scare birds away from their crops for over 3,000 years. Some cultures hung dead crows to warn others. Some designed statues. In the Middle Ages, and in the first American colonies, “bird scarers” were young boys, sometimes equipped with bells or gongs, whose job was to protect crops. Bounties were offered for dead crows, the birds that were the greatest menace. Germans in Pennsylvania built human-appearing straw people called “bootzamon,” or “bogeyman” … and the American scarecrow was born.

Scarecrows can also be scary to people. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Feathertop,” about a scarecrow in 17th century Salem created and brought to life by a witch in league with the Devil, gave me shivers when I first read it in junior high school.

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Whether scary or not, today scarecrows have been revived as part of harvest festivals, or Halloween. I first saw families of scarecrows in yards and public spaces when I visited Vermont a few years ago, and they’ve now invaded Maine.

Wiscasset even has a Scarecrow Festival!

Today they cheer for the Red Sox, advertise local products, and occasionally are designed to scare people as well as crows. In today’s post, I’m sharing a few of the scarecrows I’ve seen just in the past week …  Are they common in your neck of the woods, too? Or is this just a New England trend?

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Yarn Scarecrow at the American Textile Museum, Lowell, MA


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6 Responses to A Time for Scarecrows

  1. Gram says:

    Since I have always lived in New England I grew up with them. If they were formerly common in PA, they still may be there and elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how people from “away” answer your question.

  2. Barb Ross says:

    I love them, though I have to admit, when I come around the curve in Wiscasset and they’re standing there, they always give me a little turn–’til my brain sorts out that it’s not an angry mob.

  3. MCWriTers says:

    We have a gingko tree in our yard, and every fall, it would drop all its leaves right around Halloween. The boys would stuff some old clothes, make a scarecrow, set him up in a lawn chair, and then pull a gorilla mask over the pumpkin head. It scared the heck out of kids who came trick or treating!

    I’m thinking of reviving that tradition…he was known at our house as pumpkin man. My mother would set one up across the road from her house, and she put her old wig on it. It really slowed traffic on Sennebec Road.


  4. MCWriTers says:

    Love it, Kate!

  5. The town of Weston, Mass., has more than 300 scarecrows now as part of its 300th anniversary celebration. Photos of them are in the 300scarecrows album on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Weston300/16215350524

  6. Just got back from your lovely state. Driving through Wiscassett at night, I have to tell you the scarecrows all lined up like they were scared me. Thought it was a gang! LOL
    We saw them in all of the Boothbay area in people’s yards, climbing ladders, sitting in wheel barrows. You name it, you could see a scarecrow.
    They are not something you routinely see down here in Texas. A small Connecticut town had a bunch of them on their green two years ago, but it was a fundraiser and different organizations built and donated them.
    Loved all the pictures.

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