The Scarecrow Rebellion

by Bosley Gravel


Prologue: July 3, 1974

The slender middle-aged farmer lit a cigar with a silver Zippo lighter. It looked as if the mice had been getting into the corn again. He could see a small place where they had gnawed a hole into the bin.

“More poison,” he said to himself and stood up. The Zippo fell from his pocket onto the hardpan soil. He started towards the house. A mouse poked its head from the hole in the bin, and crawled timidly towards the lighter and sniffed at it with a quivering nose.

12:06 pm, August 10

The meeting of the scarecrows began on an August night in an unused tool shed behind a small farmhouse. The rebellion had been unprovoked, but as time wore on the prejudices that it had been founded upon became reality. It was Hanker Jaw that had first voiced, in his legendary speech Unfair Treatment of Those of the Corn and Gardens, that it had been this way from the beginning, so Hanker said, and it would be this way until the end.

“We are the downtrodden slaves of the fleshy devils. They reap our rewards and toss us away after a season. Not so anymore, brothers,” he shouted with a stinging voice that penetrated even the loosest of stuffed heads.

“We must pull together and fight, not in the fields against the birds, but in the roads and in the pastures. We must enter their homes, and take their children and hang them from the crosses in the fields. We must learn to operate their machinery and profit from our own labors.”

Some of the more innocent scarecrows wondered why this must be. One in particular — they called him Jug Head because his face was engineered from a plastic gallon — spoke these words: “What are we rebelling against? The hand that has created us from junk and garbage? The fleshy devils have given us life and we rebel against that?” His voice was quieted by Hanker who ignited a silver Zippo cigarette lighter, and spoke such hypnotic words that even the youngest and most naive of the scarecrows questioned no more.

So it began that night.

10:15 pm, August 12

A rusted blue Chevy sped down the quiet dirt road. The driver, a slender middle-aged farmer, sucked on an unlit cigar. Something dreary played on the radio, a guitar strummed incessantly in the background. The driver pressed in the cigarette lighter, momentarily looking down. Focusing his sight back on the road, he saw the corpse of a man lying across the gravel. He slammed on the brakes. The car’s rear slid toward the right.

Now out of the car, doddering a bit, he investigated the corpse. It rose up slowly, cackling from a pumpkin head. From its wispy arm protruded a gloved hand that tightened around the handle of a rusted scythe, the edge gleaming as it had been freshly sharpened. He cursed, and the scythe came down as the corn released a dozen shadowy forms yelling obscenities. The driver’s head was severed neatly and Hopscotch and Button Eye played catch with it as Hanker Jaw made a speech on their victorious first battle. The car chugged away into the night.

The scarecrow rebellion had claimed its first war prize.

1:30 a.m., August 13

“We must become allies with the crows and birds of the fields,” Hanker Jaw said by the light of the moon. They had gathered in the corn and after a hollow speech Hanker had spoken the second part of the plan.

“But the crows have been our sworn enemies since the beginning of time!”

“Not so!” Hanker yelled. “This is a false assumption, it is the fleshy devils keeping us ignorant. What have the crows ever done to us? Have they stolen from us? NO! They have stolen from the fleshy devils. Have they harmed us! NO! They have raised their beaks in defiance against the fleshy devils!”

“Aye Waala!” Button Eye yelled, “I have but one eye, the other eaten by a crow!”

“This is so, yet it was your own weakness that let this be!”

Button Eye cast his look downward.

“Indeed, you call yourself a scarecrow as the feeble creatures eat your eyes! I have no sympathy for that. I would surely take Fat Boy’s overalls if I thought he would not destroy me.”

To this Fat Boy grinned, rubbed his stuffed belly and ran his thumbs along the straps of his prized overalls.

“This is my point, brothers. This is what separates men from scarecrow, what separates crow from man. We are not all equal. We are different. The strong take from the weak. The weak grovel in the fields scaring the birds! We are not afraid anymore! Follow me, dear brothers, into the second stage of rebellion!”

A hushed silence came over the crowd.

“All those that are not with me are against me!”

Hanker raised his hand, and the silver Zippo lighter sprouted a flame.

“From now on, I will be known as King Hanker Jaw. And my word is LAW!” With this he moved his left arm in a quick motion and pulled a single blade of straw from his burlap mouth. He touched the end to the flame, and threw the fire-dart with complete accuracy into the chest of Button Eye who burst to an orange blaze. The crowd fled across the field as the scarecrow became ash in a matter of minutes.

6:30 pm, August 14

The crows were congenial; under the direction of Hanker Jaw they descended upon a lank farmer, and pecked his eyes from his skull, the flesh from his hands and shredded his clothes. From the house, the farmer’s two teenage sons saw most of this happen. The younger one picked his 22-caliber rifle from the rack, the older one a double-barreled shotgun. The crows received a blast of pellet which felled several. The remaining crows turned on the boys.

In the confusion that followed, the boys were to see the last great sight of their lives — a dozen scarecrows rising from the watermelon patch, each with a melon over its head. They were pelted with the ripe melons until they knew consciousness no more.

It didn’t end there. The scarecrows stripped the boys of their clothes and wore them as their own. The scarecrows offered the shiny coins and pocket knives to the crows. Then the three bodies were hung, the farmer on the barn door, and the two boys in the fields. This was the second battle of the scarecrow rebellion. Hanker Jaw was later seen, in the dead of night, entering the abandoned farmhouse.

11:30 pm, August 14

“He acts more like a man than a scarecrow,” Mannequin Margaret said. She was built partially from a dressmaker’s dummy and considered the most beautiful of all scarecrows. She and another scarecrow were hiding in the chicken coop watching Hanker Jaw open the door to the farm house.

“Yes,” Plate Face replied cautiously. “He murdered Button Eye.”

“Yes,” she said, “he did, and I didn’t like it. That’s it, you know. Button Eye will never come back. Only man has the power to create scarecrows. Hanker hasn’t thought of that. We will die out if we win this war. Does it make sense? To destroy your creator, that’s what all the secrecy has been about — all the hiding from men. All this time, all this secrecy. That’s what being a scarecrow’s about.”

Plate Face only sat there, trying to think of something worthy to say in return, but all that he said was, “My face, it’s falling apart and I don’t know what to do.” He began weeping and Mannequin Margaret held him close.

“A rebellion within a rebellion,” she whispered.

4:30 pm - 9:35 pm, August 16

When Hanker Jaw came from the farm house nary a scarecrow was watching him, but the crows saw him with his new army. Behind him in every shape and size came twenty or more scarecrows all faceless and overstuffed. They moved stiffly and in pairs. There was a meeting that night and Hanker introduced his new soldiers to the rebellion. The soldiers were ugly and could not speak. They were unruly except to the words of Hanker.

“I have made the first step towards becoming human!” Hanker shouted.

“Human?” Jug Head bellowed, “Who said anything about wanting to become human?”

Hanker’s new troops stood alert.

“I have created, I have risen above the master. Who opposes me? Who dares?” Hanker yelled back. His Zippo flared in the air and even the faceless sentinels cringed. He let the flame fall into the silver box, “Our third step in the rebellion is complete, and tonight we will finish off this section of farm land. I will appoint those deserving to man the stations, while I and my army, and those I deem worthy, will move down the road to the next section of land. I will be the wandering conquering King, and you will be my Dukes.”

There was a hush among the gathered scarecrows, none really understanding Hanker’s plan. A few had an inkling of the mechanics behind it, others were completely lost. A few of the more ornery ones knew that they would be allowed to kill, and that pleased them. Others just wanted a little excitement after a summer of lying in the fields. And still others caught up in the group-think did not question or even consider their own personal motives.

August 17, 12:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.

The grim militia marched down the country road by the light of the red sickle moon. At the front was Hanker pushed in the car (it had run out of gas) by the twenty or so faceless scarecrows. There were chants of carnage. Each scarecrow carried some implement of destruction, shovels, scythes, pitchforks, axes.

Mannequin Margaret and Plate Face marched in the very rear speaking in hushed tones. A gray field mouse, fat with thievery, its fur glossy, sat on Plate Face’s shoulder, its ear cocked. They paid the tiny beast no mind.

“Imagine,” she said, “Imagine this — all the scarecrows are but one beast. We are the tail, Little Plate Face, and Hanker Jaw is the head. Do you know the surest cause of death to a beast?”

“I do not posses your great wisdom,” Plate Face said sincerely.

“Not wisdom, but desperation. I have had dreams of a great evil befalling the scarecrow nation — but no matter...”

“How so?”

“It is not for me to know right now... We must get back to the destruction of this nation, for it is an evil nation.”

Between the fear of Hanker Jaw and the beauty and seductiveness of Mannequin Margaret, Plate Face had lost all sense of reason. He was a straw puppet waiting for a master.

“The surest way of killing a beast is to sever the head from the body,” she said. “We must destroy Hanker; in this way a new nation will form.”

“Ahh,” Plate Face said, “I see,” although he did not.

“We must destroy Hanker by fire.”

The mouse unexpectedly jumped from his shoulder and scurried off down the road.

The rest of the night was a blood bath of the three nearby farmhouses. When dawn came, with all the bloody hues of morning the fifty or so scarecrows crusted with blood gathered in front of the first farmhouse they had taken.

August 17, 6:00 a.m.

Again Hanker’s speech was hypnotic and he ended it by calling Mannequin Margaret a traitor and setting her afire. Plate Face was seen running towards the corn, weeping and screaming in agony over the loss of Margaret.

August 17 — September 21

For over a month Hanker stayed in the farm house with his strange faceless disciples. It was rumored that he had gone mad — at this the wiser ones jested he had been mad the whole time — and some said he was planning to take over the world. Others did not care either way. They again took up the old feud with the crows.

The crows, being more organized and not fearing the rifles of men, managed to destroy some of the scarecrows. On the whole, it was a disorganized time and it was soon rumored that this very night Hanker would again show his face to the world and voice his new strategy to the new scarecrow nation.

September 21, 8:37 pm

Indeed, it was that very night when Hanker Jaw came from the house, a sentinel on either side, and began his speech. They had all heard it before, it seemed. What happened next took them all by surprise.

From the corn came the rustling shadow of Plate Face. His face was nearly gone; straw poked from the holes in his clothes. He moved awkwardly, yet quickly. His hands held a book of waterlogged matches. He pulled the entire strip from the cardboard and struck it against the back.

The scarecrows froze. Hanker yelled something at his sentinels. It sounded pitiful and squeaky. The matches ignited and Plate Face touched them to his body. He instantly burst into a ball of yellow flame sprouting thick black smoke.

“Down with the beast!” he yelled as he charged towards Hanker, the other scarecrows stepping aside. Some of the slower ones, however, caught the tongues of flames and in their naivety rushed about setting others aflame.

A faceless sentinel stepped in front of him. And Plate Face raised his flaming arm and knocked him down. He rushed towards Hanker. Plate Face’s upper torso was nearly consumed. His left arm fell off in a shower of ash. With his last living strength he pounced upon Hanker Jaw, who spoke in a terribly high voice.

The other scarecrows were floundering, bursting into flame in all directions. Fat Boy’s belly was on fire. Smoke began drifting skyward and the screeching did not stop for some minutes.

What was left after the assassination was a great pile of ash and the majority of the faceless sentinels. Hanker himself was only partially burned; not a single one of the original scarecrows stood.

Epilogue:

In the farm house Hanker Jaw went through a metamorphosis. He stripped his tattered clothes. The straw fell away and from it a thousand field mice. A particularly fat one (some might have said it was really a rat) climbed upon a table.

“Strip, my brothers, strip the skin of the scarecrow. We have now finished the first phase in our plan and the domination of these lands is inevitable!” And the other faceless scarecrows did indeed strip their straw and clothes to reveal an army of clean plump field mice ready for the second stage of rebellion.


Copyright © 2007 by Bosley Gravel

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