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Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 9/21/2000

Scarecrows Transcript

In Lahaska, Pennsylvania this month, there is a festival and display devoted to scarecrows. Shelley Fraser Mickle has a remembering for us today about that ancient agrarian practice: 

Shelley: When I was twelve, my neighbor was Tommy Kincaid, and Mrs. Kincaid had the best garden anybody had ever seen. She had everything from squash and cucumbers, pole beans and corn. The corn, though, was pretty squatty, it was more like tall lillies except that the ears it grew were as big as rolling pins. So clearly the corn was worth keeping. To help it out, Mrs. Kincaid built a scarecrow and set it in the middle of the corn rows where it was half hidden and ready to scare the pee-doodle-squat out of any bird or squirrel that had an eye on an ear of corn.

Now, Tommy Kincaid’s least favorite thing to do was to work in that garden. And his most favorite thing was fishing. But all through the summer of 1959, Mrs. Kincaid set Tommy to working in the garden from 7 to 11, which of course is the best time to fish, too.

Late in the summer when we heard the catfish were biting down at the river about like they couldn’t wait to get in the frying pan, Tommy Kincaid nearly lost his mind. He wanted to be down at the river so bad that every morning in the garden he slumped through the rows as if his shoulders were hooked to his knees. What drove him to the edge was the fact that corn harvesting and school happened at about the same time. Pretty soon school would start and where would that leave Tommy? Oh, he was miserable.

One day in the first week of September, Tommy took off part of his clothes there in the middle of the corn row. He hung his shirt on the scarecrow, then set his ball cap on the straw head and Tommy headed to the river barechested and bareheaded with his fishing rod in hand.

All morning, Mrs. Kincaid looked out of the kitchen window and carried on a one-way conversation with Tommy. She knew he was peeved with her for making him work in the garden, so she really didn’t expect him to answer. But anyway, she kept encouraging him on, telling him how she was going to make succotash out of all that corn he was picking, and that when he grew up he was going to thank her for giving him such a strong work ethic. Then at one o’clock, Tommy skulked back into the corn patch, retrieved his clothes, and walked into the kitchen with half a bushel of corn.

I think he would have gotten away with the whole thing if that day down at the river he hadn’t caught the biggest catfish ever seen and the picture of him holding it up, grinning from ear to ear, hadn’t come out in the next morning’s newspaper.

I don’t think there’s a moral to this story. Except, well, maybe if you go fishing on the sly, you better hope to hook the little ones.

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