Friday, October 11, 2019


A Scarecrow by Any Other Name . . .
By Martha Rogers

Ever since I was a child and saw The Wizard of Oz, I’ve been fascinated by scarecrows. Ray Bolger danced into my heart and captured my imagination.

Since fall is the time of year when scarecrows abound in decorations, I decided to find out more about them. My discoveries amazed me.

First off, I had no ideas scarecrows go back over 2500 years ago when Egyptians and Greeks put them in their fields to protect the wheat from large flocks of birds like quail and any other hungry birds. They were simply sticks crossed and decorated to look like a man. The Greek god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite were a starting point for the Greeks who used an image of their son Priapus as a scarecrow to protect their crops.

Germans are believed to be the ones to bring a variety of ideas for making scarecrows to the United States during the 19th Century. Scarecrow isn’t the name originally given to the structures by the Germans. They would build a cross of sticks, add a broom or mop, or even a straw-stuffed bundle of cloth for a head, and drape the structure with clothing. They called their creation a bootzaman or bogeyman and dressed him in a long-sleeved shirt, a straw hat, a jacket or coat, and a kerchief (usually red) around his neck.

One legend has it that German farmer put the bootzaman in the field one evening and the next day found tears on the face of the bootzaman. Feeling sorry for the bootzman, he constructed a female version and called a bootzafrau or bogeywife. She wore a long dress and a sunbonnet. Together they guarded cornfields, orchards, and strawberry patches in Pennsylvania. Here is a more modern version.

In reality, a scarecrow is a mannequin dressed as a man and placed in a field to frighten away crows. Daniel DeFoe, the novelist, is said to be the first one to use the term “scarecrow” in his novel, Robinson Crusoe.

Other names for scarecrows used throughout the centuries are Scarebirds, Jack-of-Straw, Mommet Hodmedod (with hat and stick), mawkin, tattybogle, stoyhoy, jack-a-lent.

As the use of scarecrows grew across our nation, the shapes and forms made for some strange structures. Some were so scary that even the locals didn’t want to go near them at night. Others were whimsical and fun, but the did the job.

 Scary scarecrows 

I think these scarecrows were meant to scare more than a few birds.

Today we see scarecrows all over our country used in fall decorations and for Halloween decorations as well. Most of the ones we see on display today have happy faces stitched onto a cloth bundle. Some wear bow ties and others wear kerchiefs. They are seen in pumpkin patches where families gather to buy pumpkins and take lots of pictures.

Many small towns across the country hold Scarecrow Festivals. One is being held near Houston in Chappell Hill, Texas in a few weeks. If one is held in your area, be sure to check it out for crafts and activities designed for family fun.

A new release for Fall: Cooking Up Trouble: Jessica Foster competed to be the best in everything from fishing to spelling bees to math contests. Now at age 23, she wants to impress the man she loves, Sheriff Brady Cantrell, and enters the Summer Festival cooking contest even though she knows very little about cooking. Brady has always had a special place in his heart for Jessica but she’s his best friend’s little sister, and his job as a sheriff is too dangerous for a married man. Although entering the contest will only cook up trouble for her, Jessica has never backed down from a challenge and plunges ahead with lessons.

 Martha Rogers is a freelance writer and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren.  A former English and Home Economics teacher, Martha loves to cook and experimenting with recipes and loves scrapbooking when she has time. She is the Director of the Houston Christian Writers Conference held in August each year, a member of ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.

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  1. Replies
    1. Sorry Martha, this is Connie. I was accidentally logged into my hubby's account.

  2. Doing the research was a lot of fun as well. Thanks for stopping by.

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