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Pattaya Daily News

02 September 2010 :: 17:09:57 pm 37413

The Bird Scarers and the Scarecrow

Throughout history, birds and farmers have never been a good match. Sometimes, the birds would eat so much of the crop that the farmers were quite often left with very little to last them through the winter months. The making of scarecrows, were first recorded over 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, but the exact origin is unknown. Farmers used to make wooden frames in their fields and cover them with nets, then hiding until the quails came, the farmers would frighten the birds into the nets where they would be caught and taken home to feed the family.
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Approximately 2,500 years ago, Greek farmers would carve scarecrows in the image of Priapus, son of the God Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite. Priapus lived with a vineyard keeper and was said to be so ugly that when he was sent to play in the vineyards he scared away the birds and so the vineyard keepers had the best harvest ever. This compelled them to make the wooden statues, painting them purple, they put a club in one hand in order to make the statues look more menacing.

Scarecrows were made in Japan to protect their rice fields around the same time as the Greeks and Romans made their statues. The Japanese hung old rags along with meat or fish bones hanging from the poles. The poles were set on fire giving off such a bad smell the birds and other animals would stay away. The Japanese scarecrows were named Kakashis which means something that smells bad. Eventually the Japanese scarecrows were made to look more like humans dressed in a coat made from reeds with a straw hat and given a bow and arrow to make them look more fearsome. In India and some Arab countries, old men sit in a chair outside throwing stones at the crows to scare them away from the crops.

During the medieval era, Britain used boys from the age of nine years or older, known as ‘bird scarers’ or ‘bird shooers’ to run through the wheat fields shouting, waving their arms and throwing stones at the birds. After the Great Plague killed most of the people in Britain in 1348, landowners were short of boys to protect the crops so stuffed old sacks with straw, used turnips that had a face carved in it for the head and stood them against a pole. The children who continued scaring the birds were so few, they had to patrol two –three acres on their own and so instead of throwing stones, they used clappers to make a noise which would scare of whole flocks of birds. Children continued to scare birds until the early 1800’s when new factories began opening up, offering better paying jobs.

When Europeans began settling in North America, they took the idea of the scarecrow with them and farmers still use the idea today. There have been endless stories of scarecrows along with films, such as ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ and stories of ‘Worzel Gummidge’ that enthralled children of all ages. Today there are annual scarecrow competitions which started in 1995 when a brewery sponsored it and has now become a fundraising event.

Myfanawy Evans

Photo : Internet   Category : Stories

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