Whistling Dixie :

One morning Harold and his wife Mary Kalb were sitting on the front porch of their small farm when they noticed that a flock of crows have been landing around the corn fields near the barn. Over the ensuing days they notice the crows were starting to enjoy eating their corn. Harold's wife mentioned that maybe it was time he got over his childhood fear of scarecrows and made one for the field. She tried to convince him that it would only take around a day to make one and post it in the field. Harold snorted and strode into the house, as he came back out of the door Mary saw he was holding his shotgun! He raised it in the air and in a loud voice declared.

"No scarecrows for me!" and walked towards the fence a little bit. He raised his gun into the air and fired a couple of rounds off scaring the crows, which flew away from the noise as he waved his gun in the air and yelled. Mary raised an eyebrow and looked at him as if he was a silly little kid and they both began laughing.

After a couple weeks of this morning routine they began to notice that the flock of crows had actually grown and that they were starting to lose produce from the field. The crows were no longer scared from the loud sound of the shotgun and Harold actually had to get close and sometimes actually swat away the scraggly birds that had stayed behind. Harold and Mary had decided long ago that they wouldn't kill any kind of life, so after they had scared the crows away that morning, they had sat on the porch talking about how it might be time to build that scarecrow. Since Harold would rather get over his childhood fear than take a life of one of God's creatures, they decided to take a day building the scarecrow.

Early the next morning Harold went and gathered some old wood and a few large branches that he thought would be great to make the scarecrow. He went upstairs and told his wife that he was starting to build the scarecrow and to gather some of his old work clothes and meet him out by the barn. She gathered up his second best pair of overalls and found a work shirt from the back of the closet a few minutes later she met Harold by the barn. They started working on the scarecrow together just talking to each other. They talked about the first time she had mentioned the scarecrow and were they going to name the scarecrow. Several times they would even get off subject and start reminiscing about the other great times they had together. Slowly but surely without them even realizing it, the scarecrow was taking shape. Twilight had descending by the time they finally finished the effigy so they decided to wait until the morning before raising him the corn field. Harold and his wife awoke the next morning and excitedly jumped out of bed. They got dressed made breakfast and quickly ate. Then Harold grabbed his shotgun as they walked towards the door. This had become routine to scare the crows away and they were curious to see how many more crows had joined the flock that day but as they opened the door and walked out onto the porch, they were surprised to see that there were no crows feasting on their corn. Harold's wife said "

I don't think I see a crow anywhere in sight, Reckon the critturs know we've built a scarecrow." Harold looked at Mary and they both smiled at each other. Harold leaned his shotgun against the railing of the porch. "Do you still want me to put the scarecrow up?" She stood up kissed his forehead.

"Yes dear I do still want you to put the scarecrow up, while I take a relaxing bath!" She walked into the house and Harold jumped off of the porch and headed across to the barn to gather up his tools. Once he had all he needed he started to walk over towards the scarecrow, Harold smiled as the sight of their creation. He was thinking of the great time that he and his wife had making the scarecrow. He thought to himself it was crazy that he used to have a fear of scarecrows. Harold reached the strawman and said

"Come on son it's time for you to start work." He picked up the two long branches and clutched them underneath his arm then reached down with his other arm and grabbed up the scarecrow. He threw it onto his shoulder like a sack of seed. A few minutes later he carried it into the corn field and across to the centre where the crows usually gathered in the morning. Harold put down the scarecrow and branches then glanced around the field as he looked about he thought to himself how strange it was that the crows hadn't come today. Then he shrugged "Maybe they found a different field or migrated to another farm." He put the odd thought out of his mind and started to tie the supporting branches together, as he worked his thoughts wandered. He remembered the troop of Confederate Soldiers that had passed through the town the previous weekend. Several young men had joined their ranks.

Harold was to old for war and although he lived in the South neither he or Mary had ever approved of Slavery. They had turned several offers of bondsmen over the years but Harold had secretly admired the brave young men in their smart grey uniforms all marching boldly off to fight against the Yankies. The song they'd sung was still fresh in his mind it was an old well know tune. Although they had changed the lyrics slightly even still it had a catchy chorus and now he sang as he worked

"Advance the flag of Dixie!

Hurrah! Hurrah!

In Dixie's land we'll make our stand,

And live or die for Dixie!

To arms! To arms!

And conquer peace for Dixie!"

Harold then took off his work gloves and placed them on the hay sticking out of the end of the sleeves on the scarecrows shirt but as he move his hand back to make a final adjustment to the main body of the figure a small splinter of wood broke off one of the branches. "Ow! Harold yelped as it scratched his hand. He sucked at the small wound then his stomach tightened as he remembered the old tales of of his childhood. From far away he almost heard his grandfather say.

"Don't go into the cornfield and beware the Scarecrow Harry! It'll suck your blood and steal your face away!" Harold gave himself a mental shake and aloud said.

"Pull yourself together man its just a bunch of old clothes and straw." He scuffed away the remains of the hay from around the base of the bird scarer and went get his wife and show her their creation now standing proudly in the field. Harold turned around to head towards the house as he did so he noticed that the crow which had been on the fence post was lying on the ground twitching. He proceeded towards it puzzled but by the time he had reached the bird, it had stopped twitching and looked like it had died. The bird had its wings completely spread open and was lying on its head as if it had had a seizure and fallen from its perch.

A strange feeling envelpoed Harold despite the warm sunshine he shivered. He drew his eyes away from the bird and headed towards the house to get Mary. Once on the porch he sets his tool belt next to his shotgun wipes his feet on the mat and walks into the house as he enters he calls out.

"Honey I'm done you want to come look at him?"

There was no response Harold shuts the door and begins to walk into the living room he notices that there is an eerie silence within the house. "Surely Mary isn't still in the bathtub?" He decided to check around the house. He walks into the kitchen and into the best parlour he had even checked in the laundry den. No place in the house was showing any signs of her so he decided that she was still bathing and started to walk to the small washroom out the back. "Honey are you still in the bathtub?" Harold said with a loud and stern voice as he walked down the hall towards the washroom. There is no response as he walks into the passageway, He calls out again as he walks towards the bathroom door "Honey you still in there?" He slowly started to open the door but inside there is just an empty bath filled with dark grimy water. Harold starts to panic as the strange feeling that he was having earlier re-surfaces and begins to spread throughout his body with a stronger intensity. "Honey" Harold yelled as he rushed to the bathtub to release the drain. He plunged his hands into the bathwater towards the drain and his hand hits a pair of feet. He quickly realized that it was his wife's feet, so he reaches both arms into the tub and pulls out her lifeless body. He tries to breathe into her mouth and pump her chest, but nothing seemed to do work. He grasps her body close and tight to his chest and starts to cry. There is no bringing her back she was gone but Harold doesn't want to let her go he sits there all night holding her body and crying next to the bathtub. Harold had lost the only thing that he cared about in this world.

In the week leading up to the funeral Harold turns to drinking. He neglects his farm and ignores the crows that have returned to feast on his crop. He ignored his own personal health to the point that he was no longer eating or bathing, but only drinking and sleeping. On the day of the funeral, Harold starts the morning off with a bottle of beer and drinks up until the service. He sits in the small chapel just staring at the open coffin with tears running down his face. When they lower Mary into the ground, he walks away without talking to family or friends and makes his way to the local bar. Harold sat there for hours drinking unable to hold back the tears of sorrow he felt for not being there to help save his wife. Harold started mumbling about how stupid the scarecrow was and how all of this was his fault. Then he held his empty glass in the air and asked for another.

The bartender poured a shot into Harold's glass and told him in a concerned manner, that he thought Harold didn't need any more liquor and explained that this was the last glass he was pouring for him. Harold stood up and finished his last drink and threw his glass onto the floor, shattering it into little pieces and yells at the bartender "I am a grown man, I'll tell you when I'm done drinking" and turned and storms out of the bar. Harold stumbles across the street to where his horse is hitched by now its full dark but he heaves himself into the saddle and heads for his ranch urging his horse intoa furious gallop almost as if he was just trying to die. Harold finally hurtles into his yard and tumbles out of the saddle to the ground. He picks himself up and weaves into his house. He stumbles into the living room and stops to peer into the kitchen There he sees the set of plates him and his wife used to eat from every morning Harold starts to think about the different mornings him and his wife would sit and enjoy each other's company as they ate breakfast then he starts thinking about the day they laughed when he ran out and shot his shotgun in the sky to scare the crows off. This makes Harold cry again and then he finds the bottle he was looking for on the kitchen dresser as he walks over to grab the bottle, he notices his shotgun propped up next to the sidedoor. He grabs the bottle from the kitchen table and he picks up his shotgun. In anger as he runs outside towards where the scarecrow was posted. Harold can see the scarecrow peering over the crop at him. He starts to yell at the scarecrow and firing his shotgun at him, he then begins to scream louder. "If I didn't create you, I would have been able to save her, this is your fault and you don't even scare the crows away!"

His yelling turns to crying as he hears the click of the shotgun from being out of ammo and then he throws his gun at the scarecrow. He pulls out the half empty bottle of booze from his overalls pocket and sitting down under the scarecrow, leaning against the post he opens the bottle and drinks every last drop then he slowly cries and mumbles himself to sleep.

Harold opened his eyes, at first he isn't sure where he is but gradually his memory returns and realizes that he had fallen asleep drunk beneath the scarecrow. But as he staggers to his feet Harold begins to notice there are hundreds of dead, bloody crows lying all around him. It look likes an animal came in and ripped all the birds apart and ate them, Horrified by the gore Harold starts to run towards the house in a panic. He looks back as he reaches the porch and can see the scarecrow peering over the blood sprinkled corn stocks and it was almost as if the effigy was staring back at Harold.

"Harold Kalb!" He jumps around startled and sees the local sheriff. Abe Watkins has come out to check on him as no one had seen Harold since he fled from his wife's funeral The two men shake hands and Harold tells him about the dead crows Sheriff Abe is puzzled and accompanies the bereaved farmer towards the area of the corn field where the scarecrow and dead crows reside as they reach the location the officer starts to see the mess and is disgusted

The sheriff leans down to examine several crow corpses. "Harold, you said you fell asleep and when you awoke the crows were just laying here like this?" Harold replies a little frantically with a "That's right! What do you think had happened?" The sheriff picks up one of the wings that was severed from a crow and holds it up for Harold to see. "Well if you notice that some of the birds wings are ripped off, while other birds wings are intact, but have their heads ripped off!" Harold nodded then the officer continued to say "If this was an animal attack it would have eaten the limbs that were ripped from the body?" Harold asks curiously

"So what do you think the cause was then?" The sheriff throws the bird wing back to the ground. "Well I see that empty bottle lying there" Abe points to the scarecrow and says "and I see blood on your scarecrows gloves and mouth." Harold looks at the scarecrow confused and starts to ask a question, but the officer interrupts and says firmly

"Now this is animal cruelty and a very distasteful, but my deputy told me about Mary and the funeral yesterday." The sheriff puts his hand on Harold's shoulder and continues to say "Harold I'm going to let this slide, But you need to clean this up and come too. You also need to put the bottle away while you mourn the loss of your wife, we both know she wouldn't have wanted it this way." Abe pats Harold's shoulder then he walks back to his horse and rides away.

Harold stood there looking at the scarecrow and thought to himself how it actually seems like he had ripped the crows apart. Then used their blood as paint to make it appear as if the scarecrow had killed and ate the crows himself. Harold knew that drink could make a person do things without knowing or even remembering doing them the next day. He then realized that the officer was right and he began to take his words to heart, so he looked up to the sky and said "I'm sorry I have been so selfish Mary!" He then proceeded to walk to the barn and get a wheelbarrow so he could gather up the dismembered limbs and bodies of the crows. When he was done throwing the crows in the wheelbarrow he picked up the bottle and threw it on top. He wheeled the barrow to his fire pit the one he used to burn trash in and dumped the contents into the hole. He returns to the field and takes the scarecrow down Once again he throws the strawman over his shoulder and walks to the barn. He sets him down in a dark corner next to the shelf where he keeps his flints which he takes back to the fire pit and uses them to light a fire to burn the dead crows . Praying for forgiveness he walks away to the house to wash up. He has just filled a pail of water from the pump out side when he hears a glass breaking inside. Harold grabs up his shotgun from the porch and slowly cautiously enters the house. He hears a couple strange noises coming from the back of the house, so heads in that direction. Harold raises the firearm before he walks into the kitchen but as he slowly edges around the corner into the kitchen he sees the scarecrow that he had thrown into the barn standing there with his back to him. Harold without thinking pulls the trigger of the gun but he hears only the click the gun is empty.

The scarecrow spins around at the sound just as Harold remembers that he had shot all the shells into the scarecrow whilst drunk the night before. "What the hell is going on?" Harold questions lowering the gun and mostly in shock as a creeping sense of horror travels up his spine. The face his wife Mary had embroidered on the old burlap sack now seems to sneer at Harold

"After all I have done for you farmer, you want to hide me in the barn!" The scarecrow pulls a knife from the silverware drawer. Harold is stunned

"You can talk? Are you alive?" Harold asked in panic, for now he has started to realize that maybe the scarecrow did kill all those birds after all. Harold is frozen to the spot unable to move as the scarecrow started to walk towards him holding the knife in the air.

"Farmer you are pathetic and I don't think you deserve to live anymore! I killed the crows for you and you hide me, I have let you take out your anger on me and you hide me. I have done all I can for you and you still want to throw me away. Hide me at the back of your Barn!" Harold wits return and he turns to run away but the scarecrow throws the knife into his back, Harold gives a wail of pain and tumbles to the floor. The scarecrow walks over and pulls the knife from his back. He cleans the blood off on the old work shirt. then flips Harold over . Kneeling down next to him it says "If you aren't going to enjoy the skin you're in, then like everything else, I will do it for you?" Then the scarecrow shoves the knife into the side of Harolds face and begins to flay his skin off Harold starts to drown on his own blood. The last thing he sees is the scarecrow holding up his face to its own burlap sack one and the last thing he hears is the Scarecrow saying

"Now I am Harold!"

Just before oblivion takes him Harold thinks he hears the Scarecrow softly singing

"To Arms! To Arms and conquer Peace for Dixie!"

TBC