Scarecretta

"Daddy?"

Only that sweet little voice could turn a farmer's attention away from inspecting his fields. He wasn't quite expecting two little girls to greet his eyes. More accurately, his frail young daughter clutched a straw doll which was nearly her own size. The girl struggled to keep the doll off of the ground. One look at the straw weaving on the doll's arms told the farmer that his wife had a hand in this straw child's creation.

In this modern era, it was uncommon to find someone who still enjoyed weaving by hand. From floral wreathes to straw mats and even a basket or two, the woman could hand weave them all with a smile on her face.

The girl's voice was full of pride as she said, "Do you like her? Mom helped me make her body. Then I gave her some of my old clothes. Her name's Scarecretta and she's for Mr. Crow so he won't be lonely anymore."

A bemused expression spread across the farmer's face as he looked this girlish scarecrow over. It looked every bit of a country girl in a dress of petal-blue checkered pattern and a matching apron. Peeking from beneath the skirt was a pair of the girl's old cotton-white leggings. A worn straw hat with faded-flower laden brim completed the scarecretta's look.

"Mr. Crow" was how the farmer's daughter addressed the resident scarecrow that hung in the pumpkin patch. It kept the birds at bay while charming the locals when they came for pumpkins in the autumn.

For some reason the child always thought that the scarecrow looked lonely. The farmer had tried to explain to his daughter many times how the scarecrow was a loner by nature whose job was to keep things away.

Now his daughter stood before him wanting to give the thing a companion; albeit a small one. The farmer just didn't have the strength of heart to tell his child no.

Together they made a post for the scarecretta. Then they planted it next to the old scarecrow. The girl smiled up at the scarecrow. "Here you are, Mr. Crow. This is Scarecretta. She's here so that you won't be lonely anymore."

Naturally, the scarecrow made no response. A small breeze ruffled the sleeve of its apple-red checkered shirt. The scarecretta's dress sleeve did the same. The girl nodded as if this was all the confirmation that she needed.

Perhaps it was seeing the two straw people together. Perhaps it was something in the wind. But something in the farmer's heart swelled at that moment. His daughter looked tired but pleased. Her father wanted nothing more than to see her happiness continue.

"Would you like to help Daddy inspect the fields?"

"Yes!" she squeaked with a single jump in the air. She wobbled a bit as she landed. But her father was there to keep her steady.

"Ok then. Just do as best you can. The rest will sort itself out."

The girl nodded. Although the child's soul was strong, her body was not. Like her scarecretta, she just wanted to stand strong and help her father tend their farm. He just didn't have the strength to tell her no.

Despite his wife's worrying, the farmer always found a way for his daughter to help him. She delighted in riding on the tractor with him. She was ever vigilant as he inspected the growing gourds for insects or disease. She helped in picking and packing the farm's various crops as much as she could. Her smile was the widest when she watched customers reacting to the sight of the scarecrow and scarecretta. The girl was more than happy to take pictures for everyone who wanted to pose with them.

As the years went by, the scarecretta remained by the scarecrow's side. Likewise, the girl did her best to remain beside her father. Some days she was left gasping with exhaustion by lunchtime. Yet her smile was always strong.

The weaver tried to turn her daughter's attention towards an indoor hobby like weaving. But the girl confessed that helping around the farm was what gave her strength despite her body's weakness. Neither the farmer nor his wife had the heart to deny their child her happiness after that.

Sometimes inner strength just isn't enough. A heavy cloud of misery fell upon the farm on that sorrowful day when the girl smiled no more. .

The farmer had little will to work his farm without his daughter's smile to cheer him. But necessity pushed him on. As he passed by the pumpkin patch, he couldn't bear to look at the scarecretta anymore. The thing had been his daughter's creation simply to keep the scarecrow company. He'd only allowed it to make his daughter happy.

Now there was no reason for the scarecretta to stand. It was too small to be effective at scaring birds away. So the farmer uprooted the scarecretta and put it in the barn. He would ask his wife if she had any use for the thing before he took it apart. The fewer of his daughter's things that the farmer had to look at; the better for his heart and mind to cope with his loss.

It was a numb-hearted farmer who began his daily chores on the following morning. The weaver had no use for the scarecretta or any part of it. In fact, she didn't even want to see the thing. So the farmer would dismantle it once he got to the barn.

The pumpkin patch was on the way to the barn. And the farmer stopped dead in his tracks as he entered it. Standing there to greet him was the scarecrow – and the scarecretta beside it! The little hay-child was rerooted right next to the scarecrow just as it'd been since his daughter created it.

Apparently, someone was playing a heartless trick by putting the scarecretta back up. The farmer would make sure it didn't happen again. In utter rage, the farmer yanked the scarecretta from its post. He kicked the post to the ground.

Forget dismantling it. The farmer threw the scarecretta into a bag and dumped it into the trash bin. The thing could rot in the junkyard for all he cared.

Once again, the farmer tended his farm with a sullen heart. He also decided that it would be best to not tell his wife of this cruel trick.

As the next day dawned, the farmer again headed out for his chores. As he passed by the pumpkin patch, his heart skipped a beat. He blinked several times, even rubbing his eyes to verify that he wasn't seeing things.

There in the pumpkin patch stood the scarecrow. Its arms were wound about the scarecretta like a protective parent holding his child. In turn, the scarecretta's arms and legs were wound around the neck and waist of the scarecrow as a child hugs a parent.

The sight was far more than even the farmer's heart could take. He sank to his knees as he cried his heart out. Such pain was enough to bring the weaver running to her husband's aid. When she saw the scarecrow and scarecretta, she gasped in horror and the tears flowed. Neither of them could speak through their sobs.

Finally, after a long moment of sorrow, the farmer looked up at the scarecrow.

"I understand now. What mine meant to me, yours means to you."

The farmer stood up and put his arm around his wife. Together, they looked at the hay-family. Then they turned and left them be.

While making his rounds on the following day, the farmer cautiously approached the pumpkin patch. Standing side by side was the scarecrow and his scarecretta just as they always had. A breeze rustled their outstretched sleeves.