Country Creepy

Story by Johnny Sain

While I believe every season is best enjoyed in a rural setting, autumn especially has a rustic feel to it.

Of course, rural life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and that whole folksy agrarian “country” fall vibe that’s been commercialized to death is based on real, yearlong work. The pumpkin you’re carving grew from a seed planted way back in June. Coincidentally, it was on an unseasonably cool June morning when the inspiration for this year’s October feature caught my eye and chilled my bones.

I was on a walk around my “neighborhood” — a five-mile circle of mostly cow pasture, woodlots, and homes spaced acres apart — with my camera. I was counting butterflies and noting bird song and generally reveling in the bucolic green glory of late spring in the rural River Valley, when I came upon a property where no butterflies fluttered and no birds sang. Not a breath of animated life wavered across the approximately two acres. Even the breeze had stilled.

A dapper red brick house sat square in the middle of the manicured lawn. Behind it was an adorable garden. New corn sprouts poked through the brown duff and fresh tomato plants were putting on a bloom. Various other verdant little lives peeked above the soil in straight rows.

But behind all that pastoral charm stood the most ominous, eerie fiend of a scarecrow I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s pale and terrifying face along with outstretched and too-long arms had to be the reason that nothing stepped foot on nor fluttered over the property.

Even more horrifying, he was positioned to look right into the home’s kitchen window.

Why would the homeowners do that?

I snapped a photo with my telephoto lens and then hurried on. It was a mile later (checking my back trail several times) before I finally felt comfortable.

I walked that route the next week and, other than growth in the garden, the scene was similar — hair-raising scarecrow doing his job and then some.

But the week after that, things were different. A meadowlark stood in the yard and a few tiger swallowtails flitted across the fencerow. I looked toward the garden. The scarecrow was gone.

There was still a good three months of growing season in Arkansas. Where did he go and why?

It’s a mystery to this day, but he once stood in all of his creepiness only half a mile away (as the crow flies) from my own backyard.

And while he was probably blown down in a summer thunderstorm, I’m still a little worried that one night I’ll catch him peeking into my kitchen window.