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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Campfire Stories: Secrets of a Scarecrow

When the corn is green and the moon is full, don't irritate a scarecrow by trespassing in his field. (Credit: Steven Shortridge | Bristol Herald Courier)
When the corn is green and the moon is full, don't irritate a scarecrow by trespassing in his field. (Credit: Steven Shortridge | Bristol Herald Courier)

Watch out for a scarecrow guarding his field


*** Published Aug. 29 in the Bristol Herald Courier. Second in a seven-part series if (mildly) scary stories. To enter a story writing contest click HERE.)

Written by Ginny Grant, a teacher's aide for the Washington County, Va., School System, these stories are meant to be shared around a campfire, at a sleepover or during a family gathering.

I watched my grandfather as he sat down on his chair by the fireplace. He set his cup of coffee on the table by his chair and looked to me, his grandson, sitting across from him. This was my cue to speak.

"You promised me a story this visit, Grandpa."

"Yes, son, I did, and so here goes. This is a story my grandfather told me when I was your age now."

"You were 9 years old, Grandpa?"

"Close to it, if not. I was sitting right there by that very fireplace, as you are now."

I glanced to the crackling fire and then back to my grandfather.

"Grandpa, you told me the story has something to do with the tricks of the moon."

"Yes, son, that's right. You see, some folks say that a full moon will turn a man into a wolf–"

"A werewolf, yes. I've seen the movie."

"... but, son, my grandpa had a different story to tell. He never did see any wolves 'round here on a full moon, or any other time for that matter ... but he did have a story to tell of cornfields and scarecrows and moons and such."

"Cornfields, scarecrows, moons ... Grandpa, you're not saying–"

"Well, if a man can turn into a wolf, then why can't a scarecrow come to life?"

"A scarecrow can come to life?"

"Well sure, son, but only when the corn is green and the moon is full."

I shot a glance to the kitchen window which looked out over the cornfield."

"Why do they come alive, Grandpa? What do they do?"

"Well, it's said, son, that if a person trespasses through a cornfield on the night of a full moon, the scarecrow watching over that field will follow that person through that cornfield."

"Trespass? What do you mean by trespass, Grandpa? What if the cornfield belongs to that person walking through it? How can a person trespass in his own field?"

"A scarecrow is real uppity about his field now, son. Anyone stepping in it is a trespasser to him. And he'll follow behind so as you can't see him, but you can sure as fire feel his ol' straw breath beating down on your neck."

"You can't see him?"

"No, you can't see him, but you'll hear him rustling through the corn behind you. You'll turn real suddenly and take a quick look behind, but all you'll see is the corn leaves waving as if in a breeze."

"Has a scarecrow ever caught a person trespassing through his field, Grandpa? What happens if he does?'

"What he does is ... on that full moon ... he'll try to tap you on the shoulder. If a scarecrow taps you on the shoulder three times ... well then, you yourself will turn to straw – just like him."

"Turn to straw? Grandpa, that can't be true!"

"Well, wait now just a minute here, son. I know for a fact that it's true because it happened to me myself years ago, when I was your age."

"It happened to you, Grandpa?"

"Well, sure it did. I had gone to the neighbor's for a Sunday visit. I had let time get away from me, though, and it was starting to get dark when I started for home."

"Did you walk through the cornfield, Grandpa?"

"Yes, I did, and I didn't think a thing of it until I was about halfway through the field. Not a thing had happened, and I told myself that my grandpa had just tried to scare me with one of his tall tales. But that's when I heard it."

"Heard what, Grandpa? The scarecrow?"

"Must have been. I turned to look behind me, but all I saw was the leaves waving like they'd been blown by a breeze ... just like my grandfather had told me."

"Then you didn't get tapped, Grandpa?"

"Sure I did! Got tapped twice on my left shoulder. Right here." My grandfather touched his shoulder where he'd been tapped so many years ago, and then he continued his story.

"I knew I couldn't be tapped that third time, or I'd be turned to straw, just like my grandfather had told me."

"What did you do, Grandpa?"

"Oh, I ran. I ran so fast that I couldn't feel my legs under me. I knew if I could make it to the edge of the cornfield I'd be just fine. You see, a scarecrow can't leave its cornfield. If it leaves its cornfield, it turns to ashes.

So, it was either me turning to straw, or him turning to ashes, and I was hoping for the ashes, if you know what I mean."

"I do, and Grandpa, you didn't turn to straw, and–"

"And he didn't turn to ashes. You see, I made it to the edge of the cornfield, but I tripped and fell right on the other side of the corn."

"What happened, Grandpa? Did the scarecrow grab you?"

"No, no, he knew better. Even for him to have reached outside his field – POOF! – ASHES!"

"So you didn't even see him, then?"

"Oh, I saw him – or something. You see, as I was getting up from my fall, I stole a look behind me. That's when I saw the figure of a man standing just inside the corn."

"What did you do then?"

"I called to him, "Stop! I know it's you, Grandpa!' "

I watched my grandfather as he took a sip of coffee, not offering another word.

"Was it your grandfather, Grandpa? What did he say?"

"Didn't say a thing. Just disappeared as I watched ... like smoke in the air ... just disappeared."

"Was it really the scarecrow, then, Grandpa? Did he turn to ashes?"

"No, there were no ashes. You see, the next morning I walked to the edge of the

cornfield, just to look."

"But you didn't see any ashes?"

"No, but I did see a red bandana lying right there on the ground where the thing had stood."

"A red bandana?"

"Yes, just like the one we had tied around our scarecrow's neck."

"Was it your scarecrow's red bandana, Grandpa?"

"Well, I sneaked through our cornfield to see if our scarecrow was still wearing his bandana."


"And he wasn't."

"What happened then, Grandpa?"

"I talked to my grandfather. I told him what had happened the night before – about the two taps on my shoulder and about seeing the disappearing man. I told him, too, about finding the red bandana that morning and how our scarecrow was missing his own bandana.

"My grandpa told me to leave the bandana as it was. He said that the scarecrow would be back to get it on the next full moon. I asked my grandfather why the scarecrow had left the bandana at the edge of the cornfield. He told me it was a warning from the scarecrow to stay out of his field.

"I never did trespass through that scarecrow's field at night again. Not in the daytime either, if I could help it. I never have cared for scarecrows after that night. I feel as if they're watching me, you see."

"But Grandpa, you have a scarecrow in your own cornfield–"

"No, son, he's your grandma's, and he and I have as little to do with him as I can get by with."

"Is that story real, Grandpa, or did you just make it up?"

"Well, you can believe it or not as you will, son. But let me tell you this – I'd stay out of and away from cornfields on full moons, if I were you."

"I'll think about it, Grandpa. Thank you for the story, though ... whether it's true or not."

My father picked me up from my day's visit later that afternoon. And as he was backing the car out of Grandpa's driveway, I turned to look at the scarecrow keeping watch over the corn in my grandparent's cornfield.

It gave me the creeps looking at him. He seemed to be watching me, his squinted eyes looking alive over the glow of his red bandana.

After my father and I had gotten home, and we had eaten supper with my mother, I remembered I had left my library book in the back of my dad's car. I went to the car and opened one of the back doors, but I stopped suddenly when I saw the book ... for lying beside it, as if someone had carefully placed it, was the red bandana.

It might just have been my grandfather playing a joke on me, still I decided right then and there that there'll be no shortcuts through midnight cornfields for me – and that's for sure!

© 2008 Virginia L. Grant

NEXT: The wind was blowing the tree limbs against the bedroom window. Above the sound of the storm there's a creak-creak-creak, like an old rocking chair moving back and forth. Was it a dream or maybe it was "The Girl at Grandmother's House"?

MEET THE AUTHOR: Virginia "Ginny" Grant lives in Abingdon, Va., with her dog, Lily, and her cat, Noli. By day, she works for Washington County, Va., Public School System as an instructional aide assisting students with writing. By night, she lets her imagination wander creating stories which keep young listeners on the edge of their seats.

"Writing became important to me in the sixth grade," Grant said. "My language arts class had been assigned to write a poem about the novel we were reading at that time, "The House of the Seven Gables.' The poem I wrote isn't an especially good one, but at that time and in that place, it worked. My teacher had me read the poem to my classmates, and they applauded it. At that moment, writing became something valuable in my life.

"These campfire stories I've written are meant to be a little spooky, but not too scary like the kind that causes nightmares. They're meant to be something fun to share with your friends by the crackle of a campfire, the dark of a slumber party ... or just to be enjoyed by yourself. But whether reading with others or by yourself, don't look for chopped-off heads or monsters with chainsaws in these stories. You won't find them; they're not there. What you might find, though, are a bit of magic in a pumpkin patch, a little mischief in a cornfield and the ghost of a ... well ... you'll see."