Scaring up something for the garden

#440 in a series of true experiences in real estate
October 2003, Hills Newspapers

The magic scarecrow or the ‘Case of the Missing Pumpkins’

We have a new listing, a smallish house on a deep flat country-look lot. There are apple trees with apples on them and fallen apples on the ground, and there is a big pumpkin vine. When we first saw this garden a few weeks ago, I went immediately to the pumpkin patch to enjoy the large prickly leaves, the yellow blossoms, and the pumpkins lying on the brown ground. So pretty.

I counted the pumpkins – 5 of them – each about the size of a cantaloupe, still green in spots but coloring up a lovely orange.

No one was living at the house but the owner’s son Mike who had grown up there some years ago was returning most afternoons to tidy up and to water the garden. I asked Mike if he’d leave the fallen apples where they were and let the pumpkins ripen. I liked the picture so much, and I thought buyers would too.

Preparations to the house began, painting and cleaning, floor refinishing, and bringing in furniture and curtains, taking the next couple of weeks. We went to the house a number of times to check on the progress and each time, I visited the pumpkins.

Hot weather caused the vine’s leaves to dry and crinkle but the pumpkins were a deeper orange and they were a little larger. A couple of days before the house would be shown, when almost everything was in place, looking clean and pretty, I went to the garden and all but one of the pumpkins was gone.

I couldn’t believe it. Mike was there, as surprised as I was. Who took the pumpkins?

Maybe the owner’s grandchildren had come and taken them? They certainly wouldn’t have guessed that the nutty real estate agent had become attached to the pumpkin look, couldn’t have known that by then the brochure and ads I’d written featured the pumpkin patch.

I had to find new pumpkins, and I did, some small ones, cute round ones, which the following day I placed among the withering leaves, then stood back to see. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, I hadn’t been able to find pumpkins large enough, but it would do.

Suddenly, I had a thought. “We need a scarecrow,” I said. “Mike, why don’t you make us a scarecrow?”

He didn’t miss a beat. “I need clothes,” he said. “Get me some clothes and a hat and a piece of cloth for the head.”

Our friend Sahdu who does staging for us was there ironing and hanging kitchen curtains. She lives not far from the house so she went off to get what we needed from home, and Mike began rummaging around in his truck for tools and supplies.

Back in a thrice, Sahdu brought faded blue pants, an old linen shirt with a button missing and a soft straw hat. She also supplied a tattered throw pillow she thought we might use for the head.

Mike had found some tree sticks for arms, a metal stake to support the body, and torn cloth gloves for hands.

He seemed to know just how to make a scarecrow. There is a patch of dried grass out the back gate which Mike said was the straw we would use. He tied strings around the pant cuffs, closed the gap where the button was missing with a nail poked twice through, and moved rapidly to the back gate with me close behind.

We got the body all stuffed and assembled, stapled and tied together. Then Mike ripped open the pillow, took out the cotton batting inside, and asked who would stuff the head. Before the words were out of his mouth, I said, “I will.”

I felt 8 years old again. I was so excited. We were making something!

Back in the garden, scarecrow head in hand, stickers all over my clothes, I watched fascinated as Mike quickly attached it, added the hat, and stood “our guy” upright at the back of the pumpkin patch. I stuffed more straw under the hat. Mike added a rusted hoe to an outstretched glove.

Wonderful. Simply wonderful, this scarecrow, and the making of it. A most rich experience.

The following morning Anet and I were at the house early for the agent open house. We carried in from the car our brochures, camera, the sandwiches we’d be serving. We turned on lights and opened doors and windows. And I went outside for another look at the pumpkin patch.

The scarecrow stood steady, straw streaming down his face, hands raised high, hoe at the ready. And, what? There was something different today. Pumpkins! Big ones. Six large pumpkins among my small ones, each with its bottom up as if growing from its neck although, of course, they weren’t really.

Like the shoemaker’s elves, some dear one had brought pumpkins during the night.

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