My ex-fence is famous. Wooden, 6 feet high, and covered in slightly peeling burgundy paint, at first glance it doesn’t look like much. Add a bag of old fabric, creative talent, and the challenge of producing a fantasy figure out of straw, however, and you’re looking at a different story. Resplendent in pink and green, Puff the Magic Dragon was voted number one in this year’s Methven Scarecrow competition, and with that accolade, the fence came into its own.
Erecting a scarecrow in NZ may seem rather redundant, as the large black birds have never graced our power lines. The nearest colony of crows resides ‘across the ditch,’ with magpies the closest we’ve ever come to encountering the jet-black silhouettes of Hitchcock fame. My first experience with an actual crow happened in Australia. While others were ogling the opossums and watching the wombats, I was intrigued by the croaky voices of the pitch-black pariahs. There was something about the sharp conical beaks, the beady eyes, and the sleek feathered pose that suggested the birds were ready to take flight and descend on an unsuspecting, scarecrow-less vegetable patch at any moment.
Of course, the lack of crows in New Zealand may not simply come down to our geographical isolation at the ends of the earth. We can’t rule out the possibility that the annual scarecrow competition in small-town mid Canterbury is doing such a good job that it is single-handedly keeping the non-native species at bay…
After all, the creativity displayed in some of the most recent scarecrow entries was formidable. No run of the mill rake-and-checked-shirt figures here – instead, the hay that stuffed the vast array of creatures had them fairly bursting into life. From the deliriously happy Spongebob replica, to the more sinister looking Gru of ‘Despicable Me’ fame, each creation was a real one off, and each carried a story. Those stories have ripples that travel far and wide – in past years, the scarecrow event has been enough of a drawcard to lure friends of ours down from Auckland to view the spectacle, so the fundraiser has influence, alright.
Coming back to the fence, the painted wood will never look quite the same again after its brush with the scarecrow paparazzi. Fairy wings, an old dog blanket, and some Hackney magic have assisted in a boundary-marker transformation. Briefly home to an award-winning scarecrow, the fence will live on in photographs, showcasing its background glory. And to think, I used to live behind that fence. It’s a tenuous association, but I’ll take it anyway.
Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian