Chapter 6: Welcome To Orville Acres. Reddenbaacher County’s Finest Popping Corn
Of course, I will be glad to help,” William sniffed, “but as our leader, it will be your responsibility to see that I am milked, on schedule, twice a day.”
Trying to wrap my head around what happened, I trotted a swift retreat. To my great surprise, William followed me back to the sack-packing Munchkins. Cool as a cucumber, her focus had returned to her appetite as she snatched a mouthful of turf and stripped the leaves from any branches that crossed her path.
The sun shone bright and except for the irritating clangs and clatters of the poorly packed sacks and the tinkling of Dorothy’s silver shoes, the birds sang sweetly as we walked briskly toward the Emerald City. We had hardly gone an arrow shot before all this racket was driving me to madness. I resolved to chew off the annoying bells as she slept, but I was smart enough not to say a word about the clunks and clatter coming from the sacks. Soon, however, Dorothy distracted me with her fascination of this new and wondrous world around us. Before long, we were all engaged in much discussion and chatter as we each pointed out unusual sights that amazed us greatly as this land was so very different from Kansas, unimaginably different. Then, we came upon fields of corn for as far as the eye could see. Not the dirty dust-grey of the sun-baked Kansas cornfields, but fields full of life and rich in color. Fine green stalks moved in waves as if…as if guided by a sweet and subtle music.
“Listen,” I said as I stopped trotting.
“I heard it too…,” William said, "…but not now."
The melody tickled our ears ever so faintly, but again and again, when we stopped to listen, we could hear it no more.
“The air is still,” Dorothy said, “Yet the corn moves in waves like the grain in “God Bless America.”
After another hundred paces we came upon a sign with archaic looking script. It read:
Welcome To Orville Acres
Reddenbaacher County’s Finest Popping Corn
Onward we traveled that yellow brick road, and were well into Orville Acres when the cries of a heated disagreement captured our attention. As we rounded the next bend, William stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, "This must be heaven."
Dorothy blocked the sun with her hand and asked, "Is that...that..."
There was a mountain of popped corn not a stone’s throw off our path. It was here that the arguing and fussing was taking place, but with great brown eyes William only saw popped corn.
“I don’t care what anyone says, it’s lunch time.” And off she barreled toward the mountain of angel white kernels, swaying her big black and white two-tone belly better than Dorothy could swing her hips.
“Save me some, William,” Dorothy hollered, “I’m right behind you.”
Robins feasting on the corn scattered with angry cries.
“Thank you for scaring the birds away. Will you please help me down before they come back?” said a voice.
“What the devil!” I said.
Dorothy said, “Where are you?”
“I’m up here,” said the voice.
This was one weird country. Cornstalks in every angle poked up and out of a mound of popped corn, ten to twelve foot high and equally wide. In the middle of this mound of white, a black top hat rested on a funny looking ragdoll of a head.
“Please help me down,” said the Raggedy Ann head.
I was annoyed. If I could not keep everyone focused on our journey, I would starve to death before I got the first bite of gizzard. "How is it you talk?" I said. "You’ve no mouth."
"But I do." The head sounded indignant. "I saw Orville paint it on my face, just beneath my nose..."
“Not much of a nose,” I muttered. “What….”
“I see that the head is attached to something, Toto, but the corn is in the way. Eat up, William and clear me a path,” Dorothy mumbled through mouth stuffed with popped kernels.
Again, the head asked, “Kind Sirs, will you please help me down? The robins have popped this corn with the intent of burying me alive!”
William pulled her head from the mound and said, “Why not just walk out? Popped corn weighs near to nothing.”
“Can’t,” said the doll head, “I’m staked to a cross.”
William ate as Dorothy pushed piles of fluffy kernels, first one way, and then the other. At last, the mound of corn had dropped below the crossbeam which supported its arms. Pointing at its straw fingers which poked out of the fingerless gloves, Dorothy cried, “You’re a scarecrow, but I’ve never seen one with sunglasses before or…with a top hat!”
William pulled her head from mound of white, looked up, and said, “Your tinted shades…give you a refined and knowledgeable air.”
“Yes indeed,” added Dorothy. “If I was a crow, I’d expect more of a lecture or a scolding rather than a scaring.”
“Nonetheless, a scarecrow I am, Kind Lady, but sadly enough, not a very good one. Now will you please help me down before the birds return?” the scarecrow asked again.
“The way William is eating, a path to you will be clear in no time, and then I’ll help you down,” replied Dorothy.
With a loud sniffle and a shake of his head, the scarecrow said, “Orville will be so upset when he sees all of this popped corn.”
“What happened?” Dorothy said.
With a great sigh, the scarecrow dropped his head to his chest and said, “Terrible things…terrible, terrible things.”
I sighed. Here we go again…more words. In the few days we had been in Oz, it seemed that everyone and everything had a story. Furthermore, it seemed that we were destined to hear their story whether we wanted to or not. It was also a given that even the shortest, most boring, and simple story would be long in the telling. That being inevitable, I could tell by the look on Dorothy’s face, that the scarecrow had a tale that interested her greatly. So, I curled up beside her as she sat Indian-style, leaned her chin upon her hands, and awaited his words.
While Dorothy waited, I considered this talking mis-amalgamation of straw that claimed to be a scarecrow. In retrospect, I must say that it did look like a scarecrow rather than a Raggedy Ann doll. I found similarity between it and the doll because of its burlap potato sack of a head and not because it had Raggedy Ann red-yarn hair. Truth be told, its head of hair, straw, or whatever it was, was windswept and wild as if each strand had attempted to flee from the incessant chatter of the scarecrow. A top hat hid much of its head, but not enough to hide a steep widow’s peak that stretched toward the creature’s nose. Judging by its fancy clothes, which were unconventional by Kansas scarecrow standards, it was clearly a he. A fancy red splash of a scarf hid the neck that attached head to torso and his outstretched arms bore the long sleeves of a coat every bit as fancy as his top hat. Either by charm or fortune, the coat was a perfect fit leaving the right amount of length to show off the linked cuffs of a starched white shirt, and the black fingerless gloves that housed his wiggling straw fingers. Though his painted lips, nose, and eyes were surely pedestrian, they hinted at expressions, but only enough to enhance the language of his body. The most interesting thing about him was its uninteresting face. As Dorothy said, it wasn’t frightful. Perhaps it was designed to bore the robins to death. In assessing the situation, I was having difficulty coming to terms with a talking scarecrow. After considerable thought, the only thing that popped into my head was the wisdom of Uncle Henry. About a politician, he once said, if it looks like a pig, rolls in the mud, and squeals like a pig, than it’s a pig. Despite, the scarecrow’s claim, I remained suspicious as the only parts of him that looked like a Kansas scarecrow was his straw fingers and painted face. And again as I studied his countenance, though painted, his features appeared to have dimension and the subtle nuances of expression when he spoke. With a scrutinous eye, I asked myself, Should I wait for this little piggy to roll in the mud? I decided that I was undecided and therefore the best course of action would be to continue my observation of the odd creature.
“So what’s your story?” Dorothy said with a discrete wink of the eye. “We’ve scarecrows in our cornfields in Kansas, yet none have ever spoken to me. I’m sure if they could have, they’d have cried out for water or an umbrella, as the Kansas sun is terrible during the day.”
The scarecrow looked at us and sighed loudly, “So much has happened and my life has been so short that I really know nothing. Orville, with assistance from his foreman, made me the day before yesterday. What happened in the world before that time is all unknown to me. What happened after that made me question the meaning of life…and if life were worth living at all…. I recall their conversation as they made me. The robins will fear and respect this scarecrow, and in a few months, so shall the crows, said Orville to his foreman. With a final squiggle for a chin, Orville added, and he looks just like a man.
“Why, he is a man,” insisted the foreman, and with that fancy coat, top hat, and striped vest, quite a remarkable man!
Remarkable and distinguished…Just like my popcorn, replied Orville with a raised brow and forefinger. After all, he represents Orville Acres.
“… and I quite agreed with him,” added the scarecrow, “because he had painted my eyes, I could see myself. While Orville cleaned up, the foreman studied me as he walked around the barn. Rubbing his chin, he turned to Orville with wide eyes, and exclaimed. His eyes follow me. And his expression…why I can see both a smile and a frown. You’ve made him more than a man!
Later Orville carried me under his arm to the cornfield, secured me to this cross, and here I remain.”
With a sincere frown, Dorothy said, “That must have hurt.”
"Only the pain of loneliness,” replied the scarecrow, “and no one to talk to. Despite this, I pushed my misery aside and got on with my job. At first, the robins fled in fear, thinking I was a Munchkin; and this pleased me. It made me feel that I was quite an important person. By and by, an old robin flew near me, and after looking at me carefully, he perched upon my shoulder and said:
I wonder if old Orville thought to fool me. A robin with an ounce of a brain could see that despite your smug face and preposterous formal wear, you’re merely a costume of cloth stuffed with straw.
Then he broke off an ear of corn, then another, and ate to his contentment as he eyed me with disdain. I felt sad at this, for it showed I was not such a good scarecrow after all; but the old robin comforted me, saying, if you only had brains in your head you’d be as good a man as any of them, and a better man than most of them. Brains are the only things worth having in this world, no matter whether one is a boyd or a man."
“What’s a boyd?” I said.
“This is why you need brains, replied the Robin. I’m a boyd. Now, me and my boyds are going to pop us a little corn.
You’d best not,” I said. “Orville will be back soon.
Orville, my dear scarecrow is off plowing in the north forty. But just in case, I’ll call upon my hero, protector, and the greatest winged vigilante of all time. And you, scarecrow! Your sorrow and suffering will know no end!”